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JONES, Mary.

Miscellanies in Prose and Verse.

Oxford: printed; and delivered by Mr. Dodsley in Pall-Mall, Mr. Clements in Oxford, and Mr. Frederick in Bath, 1750 Stock Code: 134908
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The Littlecote subscriber's copy, finely bound

First edition of the author's only book, a beautifully bound subscriber's copy, one of approximately 330 copies printed on royal paper, this from the library of Sir Edward Popham of Littlecote.

Born in Oxford, where she lived all her life, Mary Jones (1707-1778) was a well-connected poet and letter-writer whose work was greatly influenced by Alexander Pope. Samuel Johnson called her the "Chantress" - a play on her occupation, her brother's position as 'chanter' at Christ Church cathedral, and a Miltonic reference - and she counted among her friends a host of literary figures including Charlotte Lennox, publisher and critic Ralph Griffiths, and Thomas Warton. She later worked as postmistress for Oxford and, at the time of her death, owned five houses in the city.

Miscellanies in Prose and Verse, her most famous work, was published by subscription in 1750. The distinguished list of 1,680 subscribers was "a major form of recognition, since an average subscription list in the 18th century would have about two hundred names, and anything with over one thousand subscribers was considered a noteworthy accomplishment She sold a large number of lavish editions on royal paper, with at least a dozen purchased by members of the Beauclerk family into which her friend Martha Lovelace had married It had one of the largest and most illustrious lists of subscribers on record, with nearly two hundred members of the nobility and an array of highly ranked members of the government, the army, the navy, and the clergy" (Kennedy, pp. 170-1). Headed by the Princess Royal, to whom the work was dedicated, the list includes the poets Sarah Dixon, the Countess of Hertford, and Elizabeth Carter, plus Samuel and Nathaniel Buck, David Garrick, and Horace Walpole. The Notes and Queries' article on 'Books by Subscription' recorded that 332 copies were printed on royal paper, of which the present is one such example (cited in Kennedy, ibid.). Commercial publication of the plainer format "followed only when the subscribers' copies had been delivered and it was not generally advertised until early 1752, accompanied by a minor publicity campaign" (Lonsdale, p. 156).

Throughout the collection "Jones's tone, whether in prose or verse, is generally non-deferential. One letter to a patron asks, 'Shall I pay my Adorations to your Rank, your Fortune, or the good Dinners you give me?'" (Orlando). The letters, which "make a subtle and fluid commentary on what it was like at this time to combine the roles of poet and good middle-class unmarried daughter" (ibid.), cover the period from 1732 to 1748. Demonstrating an impressive range of literary reference - from Bunyan and Milton to Mary Barber and Sarah Fielding - they are "full of the business of poetry and authorship, including now well-known passages about how men value cooking more than writing in women" (ibid.). The poems "are lively, various, and complex. Many are occasional but all are rich in ideas and opinions She disliked the standard props of false lovers and cruel parents, and associated them particularly with writing by women, which she wished to see attaining a higher standard. Jones writes particularly fluent and muscular couplets, but her poems experiment with many genres" (ibid.), ranging from her most famous, 'An Epistle to Lady Bowyer', to the surprisingly scatological 'Holt Waters, a Tale'. The collection also comprises several essays, the first being a fantasy in which a woman studies in the Bodleian Library and is conferred an honorary degree with the title "Mistress of Arts" from Oxford University ('Abstract of an Order of Convocation in relation to Melissa's taking off Medals, &c. in Paper', pp. 159-164). The collection received warm praise in the Monthly Review. Roger Lonsdale has argued her to be "one of the most intelligent and amusing women writers of her period" (p. 156).

Provenance: The English politician Sir Edward Popham (1711?-1772) served successively as MP for Great Bedwyn and Wiltshire. He is listed on page xxxvii of the subscribers list as "Edward Popham, Esq; Knight of the Shire for the County of Wilts", with the note "royal paper" added after. His only daughter Anne married one Edward Leyborne who, upon moving to the family estate of Littlecote, Wiltshire, changed his name to Leyborne Popham. Their son was Edward William Leyborne; the later bookplate and printed label are likely his additions. Littlecote remained with the Popham family until 1922, when the estate was purchased by Sir Ernest Salter Wills, the tobacco magnate.

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Large octavo (231 x 137 mm). Contemporary red morocco, twin black morocco spine labels, the first lettered "Miscellanies", the second decoratively tooled in gilt, remaining compartments (including the fourth in dark yellow morocco) and raised bands similarly elaborately tooled in gilt, boards bordered with single gilt fillet and triangular roll, large gilt cornerpieces fanning outwards comprised of leaf, fleuron, and scroll motifs, each encompassing three roundels encircling a two-headed griffin, gilt roll to board edges and turn-ins, marbled endpapers, edges gilt, green silk book marker.


Engraved head- and tailpieces.


Later engraved armorial bookplate of the Littlecote estate to front pastedown, later small printed label of E. W. Leyborne Popham neatly clipped and pasted to front free endpaper verso, marginal pencil mark next to Sir Edward Popper's name in the list of subscribers. Extremities lightly rubbed, spine somewhat dulled, front joint a little tender at foot with a few tiny wormholes to it and rear joint, boards faintly scuffed in places with one instance of stripping to rear, short tear to foot of front free endpaper at gutter but holding very firm, pencilled initials to title page verso; a crisp, clean copy with the very occasional faint smudge to margins and splendidly bound.


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