RHODA FLEMING. A Story. George Meredith.


[the scarcest Meredith novel] In Three Volumes. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1865. Original green cloth.

First Edition of this early novel by Meredith --

one of the most profound Victorian studies of living death after sexual fall. Dahlia and Rhoda are the two flower-like daughters of a dead, garden-loving mother. Beautiful, moral and naïve, Dahlia goes to the city, is seduced by Edward Blancove, the worldling son of a banker, and when he deserts her, she evades her family. She is about to marry a ruffian when she is discovered by Rhoda's suitor. Morally strong but blindly unaware of the dangers of supposedly correct behavior, Rhoda is willing to see Dahlia married off after her fall because it will make her respectable again. Only very slowly does Rhoda realize that acts like marrying off are what constitute immorality. Dahlia dies to life... She maddens, unsuccessfully attempts suicide, and then succumbs to tedium vitæ... Dahlia dies uttering the words "Help poor girls" [in the 1886 second edition, revised by Meredith] [Gates].

Meredith did not make much money in his arrangement with the publisher Tinsley, but felt he had to get it published:

To publish a novel was of vital importance to him at this stage in his career; he had just married [a second time], was in debt, and no doubt had to demonstrate that he could make a living by his writing alone... RHODA FLEMING, though conceived in 1863, was written hurriedly during a prolonged honeymoon [Collie].

Sadleir ranks RHODA FLEMING as the absolute scarcest -- number one -- of Meredith's fifteen works of fiction, and goes on to say that "Few Victorian fictions are more seldom seen than those numbered 1 to 4"; he attributes this scarcity, actually in his bibliography of Trollope, to the fact that this was the only Meredith book published by Tinsley.

This copy is in the primary binding of blind-stamped green cloth, with the publisher's name at the foot of the spines; the fact that there was a secondary binding of rose cloth without publisher's name, indicates that the novel did not sell well, prompting the publisher to bind up remaining copies more cheaply.

Condition is very good (bindings generally a bit rubbed, faint rectangles at the top of each front cover indicating the prior presence of a lending library label, rear cover of Vol III stained). Buxton Forman 12; Collie VI; Sadleir 1702 and pp 380-381; Carter (More Binding Variants) p. 26, this being his Binding "A". Provenance: Vol I penciled signature of Walter E. Smith, bibliographer of Victorian literature. Each volume housed in a (somewhat tired) calf-backed clamshell case lined in felt. Item #14050

Price: $1,450.00

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