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SMART, Christopher.

[Complete set of the Seatonian Prize Poems:]

On the Eternity of the Supreme Being. A Poetical Essay; On the Immensity of the Supreme Being. A Poetical Essay; On the Power of the Supreme Being. A Poetical Essay; On the Omniscience of the Supreme Being. A Poetical Essay. The Second Edition; On the Goodness of the Supreme Being. A Poetical Essay.

Cambridge: Printed by J. Bentham, Printer to the University. Sold by W. Thurlbourn, C. Bathurst, R. Dodsley, J. Hildyard, J. Newbery, T. Merrill, T. Gardner, 1750-6 Stock Code: 120509
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A rare complete set of Smart's Seatonian Prize-winning poems on the Supreme Being, all first editions except for Omniscience which is a second (1756). This set is attractively presented together in a contemporary binding with the library label to the front board of Montacute House, Somerset, the home of the Phelips family, and the contemporary ownership inscription (dated 1756) to front free endpaper of "Ed. Phelips".

These poems were printed as the result of an annual award endowed by clergyman Thomas Seaton (1684-1741) to be awarded to the best poem on "one or other of the Perfections of Attributes of the Supreme Being". Smart (1722-71), then a student at Cambridge, and (as is now well-known from his later lunatic verse) ever ready to find new ways to sing the praises of his Maker, won for the first five years running, and the poems were printed sequentially at the expense of Seaton's bequest.

Christopher Smart is now best known for his later madhouse poems A Song to David (1763) and Jubliate Agno (first published as Rejoice in the Lamb, a Song of Bedlam, in 1939), but "In the eighteenth century Smart was admired...above all for his mastery of the religious sublime in the Seatonian poems....The rhetoric of eighteenth-century didactic poems on theological and philosophical subjects now appears somewhat jaded, but Smart's boldness of thought and expression raises his contributions to the genre above the usual standard" (ODNB).

As the poems, which are composed in Miltonic blank verse, proved popular, and each instalment was printed in at least two and some in three editions - it is rare, therefore, to find so many thus together in first edition and in contemporary state, rather than latterly assembled. This copy appeared at auction in 1932 and again in 1998, and no better complete copy is recorded before or since.

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5 works bound as one, quarto (270 x 212 mm). Contemporary half calf, spine in compartments with raised bands and gilt title direct, marbled sides, blue morocco label to front board gilt with blazing hearth emblem.


With the final leaf of advertisement in each where called for.


Recent collector's bookplate. Perhaps rebacked at an early date though very sensitively so if so. Early library label to top fore-corner of the front pastedown. Ends chipped, front joint starting at both ends, corners worn and the covers otherwise generally a little rubbed, some spotting within but never severe, still a very good copy.


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