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SCENES OF CLERICAL LIFE (One of Eight Recorded Presentation Copies)
Edinburgh & London: William Blackwood & Sons, 1858. Eliot, George (Mary Ann Evans). SCENES OF CLERICAL LIFE. In Two Volumes. Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood & Sons, 1858. First Edition, 8vo. Very Good in original publisher's dark maroon morocco cloth decorated in blind and gilt, both volumes well-read and worn yet eye appeal remains. Some expert and subtle repair was required (only as absolutely needed) to strengthen the set and to allow for handling. There is intermittent light foxing throughout. The half-title and contents pages in Volume One are both tipped-in single inset leaves (as per Sadleir 818) and are slightly loose but holding. One of only 1,050 copies of the first edition printed in January 1858. SCENES OF CLERICAL LIFE was George Eliot's brilliant debut work of fiction (a collection of three stories which first appeared in Blackwood's Magazine in 1857: "Amos Barton" "Mr. Gilfil's Love-Story" and "Janet's Repentance") and this title remains her rarest first edition in original cloth (ranked #1 on Michael Sadleir's scale of comparative scarcities). ONE OF EIGHT RECORDED PRESENTATION COPIES GIFTED BY THE AUTHOR UPON PUBLICATION, with "From The Author" on its Vol. 1 half-title either in George Eliot's hand, that of a publisher's secretary, or perhaps that of the recipient himself. Despite efforts, because the inscription is so short, there is no way we can make a definitive declaration as to who actually penned the presentation inscription. However, this IS the copy that belonged to Albert Richard Smith (1816-1860), with his bookplate on the front paste-down, his inked signature on the front free endpaper, and his marginal notes in pencil. According to her Journals, George Eliot received her author's copies of SCENES OF CLERICAL LIFE on January 5th, 1858 ("Today the Clerical Scenes came in their two-volume dress, very handsome…") and on the 8th she had the eight review copies delivered to Albert Smith, Charles Dickens, W. M. Thackeray, John Ruskin, William Froude, Sir Arthur Helps, Jane Welsh Carlyle, and Alfred Tennyson. Of the group, only Dickens correctly guessed that "George Eliot" was a woman. While Albert Smith (the playwright who adapted Dickens' stories to the stage and arranged Dickens' 1858 public readings) may seem in exalted company as a gift recipient of Eliot's first novel, it was Smith who was Eliot's first fan, the earliest reviewer to compliment her after reading "Amos Barton" (the first of the three tales) in Blackwood's Magazine. In Eliot's Journals, a letter is cited that she wrote to John Blackwood: "Albert Smith has gratified me more than anything else in connection with the effect of Amos." Previously in her Journals, she had written: "Albert Smith wrote to Blackwood that he had never read anything that affected him so much as the death of Milly." Indeed, in this very copy of the first edition of SCENES OF CLERICAL LIFE, Smith has penciled a note adjacent to Milly's death scene in "Amos Barton" which reads, simply: "Oh! How good." While the author of SCENES OF CLERICAL LIFE went on to make literary history with ADAM BEDE, MILL ON THE FLOSS, SILAS MARNER, MIDDLEMARCH, and DANIEL DERONDA, this seminal work of fiction, with its darkly realistic and unflattering portraits of England's clergy, was the stunning fictional debut that launched both her reputation and her extraordinary career as one of the greatest literary figures of all time. Unfortunately for the collector of great Victorian fiction, George Eliot-inscribed first editions of her novels are virtually unobtainable today. Sadleir 818. Wolff 2062. . Signed. First Edition. Decorative Cloth. Very Good.
      [Bookseller: Lakin & Marley Rare Books]
Last Found On: 2014-10-02           Check availability:      Biblio    

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