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[BROWNING], Elizabeth Barrett.


In two volumes.

London, Edward Moxon, 1844 Stock Code: 118727

Presentation copy to an early rival of the heart

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First edition, first issue, presentation copy, inscribed by the author of the collection that made Elizabeth Barrett's fame: "To Miss Heard, with the author's regards, August 1844". A superb association: Miss Heard was a friend and, in Browning's mind, a rival for the attentions of the blind classicist Hugh Stuart Boyd (1781-1848), to whom she was devoted in the earlier 1830s, very like Middlemarch's Dorothea to Casaubon. Browning confided to her diary her jealousy of all others who took up Boyd's time: "The society of that Miss Hurd Heard is as much valued as mine - as much! At least as much" (quoted in Forster, Elizabeth Barrett Browning: A Biography, p. 57). The collection includes two poems inspired by Boyd: "The Mournful Mother (of the Dead Blind)" and another specifically addressed to Boyd, "Wine of Cyprus". On publication Boyd's first reaction was to deprecate the tight ABAB rhyme scheme of the latter poem. Browning quickly wrote to him on 13 August 1844 to defend her "double rhymes", adding, perhaps tartly: "I hope Miss Heard received her copy..."
After the death of his wife in 1834, Browning had continued to support Boyd, but "The Mournful Mother" suggests that she had transformed her early embarrassing infatuation into a safer, maternal concern for the blind scholar. In September 1846 she confided to Boyd, uniquely, her impending elopement with Robert Browning, who had initially been attracted to her by the verses in these volumes.
The handsome binding was designed, executed and signed by John Grabau, a binder from 1902 to 1905 at Roycroft, and afterwards on his own account.

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2 volumes, octavo (170 x 104 mm). Bound c.1905 by John Grabau in dark blue morocco gilt, spines divided in six compartments by raised bands, gilt lettered in two, others with flower tools, dated at foot, sides with gilt panels with floral cornerpieces, turn-ins ruled in gilt, blue patterned endpapers, top edge gilt, others uncut; original green cloth (Carter A) bound in at end. Housed in a custom blue morocco-backed solander box.


Bookplates of Frank Henry Goodyear (1849-1907). A touch of rubbing to some extremities, free endpapers tanned at margins from turn-ins, an excellent copy in a fine binding.


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