Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Beginnings and Early Writings

Manuscripts | Publications


figures 2, 3

At the suggestion of Thomas MacGreevy, Beckett, then twenty-four years old, wrote “Whoroscope” in a matter of hours, as a last-minute entry in the contest sponsored by Nancy Cunard and Richard Aldington for a poem of not more than 100 lines on the subject of Time. The prize was £10 (which in 1930 had the buying power of about $900 today) and publication by Cunard’s Hours Press. Descartes had been much on Beckett’s mind, and from notes on his reading he drew the makings of this witty, arcane poem of 98 lines which both mystified and delighted the sponsors. At their suggestion Beckett added two pages of explanatory notes, much as T.S. Eliot had been asked to do by the publishers of his poem The Waste Land in 1922.