THE ORDEAL OF RICHARD FEVEREL. A History of Father and Son. In Three Volumes. George Meredith.
THE ORDEAL OF RICHARD FEVEREL. A History of Father and Son. In Three Volumes.

THE ORDEAL OF RICHARD FEVEREL. A History of Father and Son. In Three Volumes.

[in an unrecorded binding] London: Chapman and Hall, 1859. Original blind-stamped rose-brown cloth.

First Edition of George Meredith's first full-length novel (preceded only by a volume of verse and two single-volume burlesques). FEVEREL is the tough tale of a father's "system" of raising his son, developed not so much out of concern for his son as out of revenge for the wife who had left him. Meredith wrote FEVEREL during the stressful years of the disintegration of his own marriage to Mary Ellen Peacock (daughter of Thomas Love Peacock). In 1858, in fact, she had left him for another man, whose child she bore while still Meredith's legal wife (she died of renal dropsy in 1861).

FEVEREL was a complete failure upon publication. Periodical reviewers made such comments as "This 'Ordeal' is about as painful a book as any reader ever felt himself compelled to read through...", and suggested that proper matrons would be well-advised to avoid it. Complaints about the novel's "low ethical tone" prompted Mudie's Library to refuse to circulate the 300 copies it had bought, guaranteeing the book's demise; a second edition, revised, was not published until 1878.

This set is bound in an original publisher's binding that is not documented: blind-stamped rose-brown cloth that has a horizontal morocco grain, with the same spine lettering and blind-stamping (but different cover blind-stamping) as appears on the primary greenish-brown diagonal wavy-grain cloth. "CHAPMAN & HALL" does appear at the foot of the spines, and in fact all the lettering is the same except that the font of "Vol. I. [II./III.]" is different; there is no Vol III ad catalogue, as there usually is in a greenish-brown set; the endpapers are pale yellow, rather than primrose. Buxton Forman lists only the primary binding in either greenish-brown or grey cloth; Collie lists a variant binding of reddish-brown cloth with no publisher's imprint; Carter lists a secondary binding of chocolate sand-grain cloth with no publisher's imprint (probably from the mid-'60s, he says).

Condition is very good-to-near-fine (minor wear along the spine edges -- a common complaint because the volumes' spines are wider than their text-blocks); the volumes are clean and the spine gilt is remarkably bright. The Vol III endpapers show some cracking. We find FEVEREL to be quite scarce today, especially in original cloth: for an author's failed first novel that subsequently became his best-known work, one cannot expect much better condition than this. Collie IIIa; Sadleir 1701 and pp 380-1 (listing FEVEREL as fourth in scarcity and saying "Few Victorian fictions are more seldom seen than those numbered 1 to 4"); Carter BV pp 138-139; Buxton Forman pp 18-21 -- none of these sources citing this rose-brown binding. Item #14829

Price: $1,350.00