Belle and the Dragon.
An Elfin Comedy.London: James Elliott & Co., 1894 Stock Code: 141596
First edition, in bright condition, of this uncommonly found allegorical children's fantasy. The work, set in the mythic land of Ravendale, features lightly disguised versions of Waite and his cohort. In "all his work Waite presented himself as a non-denominational mystic", here named "the Mystic", and depicted at page 95 (ODNB). Copies have been traced in 12 institutions worldwide.
Waite's wife, Ada, is represented as the dormouse, while her sister, and Waite's first and true love, Dora, is featured as the heroine, Mesuline. Waite first met Dora in 1886 and the two fell almost immediately in love; however, in June 1887 she married one Reverend Granville Stuart-Menteath. In January 1888 Waite in turn married her sister Ada. Dora and Waite remained close despite their marriages and the two families lived near one another in Gunnersbury. Stuart-Menteath's sister, Evelyn, was also a close friend of Waite's and provided the striking illustrations for this work, and several of his others, featuring here as the title dragon.
A. E. Waite (1857-1942) was a poet and historian of occultism who "brought order out of the chaos of the occult revival and enabled the study of both the history and content of 'rejected knowledge' to become academically acceptable" (ibid.). Alongside his academic studies Waite wrote several collections of fantastical poetry with the 1890s being his "most prolific decade with ten books, fifteen works edited or translated, and the first independent journal in this field, the Unknown World, to his credit" (ibid.). He is best known now for his pictorial tarot deck, designed in 1910 with fellow author and spiritualist Pamela Colman Smith.
Quarto. Original dark green cloth, titles to spine in gilt, detailed fairy and spider's web illustration incorporating titles in silver to front cover, top edge gilt, others untrimmed, a couple of leaves unopened, plain endpapers.
Frontispiece, illustrated title page, and 36 illustrations in the text.
Minor rubbing to spine ends and board edges, slight bump to bottom tip of front board, faint browning to endleaves, very occasional ink smudges from printing process to margins; a very good, attractive copy, the illustrations clean and crisp.
R. A. Gilbert, A. E. Waite: Magician of Many Parts, 1987.
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