Category Archives: Books in the collection
Special Collections has acquired a copy of the scarce first novel of the Scottish feminist writer, Lady Mary Walker (1736 – 1822): Letters from the Duchess de Crui and others, on Subjects moral and entertaining, wherein the Character of the female Sex, with their Rank, Importance, and Consequence, is stated, and their relative Duties in Life are enforced. The novel, published in 1776, was written, according to Lady Mary, “in her nursery, surrounded by her children” in order to support herself after her first husband, Dr James Walker, abandoned her and their four young children. Later in life she elaborated on her situation, saying, “Notoriety to women is destructive . . . but with a family of young children left on my hands, abandoned by their father, I was necessitated to hazard the effronterie of publication to clothe, feed, and educate them!”
Letters is a novel of ideas rather than plot, though the Duchess’s correspondence relates the story of the cautiously feminist Lady Filmer, whose own letters also appear. The Duchess’s primary correspondent, Mrs. Pierpont, is, like the author, separated but not divorced from her husband. There are many side stories, references to both modern and ancient literature, as well as historical anecdotes.
The novel was well received by the critics. The anonymous reviewer in The Critical Review, or, Annals of Literature by a Society of Gentlemen proclaimed that the “letters in general discover the author to have great knowledge of the world, and that her observations have been made with much discernment. She seems to have improved a natural acuteness of judgment both by reading and reflection. Considered as a female writer, (we beg pardon of the ladies for this distinction) her acquaintance with ancient authors is extraordinary, and the solidity of her remarks might do honour to those of the other sex. From the approbation which this production will probably receive from the public, we cannot but entertain a hope of being soon informed to whom we are indebted for a novel in which virtue and good sense are so conspicuously blended, and where entertainment is so enriched with just and useful observations on human life.” It is interesting to note that in the same issue of The Critical Review that reviewed Lady Mary’s novel, there also appeared reviews of the first volume of Charles Burney’s History of Music, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, and Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
The library’s copy is the five-volume first edition published anonymously in London in 1776. It is bound in contemporary quarter calf, red morocco with contemporary ownership inscriptions of Anne Brodie (Who was Anne Brodie?).
There were two additional editions: the second edition printed in London in 1777 and the third edition published in Dublin in 1779. Both editions claim to have been revised and both appear with Lady Mary Walker as author. There were also a German translation, published in 1776, and a French translation published in 1782.
More information about Lady Mary Walker and her work may be found at Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present (http://orlando.cambridge.org )
Special Collections has acquired three new additions to its collection of nineteenth-century British novels originally published in weekly or monthly parts. This form of serialization was re-popularized in the nineteenth century among authors, publishers, and the public by the very great success of Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers published by Chapman and Hall in London in 1836-1837. Special Collections holds thirty novels in parts by such authors as Dickens, Surtees, Thackeray, Lever, and Trollope. The recent additions are all by Anthony Trollope. Trollope published forty-seven novels, 8 of which were originally published in parts. Special Collections now holds 5 of these.
Orley Farm, published by Chapman and Hall in twenty monthly parts from March 1861 through October 1862, was the first of Trollope’s novels to be published in parts. It contains forty full-page plates by the Pre-Raphaelilte artist John Everett Millais. The pages of advertisements are particularly fine in this set, still including the cambric frilling sample with its ad in part six. Trollope declared in his autobiography that the plot of this novel was “probably the best I have ever made.”
The Vicar of Bullhampton, considered one of the scarcest of Trollope’s parts issues, was originally published in 1869-70 by Bradbury Evans and Company in eleven monthly parts. In all, there are 33 illustrations (22 plates and 11 vignettes in the text) by Henry Woods. According to Michael Sadleir in his Anthony Trollope: a commentary, the novel was “ostensibly . . . written in defence of the ‘fallen woman,’ [and] has a quaintly solemn preface in which the author apologizes to his public for venturing on ground so delicate. But the book itself fails admirably to fulfill its proclaimed intentions. It is as characteristically Trollopian in plot and staging as the preface in its self-conscious propagandism is uncharacteristic. A vigorous story of village life, The Vicar of Bullhampton presents a delightful parson, several charming ladies, a gruff farmer, a pompous marquis and some aggressive nonconformity.”
Detail of the cover of the Vicar of Bullhampton
The publication of the parts of the novel The Prime Minister published in 1876 by Chapman and Hall is a bit unusual in that the novel was issued in both the expected paper wrappers but also bound in cloth. Special Collections has acquired a set of the cloth-bound issue. Sadleir, in his in bibliography of Trollope’s works, suggests that perhaps the novel was offered in cloth-bound parts to give the lending libraries of the day (Mudie’s, W. H. Smith, the short-lived Library Company, and the like) a sturdier product, better able to withstand repeated lending and readings. The paper parts were often “read to death” requiring the library to replace them. This, the next to last of the Palliser novels, was issued in 8 monthly parts.
These, and the other Victorian novels originally published in serial form, may be seen any time Special Collections is open.
Today, 15 April, is the anniversary of the publication of Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language, in 1755. Special Collections holds the folio two-volume first edition of this great reference work. Although not the first dictionary of the English language, it would become the standard of the genre until the 1880s when it was replaced by the New English Dictionary, or the Oxford English Dictionary as it is styled today.
The complete title is A dictionary of the English language: in which the words are deduced from their originals, and illustrated in their different significations by examples from the best writers. To which are prefixed, a history of the language, and an English grammar.
Perhaps just a few examples:
Curtain-lecture – A reproof given by a wife to her husband in bed.
Dull – Not exhilaterating; not delightful; as, to make dictionaries is dull work.
Excise – A hateful tax levied upon commodities, and adjudged not by the common judges of property, but wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid.
Lexicographer – A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge, that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.
Merrythought – A forked bone on the body of fowls; so called because boys and girls pull in play at the two sides, the longest part broken off betokening priority of marriage.
Oats – A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.
Tarantula – An insect whose bite is only cured by music.
Vaticide – A murderer of poets.
X – Is a letter, which, though found in Saxon words, begins no word in the English language.
For additional information on Dr Johnson’s Dictionary see:
Henry Hitchings. Defining the world : the extraordinary story of Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary. PE 1617.J7 H58 2005
Anniversary essays on Johnson’s dictionary. PE 1617 .J7 A56 2005
Allen Reddick. The making of Johnson’s dictionary, 1746-1773. PE 1617 .J7 R4 1990