This is going to be a rant: so if you don’t care about obscure early 20th-century fantasy writers in general, or E. R. Eddison in particular, look away now.
I have a long-standing love affair with Eddison’s works. (And not just the fantasy, either: his translation of Egils Saga is hot stuff.) I first came across his books when I was about eighteen. At that point, I was sufficiently inexperienced a reader that I didn’t quite what to make of them. I knew that their language was beautiful, if rich, obtuse and difficult to handle; that the man could tell a story of a kind that I had never seen before; and that this was going to be one of those looooong relationships. I had that part of the evaluation right, anyway.
I still have some of the Eddison books that I bought in that first flush of infatuation. The copy of Mistress of Mistresses has had its cover reinforced with the kind of textured see-through “ConTact” plastic that people use on bathroom windows. The other two volumes of the Ballantine paperback editions of the Zimiamvian Trilogy seem not to have been given the plastic treatment, and as a result are incredibly beat up. When I realized that I couldn’t find my first paperback copy of The Worm Ouroboros, as a stopgap — never call it a replacement — I went to Abebooks and ordered a hardcover copy of one of the American editions. That’s one book that I can’t be without. In one of its characters, Eddison has defined a character trait of mine that I couldn’t have described until I read it in his pages — and it would be Lord Gro, that quintessentially ambivalent and thoughtful traitor, with whom I share it. Eddison describes Gro as one who “ever perversely affecteth the losing side in a quarrel.”