[first fiction, in original cloth] A Romance of the Fifth Century. London: Richard Bentley, 1850. 2 pp undated ads in Vols II and III, as well as printed endpaper ads in all three volumes. Original cream embossed cloth with blind-stamping on the covers and gilt stamping on the spines.
First Edition of Wilkie Collins's first fiction, preceded only by his two-volume "memoir" of his father, the renowned landscape painter. Actually Collins began ANTONINA in 1846, then (after his father died in early 1847) he paused to write the biography, after which he resumed and completed the novel. ANTONINA sold well, with a "revised" edition coming out three months later (in May 1850), followed by another three-volume printing in 1853; it "was reprinted throughout Collins's lifetime and into the twentieth century."
Drawing upon Collins's own 1837 visit to Rome, ANTONINA is modeled after Bulwer-Lytton's 1834 novel THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII...
The plot is absurd, and many passages read like a cross between a guide-book to ancient Rome... and a description of his father's paintings. Other sections, particularly the more horrific and violent, are vividly written and there are already indications of Collins's interest in physical handicap and abnormal states of mind, and his dislike of all forms of extremism. The conflict between the imaginative and artistic Antonina and her stern father is reworked to better effect in Collins's next novel, BASIL [quotes from Gasson].
ANTONINA was unfortunately bound in a delicate cream-colored embossed cloth -- with the result that most copies found (seldom) today suffer from cover soil and also from worn joints. This is such a set, with those two problems -- perhaps very good, in all. Each front paste-down bears the large bookplate of the Norwich Free Library (with their "withdrawn for sale" ink-stamp opposite), and there are small ink-stamps on some pages; the spines are browned, except where a small sticker must have once resided. We'd love to be offering a finer set, but they just don't turn up. Parrish & Miller pp 11-12; Gasson p. 8; Wolff 1344. Item #14971