[original cloth, near-fine] A Romance. In Three Volumes. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1882. Original green cloth lettered in gilt.
First Edition, which consisted of only 1000 copies -- most of which were bought up (at half-price) by the lending libraries. This is Hardy's tale about a young astronomer and an older woman of superior wealth and rank, brought together in a tower by their mutual interest in viewing the stars. Hardy's self-stated aim was "to make science, not the mere padding of a romance, but the actual vehicle of romance"; he engaged in considerable research about astronomy and telescopes in preparing to write the book. The tale seems to be probing a suggestion made 22 years earlier by Maggie Tulliver in George Eliot's THE MILL ON THE FLOSS: "I suppose it's all astronomers [who must necessarily hate women]: because, you know, they live up in high towers, and if the women came there, they might talk and hinder them from looking at the stars." Hardy also probed subject areas that proved distressful to many readers of the day (and in particular to the Church): the woman becomes pregnant by the astronomer, but thereupon entraps an unsuspecting bishop into marriage and fatherhood. TWO ON A TOWER was not, and still is not, a popular success -- but the novel demonstrates Hardy in transition, between his light-hearted early novels like UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE and his grim fatalistic final ones like TESS and JUDE.
This is a remarkably bright, near-fine set. There is quite minor rubbing of the binding extremities, and faint variation in the cloth sizing; the second and third volumes have a title page ink-stamp "The Daily Chronicle." The original pale yellow endpapers are clean and tight.
All of Hardy's three-decker novels (but especially those dated 1886 and earlier) have become nearly impossible to acquire in desirable condition: this is only the second time in our almost-forty years in business that we have encountered this nice a copy of TWO ON A TOWER -- and both times (in 2002 and now) it has been this copy! In an attractive cloth clamshell case. Purdy pp 41-45; Sadleir 1116; Wolff 2996. Item #14164