Memoirs of an American Lady:
With sketches of manners and scenery in America, as they existed previous to the Revolution.London: printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme; and Mrs H. Cook, 1808 Stock Code: 137443
An appealing copy in the original boards with an excellent associationFirst edition, an appealing copy in the original boards with an excellent association, of the author's best-known work, "a fascinating document in cultural history" (Orlando), comprising a childhood autobiography and a biography of the titular "American Lady", Catalina Schuyler, a Dutch-American woman who had a great influence on Grant's education and early development.
This was the copy of Helen Dunbar of Boath (1775-1835), a close friend and literary correspondent of Grant. "The only daughter of a landed Nairnshire family, she remained unmarried, living with her widowed mother Jane, who appears to have been Grant's first acquaintance in the family. Dunbar's other literary friends included Elizabeth Rose of Kilravock and Hugh Millar" (McCue & Perkins, p. xxvii). Dunbar also taught Grant's children at a school in Laggan. Grant addressed several poems to Dunbar and a number of letters to her "dearest Bar" (a familiar abbreviation adopted by Grant's family) were published after her death. Upon the publication of the Letters Grant wrote to another friend that "I have got a most impetuous and energetic letter from Miss Dunbar of Boath, urging for a copy, she not having patience to wait the Elgin bookseller's expected cargo" (p. 73).
The Glasgow-born Anne MacVicar, later Grant (1755-1838), lived in America from 1758 to 1768 after she and her mother moved to join her father who was performing military service during the French and Indian War. They settled in Charleston initially, but moved through Pennsylvania, New York, Ontario, and Vermont, before returning to Scotland. Grant eventually became a noted figure in Edinburgh literary and social circles, helped by the popularity of her first best-seller, Letters from the Mountains (1806). After the publication of the Memoirs of an American Lady her reputation was such that she was one of those confidently stated to be the author of Scott's Waverley when that novel first appeared.
The present memoir was planned as early as June 1773. "The finished work, published in 1808, begins with a sketch of the history of what became New York State, and continues to cover a good deal of political and historical matters. In the second volume the autobiographical emerges, in the details of Grant's childhood reading habits and her developing relationship with her previously unknown father. In addition to the description of Schuyler's life, Grant's memoirs incorporate the history of Albany, New York, and the nearby Five Nations native settlement, including comment on King Hendrick, sovereign of the Five Nations" (Orlando).
2 volumes, octavo. Uncut in original blue paper-covered boards, pink paper backstrips, paper labels titled in manuscript, volume numbers direct to spines in manuscript. Housed together in a custom slipcase.
Contemporary ownership inscription, "Helen Dunbar Boath 1809", to head of each title page. A very well-preserved copy, a little soiled and worn, spine ends chipped, front joint of vol. I starting, the contents clean and unmarked, a few tears to free endpapers.
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