With Illustrations on Wood and Steel, by Hablot K. Browne. [In Two Volumes.] London: W.S. Orr and Co., n.d. . 2 pp Vol II ads. Original bright red cloth with spines pictorially decorated in gilt.
First Edition in book form of this novel, following the 14-in-13 monthly serial parts. CON CREGAN was an experiment by Lever -- as it was published anonymously, even though Lever was by then quite well known. He later wrote:
I am not sure that I made any attempt to disguise my style... I trusted most of all to the fact that I was making my monthly [serial] appearance to the world in another story, and with another publisher, and I had my hope that my small duplicity would thus escape undetected... The critics discovered in "Con Cregan" a freshness and a vigour which were so sadly deficient in "The Daltons" [Lever's 1850-52 novel published with his name as author]. It was, they averred, the work of a less practised writer, but of one whose humour was more subtle, and whose portraits, roughly sketched as they were, indicated a far higher power than the well-known author of "Harry Lorrequer" [Lever himself].
Lever went on to say:
There was no plan whatever for this book. My notion was that "Con Cregan," once created, would not fail to find adventures. The vicissitudes of daily poverty would beget shifts and contrivances; with these successes would come ambition and daring. Meanwhile a growing knowledge of life would develop his character, and I should soon see whether he would win the silver spoon or spoil the horn.
Included, by the famous illustrator Hablot K. Browne a.k.a. "Phiz," are 28 plates -- as well as a woodcut leading off each chapter. (The "Illustrations" preliminary leaf in Vol II seems to imply that there are 15 rather than 14 plates in that volume, but 14 is the correct number, since one of those listed ("Con. and the Marchesa") is actually listed twice.)
This is a very good-plus, bright copy -- the only significant flaw being some chipping at the ends of the delicate spines. The cloth remains bright, as does the pictorial (and amusing) gilt on the spines. Copies in original cloth are quite scarce. Sadleir 1397; Wolff 4080. Item #14263