MADAME BOVARY. Provincial Manners.
[an amazingly fine copy] Translated from the French Édition Définitive by Eleanor Marx-Aveling. London: Vizetelly & Co., 1886. 2 pp preliminary ads. Original aqua-blue cloth decorated in gilt, black and dark grey.
First English Edition of Flaubert's masterpiece, which was destined to become one of the great classics of world literature. Portraying the frustrations and love affairs of romantic young Emma Bovary, married to a dull provincial doctor, the book -- first published in French in late 1856 -- resulted in Flaubert being prosecuted on moral grounds. However, he won the case, while the book gained notoriety that spurred its sales in France. It was MADAME BOVARY that established Flaubert as one of the supreme masters of the realistic novel, with his objective, precise style typified by his use of "le mot juste." Somerset Maugham selected MADAME BOVARY as one of the ten greatest novels, saying that "Flaubert created the modern realistic novel and directly or indirectly has influenced all the writers of fiction since his day."
Although the novel did appear in the early 1880s in America (a little-known undated Peterson edition, probably 1881), it did not appear in England until here in 1886, because UK publishers would not touch it -- due to the fact that the lending libraries (responsible for most of any novel's initial sales) would likewise refuse it. Enter the Italian (but London-born) publisher Henry Vizetelly, who in 1886 established this publishing house and set about publishing "Realistic Novels" that the lending libraries had been preventing the English public from reading -- beginning with this book. It was largely Vizetelly, and the public clamoring for his books (despite his being prosecuted for obscenity), who brought about the decline and ultimately the demise of the three-decker format in Britain -- in 1894, coincidentally the year of Vizetelly's death.
The translator -- and the author of the 16-page Introduction about Flaubert and the writing of MADAME BOVARY -- was Eleanor "Tussy" Marx (1855-1898), the English-born youngest daughter of Karl Marx. As a child she had played in his study as he wrote DAS KAPITAL (published in 1867), and at the age of 16 she became his secretary, accompanying him to socialist conferences around the world. Her father died in 1883, soon after which she and Edward Aveling, under the aegis of Friedrich Engels, saw to the publication of the second volume of DAS KAPITAL. In 1886, the year this book was published, she toured the US with Aveling and the German socialist Wilhelm Liebknecht. A dozen years later (in early 1898), she discovered that the ailing Aveling had secretly married a young actress and, at age 43, "Tussy" ended her life with cyanide -- very similarly to how Emma Bovary had ended her life with arsenic.
This is an amazingly fine copy -- by far the best we have ever seen. Typically, copies have substantial soil and rubbing of this aqua-blue cloth -- but this copy is clean and bright, essentially without wear or soil. The dark green coated endpapers are intact, and the volume is tight. One could not hope for a better copy, of this literary classic that brought together a great author, the debut of a historically-significant publisher, and a talented translator and feminist. Housed in a clamshell case with leather labels. Item #14779