The Miscellaneous Prose Works.
In six volumes.Edinburgh: printed for Cadell and Co., & Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, London, 1827 Stock Code: 139864
A set in the original boards with a fine associationA set in the original boards with a fine association, presented to Maria Edgeworth from Sir Walter Scott, and then from Edgeworth to her beloved brother-in-law Richard Butler; the first edition of Scott's Miscellaneous Prose Works, comprising all but the second volume (the Life of Swift) of the six-volume set.
Passing first from Scott to Edgeworth, the first volume is inscribed on the half-title "From the Author 1829", likely in the publisher's hand. Edgeworth later adds underneath: "1843 March 5th Trim. From Maria Edgeworth to her friend & brother Rev. R. Butler - to no one less esteemed & beloved by her would she give a copy of any of Sir Walter Scott's From the Author although she has duplicates of these volumes". Each subsequent volume is neatly inscribed by Edgeworth to Butler on the half-title, following the format "Trim. March 5th 1843. The Rev. Richard Butler from Maria Edgeworth".
The close professional and familiar relationship of Scott and Edgeworth is well chronicled. Scott, who affectionately referred to his fellow author as 'the great Maria', "was by far the most important reader of her work. He was prompted by The Absentee Edgeworth's novel of 1812 to unearth his incomplete manuscript of what became Waverley in 1814" (ODNB), and the two remained in regular contact throughout the rest of their lives. The Edgeworthstown family library was full of copies of Scott's works, many inscribed (several examples of which were offered for sale at Sotheby's in 2010, including the publisher's presentation copy of Waverley), and various familial letters recount the reading aloud of Scott's works to the assembled household.
The Miscellaneous Prose Works was published on 17 May 1827. On 26 October 1827 Scott wrote to the publisher Robert Cadell asking for "a copy of the prose works to be sent to Miss Edgeworth also a copy of the Chronicles. The Dublin bookseller Andrew Milliken will take care of them". Sometime shortly after Edgeworth wrote to thank Scott for the gift, to which he replied: "I received your acknowledgement this day which is more than a hundred of the volumes acknowledged. I am afraid that I shall greatly master the self conceit it is likely to excite by deducting one half of your praise and setting it to the account of your partiality for the author" (14 November 1827). The presentation of this set is made all the more fitting given that Scott praises the "living excellence" of Edgeworth in the fourth volume (p. 46), where she is mentioned as an exemplary woman writer in his biographical memoir of Charlotte Smith (the first appearance in print of said memoir).
The Irish clergyman and antiquarian Richard Butler (1794-1862) met Edgeworth during his time as Vicar of Trim and Dean of Clonmacnoise. She spoke highly of him in her letters - "he gains in my esteem and regard the more I know of him" (Letters 2, p. 248) - and was especially pleased to hear of his engagement to one of her favourite half-sisters, Harriet (1801-1889), in 1826. Scott also rejoiced at the news, writing to Edgeworth on 4 August 1826: "You know Harriet was always a favourite of mine and from what I had the pleasure of seeing of Mr Butler I cannot doubt that she has entrusted her happiness to a man of sense and accomplishment They have both a strong turn towards literature which is perhaps the surest and most rational road to a happy life". Edgeworth passed the latter years of her life between Edgeworthstown and the rectory of Trim, and when absent from the Butler household made sure to provide her brother-in-law with regular reading recommendations: "Whenever Mr. Butler is able to read again, I recommend to him 'Jones on the Distribution of Wealth', I like him and his book" (Letters 3, p. 50).
The letter which accompanies the set is a marker of its direct provenance, passed by descent through the family. In the first line the writer - who refers to themselves "of Edgeworth ancestry" - mentions their niece, the Oxford historian Christina Colvin (née Edgeworth Butler, 1919-2003). Colvin's great grandfather was Michael Pakenham Edgeworth, Maria's younger half-brother (born to Richard Lovell Edgeworth and Frances Beaufort). She published many works on the Edgeworths; she introduced Edgeworth's Letters from England, 1813-1844 (1971), authored Maria Edgeworth in France and Switzerland (1979), and contributed numerous biographical entries on members of the Edgeworth family, as well as compiling the Calendar of the Edgeworth family correspondence in the Bodleian and the National Library of Ireland. The letter itself is likely addressed to Professor Hugh Redwald Trevor-Roper (1914-2003), a notable historian and president (1970-71) of The Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club; the article referenced by the letter writer is perhaps his essay "Great Scott", Spectator 224 (1970), pp. 78-79. Trevor-Roper's article contained some criticism of Scott, to which the letter writer politely objects: "may I suggest that there surely are sentences that were memorable", followed by a number of quotations from several of Scott's works, finally asserting that "Jeanie Deans' speech to the Queen in The Heart of Midlothian, 1818 is a passage more eloquent than anything in Jane Austen". The letter's text reads complete but is unsigned, perhaps suggesting that it is the first of two or more leaves not present here.
In all this is a lovely association copy which stands as a vivid evocation of the mutual respect between the author, Sir Walter Scott, and its first recipient, Maria Edgeworth. Its significance is further enhanced by the secondary recipient, Richard Butler, being held in such high regard by both Scott and Edgeworth.
Together 5 volumes of a 6-volume work, large octavo. Original drab boards, printed paper spine labels, edges uncut.
Vols. 1 and 3: identical contemporary ink inscription to front pastedowns, "Hall Closet / Right hand of door / Shelf 1", crossed through; inscription to facing free endpaper of vol. 1 sometime erased. Laid in to vol. 1: 20th-century autograph letter from a member of the Edgeworth family to "Prof T Roper", written in defence of Scott's style (see below). Spines chipped and cracked; joints generally firm, the front board of vol. 1 holding just at cords; inner hinges and extremities strengthened in places using tape, with resulting browning; endpapers browned from turn-ins of later blue paper jackets (three of which still present), the boards consequently remarkably clean. Contents crisp and fresh, some occasional faint foxing and soiling of margins. Overall a well-preserved set in its original and unsophisticated state.
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