[signed by Meredith] A History of Father and Son. In Three Volumes. London: Chapman and Hall, 1859. Original blind-stamped greenish-brown cloth.
First Edition of Meredith's first full-length novel (preceded only by a volume of verse and two single-volume burlesques). FEVEREL is the tough tale of a father's "system" of raising his son, developed not so much out of concern for his son as out of revenge for the wife who had left him. Meredith wrote FEVEREL during the stressful years of the disintegration of his own marriage to Mary Ellen Peacock (daughter of Thomas Love Peacock). In 1858, in fact, she had left him for another man, whose child she bore while still Meredith's legal wife (she died of renal dropsy in 1861).
FEVEREL was a complete failure upon publication. Periodical reviewers made such comments as "This 'Ordeal' is about as painful a book as any reader ever felt himself compelled to read through...", and suggested that proper matrons would be well-advised to avoid it. Complaints about the novel's "low ethical tone" prompted Mudie's Library to refuse to circulate the 300 copies it had bought, guaranteeing the book's demise (though FEVEREL's reception was much better in other countries); a second edition, revised, was not published until 1878.
This is a very good set. Most of the delicate (original pale yellow) endpapers are cracked, but the volumes remain tight; other than the endpapers, there is little wear other than minor wear at the extremities (one corner bears a discreet repair). We find FEVEREL to be quite scarce today, especially in original cloth: for an author's failed first novel that subsequently became his best-known work, one cannot expect much better condition than this. Housed in an open-backed cloth slipcase. Collie IIIa (citing primrose endpapers -- but every set we have had has had pale yellow endpapers); Sadleir 1701 (including Vol III ads dated July 1859, whereas this copy has no ads), and pp 380-381 (listing FEVEREL as fourth in Meredith scarcity and saying "Few Victorian fictions are more seldom seen than those numbered 1 to 4"); Carter BV pp 138-9 (binding "A", the primary one). Provenance (in addition to below): Michael Sadleir (bookplate in each volume); also, loosely inserted is the 1948 shipping label from B. H. Blackwell to the current owner of this set. Housed in an open-backed cloth case.
The front free endpaper of Vol I is SIGNED IN FULL BY GEORGE MEREDITH; just above his name is the additional name Alice Mary Gordon (this appears to be in his hand as well, but it is possible that name is in her own hand). Alice Brandreth first met Meredith in 1867, when she was thirteen -- visiting his home at Box Hill with her three-years-older cousin Jim Gordon, who was part of the Box Hill Gordon family (which later would introduce Robert Louis Stevenson to Meredith). She would marry Gordon ten years later, but by then she had come to know Meredith well -- so much so that she was the model for Cecilia Halkett in his novel BEAUCHAMP'S CAREER (1876), where Meredith describes her as
the handsomest girl, English style, of her time... One can't call her a girl, and it won't do to say Goddess, and queen and charmer are out of the question, though she's both, and angel into the bargain."
In 1919, as Lady Butcher, Alice would write MEMORIES OF GEORGE MEREDITH, which still today is highly regarded as a source book on Meredith's life. Item #11317