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STANHOPE, Lady Hester.

Memoirs,

as related by herself in Conversations with her Physician; comprising her Opinions and Anecdotes of some of the most Remarkable Persons of her Time. [With:] Travels; forming the Completion of her Memoirs. Narrated by her Physician.

London: Henry Colburn, 1846 Stock Code: 146264
£3,750.00
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The intrepid Lady Hester Stanhope

First edition of Travels, with the second edition of Memoirs, published in the same year. This is a handsomely bound copy of the chief authorities for the life of the most extraordinary woman traveller of the 19th century.

A niece of William Pitt, Lady Stanhope (1776-1839) left England in 1810 with Charles Meryon, a young doctor she had engaged as her physician, travelling via Malta to Constantinople and thence to Egypt, where she was received with honours and pageantry by Muhammad 'Ali Pasha, before making a tour of the Holy Land and Lebanon and entering Palmyra at the head of a cavalcade of Bedouin and having herself crowned as Queen of the Desert: "No one really knew quite who Lady Hester was (was she perhaps the daughter of the king of England?) but everyone knew that she was a great personage and must be treated as such" (ODNB).

In 1813 she moved into a former convent in the foothills of Sidon, Lebanon, and eventually Dar Jun, a remote spot high in the Lebanese mountains, becoming increasingly hermetic and developing an obsession with the occult, though for a time maintaining interest in the world outside and giving sanctuary to refugees during the civil strife which convulsed Lebanon in the 1820s and during Ibrahim Pasha's siege of Acre in 1831-2. Meryon had returned to England in 1817 but visited again in 1819, 1830 and 1837, receiving instructions on this last occasion to return to London once more to petition for the reinstatement of her pension, which had been rescinded owing to unpaid debts. As her health failed and she became increasingly unstable mentally, "her native servants and European attendants left one by one and when there was no one left to clean up her squalor and care for her, she walled herself up in Dar Jun and died, alone" (Robinson). There was not another account of Stanhope's life for 60 years, and Meryon's was never superseded as the sole eyewitness account of her remarkable career: "Despite their diffuseness the Memoirs make excellent reading Meryon describes with utmost minuteness her complicated oriental environment, her tyranny, and her interminable conversations with an almost Boswellian power of self-effacement" (DNB, cited after Blackmer).

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Description

2 works in 6 volumes, octavo gathered in twelves (196 x 120 mm). Uniformly bound by W. Roach Co., New York (their stamp to front free endpaper verso), in brown half morocco, titles to spines in gilt, raised bands, floral motifs in gilt to compartments, marbled boards and endpapers, top edges gilt.

Illustrations

Memoirs: 3 lithographic frontispieces, including a portrait of Lady Hester Stanhope coloured in contemporary hand in vol. 1, a folding plan, 20 pp. of publisher's advertisements at end.<br><br>Travels: 3 lithographic frontispieces, in-text illustrations,

Condition

Discreet colour restoration to extremities, occasional small nick to edges, bindings otherwise sound and notably unfaded, small tear to fore margin of pp. 287-8 in vol. 3, very occasional light spotting to contents, else internally fresh and unmarked; an attractive set.

Bibliography

Arcadian Library 8517 and pp. 100-1; Blackmer 1117; Robinson pp. 57-8; Theakstone, p. 392-3.

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