Goldsmith's First Important Work, the Finely Bound Isham Copy
THE CITIZEN OF THE WORLD; OR LETTERS FROM A CHINESE PHILOSOPHER, RESIDING IN LONDON, TO HIS FRIENDS IN THE EAST.(London: Printed for the Author, and Sold by J. Newberry et al. 1762). 178 x 108 mm (7 x 4 1/4"). Without the terminal blank in the second volume. Two volumes.. First Collected Edition (the state of the text with "v" for "vii" in the Preface).
HANDSOME MOTTLED CALF BY RIVIERE & SONS (stamp-signed on verso of front endpapers), covers bordered with triple gilt fillets and roundel cornerpieces, raised bands, spines attractively gilt in compartments featuring broad foliate cornerpieces and an oval sunburst centerpiece in a double-ruled frame with notched corners, maroon and black morocco labels, ornate gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Decorative headpieces. Front of each volume with the bookplates of Edward B. King and of R. H. Isham (see below). Scott, pp. 71-75; Williams, pp. 123-24; Rothschild 1021. Joints slightly flaked, two very small round wormholes in head margin of second volume (the first through most of the text, the second just through last quarter), two lower corners torn off without loss of text, very faint overall browning here and there, a few other trivial faults, but A NEARLY FINE COPY, internally fresh and quite clean, and in solid and very pretty bindings showing little wear.
Originally published from 1760 to 1761 in the "Public Ledger" as a series of 123 letters purportedly from a bemused Chinese sage visiting England, and appearing in book form in 1762, this work first brought the young Goldsmith to the attention of the reading public. The book is an amiable satire on English society of the 18th century, with its class-consciousness, artificiality, and preoccupation with money, written with humor and perspicacity. Oliver Goldsmith (1730-74) was Irish born and educated at Dublin, before studying in Edinburgh and Leyden, where he seems to have been granted a medical degree. Unsuccessful as a London physician, Goldsmith turned to a life of miscellaneous writing, churning out books and essays for the publishers. He first met Dr. Johnson in 1761, and they became boon companions. Boswell describes Goldsmith as gauche, hapless, and a prattler, but clearly Johnson found the man amusing and lovable. And he was both talented and popular as a writer. His best-known works, both of them classics, are "She Stoops to Conquer" (a comedy about an awkward fellow who prefers the company of barmaids to ladies) and "The Vicar of Wakefield" (a novel with a hero as mild-mannered, garrulous, and improvident as the author himself). Dickens' novels--with their memorable characterizations, many coincidences of plot, and sympathy for the unfortunate--show the deep influence of Goldsmith. Ours is an attractive association copy. Ralph H. Isham (1890-1955) was best known for his determined pursuit and discovery of Boswell papers that existed at Malahide Castle near Dublin. It was a good thing that our collector started out wealthy, because he spent most of his fortune in purchasing this and related material in the first place, then in buying the rights to publish it, and finally in paying editorial and printing expenses. In order to keep financially afloat, he ended up having to sell, disadvantageously, to Rosenbach a number of original leaves from Boswell's manuscript of the life of Johnson. Finally, in 1949, Isham was able to sell what remained of the Boswell papers to Yale for $450,000. Although his bibliophilic interest had always centered on Boswell's "Life of Johnson," Goldsmith, as Johnson's close friend, would naturally have been a part of Isham's collection. (ST10533)