Item Details

Price: $650
PJP Catalog: 63.158

Gift Meant for Shipboard Reading, Inscribed by
Mildred Aldrich to Belle Armstrong Whitney


(New York and London: M. Walter Dunne, 1903). 232 x 165 mm (9 1/8 x 6 1/2"). xxvii, [i], 445 pp. Introduction by Robert Arnot.

EXTREMELY PLEASING CONTEMPORARY BLACK THREE-QUARTER MOROCCO, raised bands, spine gilt in double-ruled compartments with fleur-de-lys centerpiece, marbled sides and endpapers, top edge gilt, other edges rough trimmed. With extra color title page, facsimile of letter from Madame du Barry to the Duc de Brissac, and with portraits of Madame du Barry and Louis XV, as well as four colored photogravure plates with scenes from David Belasco's 1902 play "Du Barry," all on Japan vellum with original lettered tissue guards. Manuscript note laid in at front: "Belle Armstrong Whitney / To be read I hope on a calm sea with a safe harbor ahead / Mildred Aldrich / Paris, January 1916" (see below). One leaf with one-inch closed marginal tear (well away from the text), otherwise a fine copy, the text clean and fresh, and the binding especially lustrous and virtually unworn.

This is an attractively bound copy of the account of intrigue at the court of Louis XV, as told by his famous mistress, Jeanne Bécu Vaubernier du Barry (1743-93), who began life as the illegitimate daughter of a seamstress and ended it as an aristocrat guillotined during the Reign of Terror. An extraordinarily beautiful woman, she clawed her way from shopgirl to courtesan to wife of an aristocrat, crowning her achievement by becoming the king's official mistress, embarking on a life of frivolity and extravagance rivalled only by Marie Antoinette. Unfortunately for du Barry, she lacked the political savvy of her predecessor, Madame de Pompadour: although she made several trips to London after the French Revolution, she always returned to France, where she was finally arrested, tried, and taken screaming to her execution, her last words being a cry of existential angst, "One more moment!" Our volume has considerable association value, as it was a gift from one important independent woman to another. Mildred Aldrich (1853-1928) was an American journalist and author who settled in Paris in 1898, where she became a member of the social and literary circle of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Remaining in France during World War I, she published four volumes of letters about the conflict, as well as a novel, "Told In A French Garden" (1916). The recipient, style maven Belle Armstrong Whitney (1861-1922), is best known as the author of "What To Wear: A Book for Women" (1916).