CRAIK, DINAH MARIA (MULOCK).
JOHN HALIFAX, GENTLEMAN.(London: Hurst and Blackett, 1856). 191 x 114 mm (7 1/2 x 4 1/2"). Three volumes, with three pages of ads at the end of the first volume and two pages at the end of the third.. FIRST EDITION.
EXTREMELY PLEASING MEDIUM GREEN STRAIGHT-GRAIN MOROCCO, ATTRACTIVELY GILT, BY BAYNTUN (stamp-signed on front flyleaf), gilt double fillet border on covers, raised bands, gilt spine compartments with filigree lozenge centerpiece and cornerpiece volutes, blue and red morocco labels, heavily gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Sadleir 1812. Joints of first volume a bit flaked (with tiny cracks just beginning), two leaves with neatly repaired tear (one in lower fore margin, the other into the text, but without loss), text faintly browned at edges because of inexpensive paper, but still QUITE AN APPEALING SET, the decorative bindings bright and almost entirely unworn, and the text very clean and smooth.
This is very nicely bound and rare copy of the first edition of a popular Victorian three-decker that depicts a poor, honest, and hard-working orphan whose story represents the paradigm of success available even to the lowliest at the time of the Industrial Revolution in England. In a narrative based on a true story, the title character begins as a farm laborer, is apprenticed to a tanner, teaches himself to read in a squalid attic, earns the trust of his employer, becomes a tradesman, and eventually rises to the position of capitalist and manufacturer. Along the way, he marries well, and he ultimately spends his declining years in serenity. The book is not just about attaining status and wealth, but also about achieving happiness through hard work and integrity. Dinah Maria Craik (née Mulock, 1826-87) is the author of more than 20 novels, several collections of short stories, journal articles, books of poetry, and tales for children. After the separation of her parents and the death of her mother, Craik was forced to become the sole support for her siblings, a responsibility she determined to meet by embarking upon a writing career. "The Feminist Companion" says that "beneath its veneer of romantic sentimentality, [the author's] fiction subverts conventional ideologies about women." As an example, in "A Woman's Thoughts About Women" (1858), Craik protests against marriage as the sole female occupation and demands better education and increased professional opportunities for women. While several of her other novels also drive home a more feminist message ("Agatha's Husband" of 1853, for example, and "A Life for a Life," 1859), "John Halifax" remains Craik's best-known work, in part because it was translated into French, German, Italian, Russian, and Greek. "Halifax" is seldom encountered in the marketplace, and is particularly rare in excellent condition. (CAB07043)