[Goldilocks before Goldilocks] London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green and Longman (Vols I-V), 1834 | 1834 | 1835 | 1837 | 1838, and London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans (Vols VI-VII), 1847 | 1847. 12 pp Vol I preliminary ads dated January 1835; 16 pp Vol IV preliminary ads dated June 1837 (L,R,O&Co.); 16 pp Vol V terminal ads dated July 1838 (L,O,B,G&Ls); 32 pp Vol VI and Vol VII terminal ads dated October 1846 (L,B,G&Ls); Original green cloth with printed spine labels.
First Edition, complete in seven volumes. Volumes I-V were published, anonymously, as a complete work in 1834-1838; there was much speculation as to the author might be. Southey, after starting out as a Romantic poet alongside Wordsworth and Coleridge, died in 1843 -- after which his son-in-law John Wood Warter arranged for a final two volumes to be published, in the Preface of which he named Southey as author.
THE DOCTOR &c has been described as Southey's only attempt at fiction -- "a rambling miscellany packed with comments, quotations, and anecdotes" -- but today it is most remembered for Southey's original tale on nine pages of Vol IV -- "The Story of the Three Bears." In his original, the three bears live in a house in the woods, and are a Great, Huge Bear, a Middle-sized Bear, and a Little, Small, Wee Bear -- but all male. Each has a pot of porridge, each has a chair, and each has a bed; but the interloper is "an impudent, bad old Woman" who breaks in while the bears are out -- trying out each thing and finding the Wee Bear's "just right." When the bears return and discover that someone has been in their house, their dialogue is printed appropriately in Huge, Middle-size or Wee print. After Wee Bear's exclamation awakens the sleeper...
Out [the window] the little old Woman jumped; and whether she broke her neck in the fall; or ran into the wood and was lost there; or found her way out of the wood, and was taken up by the Constable and sent to the House of Correction for a vagrant as she was, I cannot tell. But the Three Bears never saw any thing more of her.
In the late 1840s the publisher Joseph Cundall published a version of the same tale but with a little girl named Silver-Locks; either in the 1850s or 1870s (there's a dispute), the bears were changed to Papa, Mama and Baby; and in 1904 the little girl became Goldilocks.
The title page of every volume is printed in red and black; Vol VII includes a tinted frontispiece. As for condition, the spines and labels are toned, there is quite minor wear at some extremities, and some (original) endpapers are cracked; Vol VI lacks its front free endpaper, though that volume does have the errata slip. In all, quite remarkable near-fine condition for all seven volumes in the original green cloth. Lowndes p. 2460; Carpenter & Pritchard pp 492 & 524-525.
Provenance: the first five volumes bear the early signature "R. Goodall," and also the bookplate (and title verso ink-stamp) of Coventry City Libraries; also, a bookplate appears to have been removed from those volumes' rear paste-downs. Vols VI and VII bear the bookplate of Edward Hunter. Item #14665