(Cambridge: Macmillan and Co., 1862). 202 x 155 mm. (8 x 6 1/8"). xvi, 128 pp. FIRST EDITION.
Attractive contemporary brown morocco, painted and gilt, covers with painted black frame outlined by decorative gilt rules enclosing a diapered central panel with alternating rows of black compartments with silver fleur-de-lys and brown compartments with gold fleur-de-lys, flat spine with vertical titling, turn-ins with decorative gilt roll, flowered endpapers, all edges gilt and gauffered with a rosette design. With three engraved plates. Verso of front free endpaper with book label of Ruari McLean. A little wear to joints and extremities, otherwise a fine copy, clean and fresh with generous margins.
This is a verse account of the life of French philanthropist Marguerite de la Garaye in a pleasing binding of unusual design. As the granddaughter of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Caroline Norton (1808-77) was born into literary aristocracy, and was described by critic H. N. Coleridge as "the Byron of our modern poetesses. She has very much of that intense personal passion . . . She also has Byron's beautiful intervals of tenderness, his strong practical thought, and his forceful expression." An unfortunate marriage to an abusive wastrel forced her to take up her pen to support her family. She wrote poems and novels, and was a frequent contributor to popular periodicals. She also wrote passionate pamphlets urging politicians to change laws that handed a wife's inheritance and the custody of children over to their husbands. Her efforts were instrumental in passing the Infant Custody Act in 1839 and the Matrimonial Causes Act (1857). Like her friend Dickens, she also addressed social ills in her works, contrasting the miserable lives of children in factories with the greed and excesses of the owners. In the present work, she paints a contrast of a different sort, relating the tale of a French countess who, with her husband, devotes her life to charitable causes, founding a hospital and working side by side with her servants to feed and care for the indigent. Our copy comes from the library of influential book designer and typographer Ruari McLean (1917-2006). (ST13649)