["From the Author's Father"] Edited by William M. Rossetti and F. Hueffer. With a Memoir and Two Portraits. [In Two Volumes.] London: Tinsley Brothers, 1876. Original rose-brown cloth on beveled boards.
First Edition -- of the second and final title by "Nolly" Brown, who died of pyæmia (blood-poisoning) at the age of 19, two years before this book was published. He was the son of the famous Pre-Raphaelite painter Ford Madox Brown; his sister Catherine married Francis Hueffer (born Franz Hüffer); and his half-sister Lucy married (in the year of Oliver's death) William Michael Rossetti. Born into the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Oliver (on the title pages his middle and last names are hyphenated) showed early genius in art, in poetry, and in fiction.
These two volumes, put together (and with a memoir by) his two brothers-in-law, contain all of his writing except for his novel GABRIEL DENVER, which had been published in 1873. In addition to several prose fragments and poems, the text consists of the two tales cited on the title page (each was an unfinished novel, which the editors finished based on knowledge they had of the author's plan) -- plus, the complete novel THE BLACK SWAN, which is perhaps the most important of the three, because it is, in fact, GABRIEL DENVER before the author was forced by its publisher to alter its plot and title. (THE BLACK SWAN is about a wife's revenge upon her husband and his lover; considered too "harsh" by the publisher, GABRIEL DENVER is instead about a spiteful cousin's revenge, and has a happy ending.) Incidentally, "dwale bluth" is an old North Devonshire name for the poisonous plant belladonna, or "deadly nightshade," and this dark tale is about a woman's obsession over it.
Each volume has a frontispiece portrait of the author by his father -- one as a four-year-old, and one at the time he was writing these pieces.
This is a very good set. We have encountered only about five copies in our 35+ years in business, and every one of them has had some chipping of the spine ends, which is the case here. There is other minor soil and edge-wear, and there is slight cracking of the original pale-yellow endpapers. Despite these flaws, we have not seen a better copy.
Wolff 880, which is a presentation copy to Swinburne "from the Author's Father" ("The death at nineteen of this brilliantly versatile and precocious artist and novelist, son of Ford Madox Brown, and brother-in-law of William Michael Rossetti and Francis Hueffer, deeply distressed the boy's father and all the brethren of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Both his books are rare."); Wolff Strange Stories p. 40 ("Had The Black Swan appeared as the work of a mature and experienced novelist, it would have been an arresting novel. As the first effort of a seventeen-year-old writer, it is quite unbelievable").
Note: the front endpaper of Vol I bears the inked inscription "From the Author's Father". We know of several such copies (some inscribed to an individual such as Wolff's copy above, some just like this copy, but always "from the Author's Father"; we are not handwriting experts but, comparing the hand to Ford Madox Brown's, we could not definitely claim it to be his; the volumes were perhaps sent out at his request by the publisher. Item #13613