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Flora's Feast
London, Paris, New York & Melbourne: Cassell & Company,, 1889. A Masque of Flowers penned & pictured by Walter Crane. Small quarto. Original blue cloth-backed boards, white paper sides printed with titles and floral illustrations in blue and brown, floral patterned endpapers. 1 plate of publisher's advertisements and an 8 page booklet of the same at the rear. 40 lithographic reproductions (including the illustrated title page) of Crane's line drawings washed in with watercolour. Spine and corners rubbed, some marks to covers, very faint spotting to some of the plates. Still a charming object in very good condition. First edition, first impression, of this lovely art nouveau production containing some of Walter Crane's most reproduced images. This copy was given by Florence Nightingale to her great-niece Lettice Verney, with a lengthy, warm and revealing presentation inscription to the verso of the front free endpaper, "Lettice S. Verney, April 18 1890. I send a book which takes my fancy for Lettice from Aunt Florence; the Scimitar-bearing Snowdrops are so gallant. But I should like to alter the title to "Our Father's Floral Feast", "if God so clothe the flowers of the field." (signed) F. Nightingale". The Verneys lived at Claydon House, Buckinghamshire, under the matriarchy of Lady Frances Parthenope Verney, Nightingale's elder sister. She had married the liberal landowner Sir Harry Verney (whose proposals of marriage Florence herself had rejected so as to pursue her nursing mission), in 1858, and the childless Florence treated her sister's children and grandchildren with as much affection and attention as if they had been her own. Lettice Verney (1875-1908), daughter of Edward & Margaret Verney, seems to have been her favourite, with numerous surviving letters evincing a close bond. Supported by her great-aunt's numerous gifts of books, Lettice Verney in fact went on to study at Oxford (Lady Margaret Hall), and then to become a librarian, before dying of ill health in 1908, two years before Florence's death. Though a gift of early childhood, this inscription intriguingly foreshadows Nightingale's pious preoccupation with life and death, for in altering Crane's pagan title to a more spiritually salubrious Christian one, she paraphrases a somewhat morbid piece of scripture (Matthew 6:30), "Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the fire, shall he not much more clothe you, oh ye of little faith?" Nightingale, indeed, had a propensity to insist upon the Christianisation of classical pagan tropes, as in her letter of 1876 to Lettice's parents, on the death of her mother, she writes of "us who believe that it is not Charon's boat but Elijah's chariot waiting to carry us". An attractive and intriguing document of Florence Nightingale in her familial role of pious pedagogue.
      [Bookseller: Peter Harrington]
Last Found On: 2013-08-01           Check availability:      Biblio    

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