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ELIOT, William Gordon Cornwallis, The Hon., later 4th earl of St Germans (trans.)

Krim-Girai, Khan of the Crimea.

Translated from the German of Theodore Mundt.

Published: London: John Murray, 1856

Stock code: 109183

Price: £950

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First edition. Uncommon, just eight copies on Copac. A very pleasing association copy, being inscribed “With the Translator’s love” on the first blank, and with the bookplate of Lord Raglan to the front pastedown. Richard Henry FitzRoy Somerset, 2nd baron Raglan was married to Eliot’s cousin, Susan Caroline, famously his father, recently deceased at the time of presentation, had commanded the British forces in the Crimea, being responsible for the victories at the Alma and at Inkerman, and considered by some to be culpable for the disaster at Balaklava. The 1st baron had died at Sabastopol of a “broken heart” (ODNB) just 10 days after the bloody failure of the assault of 18 June 1855, and in 1858 his successor was gifted Cefntilla Court in Monmouthshire by “1623 of the ‘friends, admirers, and comrades’ of his father … as a mark of gratitude and to enable the family to maintain the port of the ennobled” (Newman, Gwent/Monmouthshire; Buildings of Wales series, p.272). The modern Cefntilla bookplate is mounted beneath Raglan’s on the front pastedown. The translator joined the Diplomatic Service from Eton, and served as attaché at Hanover 1849-53; Lisbon from 1851-3; as 2nd paid attaché at Berlin 1853-7; 1st paid attaché at Constantinople, 1857-8 and at St Petersburg 1858-9. Subsequent postings took him to Rio de Janeiro, Athens, Lisbon, and finally Washington. He resigned in 1865 and was elected MP for Devonport in 1866, holding the seat until 1868. He entered the House of Lords in 1870, dying in 1881. The association gains poignancy from the fact that Eliot’s elder brother the Hon. Granville Charles Cornwallis Eliot, a captain in the Coldstream Guards, had been killed, shot through the head, at Inkerman. Qirim Giray (?-1769), was one of the most influential rulers of the Crimean Khanate, a scion of the ruling Giray clan, direct descendants of Genghis Khan, and possessed of distinct geopolitical ambitions. “A clever, affable man with a weakness for practical jokes involving severed heads”, he aspired to an alliance with Frederick the Great against the Russians, and conspired to similar ends with the baron de Tott, becoming a “close personal friend”, who, under Tott’s influence, developed “an enthusiasm for French cuisine (especially its wine-based sauces), and requested that Tartuffe be translated into Turkish for performance by the court buffoons … the two spent long evenings talking politics inside the crimson-lined tent, Qirim delivering his ‘opinions on the abuses and advantages of liberty,on the principles of honour, or the laws and maxims of government, in a manner which would have done honour to Montesquieu himself'” (Reid, Borderland: A Journey through the History of Ukraine, internal quotations from the Memoirs of the Baron de Tott). The author of this work, Theodor Mundt, was a German philologist and librarian, best known for his writings on aesthetics, and for his advocacy of the emancipation of women, who compiled the memoir “on account of its intrinsic interest as well as the relation it bears to the present war”. (Preface). An attractively-provenanced and well-preserved copy of this seldom seen and interesting biography.

Octavo. Original red linen-grained cloth, title gilt to the spine, elaborate panelling in blind to the boards, light green surface-paper endpapers. A little rubbed overall, bumped at the corners, head and tail of the spine crumpled and with minor chipping, pale toning, some light foxing, but overall a very good copy.

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