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AMORY, Thomas.

The Life of John Buncle, Esq;

containing various observations and reflections, made in several parts of the world; and many extraordinary relations.

London: J. Noon, 1756 Stock Code: 124891
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"A most curious romance-like work"

First edition of one of the more extraordinary novels of the 18th century, much admired by Lamb, Leigh Hunt and Hazlitt, who described John Buncle as "the English Rabelais", saying of the author, "the soul of Francis Rabelais passed into... Amory" (The Round Table, XVIII, 1817); a new edition was published in 1825 "very likely on Hazlitt's recommendation" (Waller and Glover, eds. The Collected Works of William Hazlitt, 1902, p. 471). A second volume, advertised at the end of the present one, did not appear until a decade later, in 1766. Amory (1690/91-1788) was an Irishman who claimed both education at Trinity College, Dublin, and an "extensive acquaintance" (ODNB) with Jonathan Swift. In his latter years in London he had a "'very peculiar look and aspect' and allegedly rarely stirred abroad, except 'like a bat, in the dusk of the evening' (Gentleman's Magazine, 58)" (ibid.).

"John Buncle is an enthusiastic anti-Trinitarian who marries in rapid succession eight (short-lived) wives, each beautiful, learned, and a strict anti-Trinitarian; the personal qualities of all are well represented by the composite Miss Spence who has 'the head of Aristotle, the heart of a primitive Christian, and the form of Venus de Medicis'... His powerful advocacy of education for women produced scepticism even from Amory's admirers. As enthusiastic in learning as in religion, Buncle discourses on topics as varied as monogamy and microscopes, the Spanish fly and fluxions (dismissing George Berkeley's mathematical contribution as worthless)... John Buncle proved popular enough to be reprinted in 1770, and to be translated into German" (ODNB). Lamb wrote to Coleridge, "I have been reading a most curious romance-like work... 'Tis very interesting, and an extraordinary compound of all manner of subjects from the depth of the ludicrous to the heights of sublime religious truth. There is much abstruse science that is above my cut, and an infinite fund of pleasantry". Only two copies of John Buncle show on auction records (1907 and 1966), it is well represented institutionally but decidedly uncommon commercially.

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Octavo (198 x 123 mm). Contemporary unlettered sprinkled calf, spine with gilt double fillet either side of five raised bands, gilt double fillet border to sides, red sprinkled edges.


Contemporary gift inscription to front pastedown ("The gift of the late John Holbron's Esqr, to the late Thomas Hawker"); on facing page, "Sophia Hawker Her Book 1792, so she hope you will not sell it". Head and tailbands missing, extremities of spine chipped, corners a little worn, short splits to front joint, inner hinges cracked but sound, scattered foxing, nevertheless a very good copy in an unrestored period binding.


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