THE JOY OF LIVING (Es Lebe das Leben). A Play in Five Acts. Edith Wharton.
THE JOY OF LIVING (Es Lebe das Leben). A Play in Five Acts.

THE JOY OF LIVING (Es Lebe das Leben). A Play in Five Acts.

By Hermann Sudermann. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1902. Original dark grey-green paper-covered boards decorated in gilt.

First (and only) Edition in English, first (American) issue, of one of Edith Wharton's earlier literary endeavors. She agreed to translate this play only reluctantly, perhaps drawn by a topic she would later express in her own novels: the plight of a woman who is unhappy in her marriage due to her love for another man. In her Translator's Note, she indicates that she had to exercise some creativity in her task, because "to English and American spectators the long German speeches are a severe strain on the attention"; this is perhaps why Wharton's bibliographer Garrison lists this play as one of Edith Wharton's works -- and in fact, she is sometimes referred to as the co-author of the play. Incidentally, "The Joy of Living"'s last three words, before the final curtain, are "I am dead" -- just after the heroine has taken her own life.

As with the one other copy we have had, loosely inserted is a slip indicating that the British stage actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell [née Beatrice Stella Tanner] now holds the dramatic rights to this play; she was the director of the short-lived (ironic!) Broadway production, produced in 1902 by Charles Frohmann. The second (British) issue of this book, five or six months later, consisted of these same American sheets with a Duckworth 1903 title leaf; it includes the same "dramatic rights" notice on its copyright page.

Like some of Edith Wharton's other early books (THE GREATER INCLINATION (1899), THE TOUCHSTONE (1900) and CRUCIAL INSTANCES (1901)), this book was unfortunately bound in grey-green paper-covered boards rather than in much sturdier cloth. As a result, none of these books has survived well. This, however, is a fine, bright copy -- uncommon condition for what in our experience is an uncommon book. Garrison A7.1.a. Item #14770

Price: $275.00

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