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The Ring and the Book.

In four volumes.

London, Smith, Elder and Co., 1868-9 Stock Code: 118722
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First edition, superb presentation copy to a fellow poet, with an original unpublished manuscript poem laid-in. This set is inscribed by Browning in each volume to Frederick Locker-Lampson (1821-1895), the well-connected Victorian poet and bibliophile who was well-acquainted with the likes of Arnold, Carlyle, Dickens, Eliot, Hunt, Ruskin, Tennyson, Thackeray and Trollope, and was a long-term friend of Browning. This is a very early presentation between the two poets, if not the earliest. The first volume is inscribed "Frederick Locker from his friend RB. Dec: 6 '68". The second and third, "Robert Browning to his friend Frederick Locker", undated. The fourth is inscribed "To F. Locker Esq. With repeated assurance of the true regards of Robert Browning. 91. Victoria Street. Feb. 27 '69". Laid-into the first volume is a witty six-line holograph poem by Browning on Athenaeum Club stationery, "Here you behold us, Eve & Adam: / Good morning, Sir: Your servant, Madam! / Don't mind what's said in Church and Chapel! / Moses & Son will take their oaths / If we two had not plucked the apple, / You'd none of you be wearing clothes!" Browning here refers to the clothing retailer and manufacturer Elias Moses, "one of the most important retailers of ready-made clothing in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The company claimed that 80 per cent of the British population bought such clothing by 1860, which may have been an exaggeration, but not by much. By that time Britain had the most advanced clothing industry in the world and the most sophisticated retail outlets, supported by marketing techniques pioneered by E. Moses & Son" (ODNB).

On 6 July 1874 Locker married his second wife, the children's writer Hannah Jane Lampson, whose surname he added to his own. He gave these volumes to her as an engagement present, noting the fact on the blanks facing the inscribed titles. In the first volume, he has written, "Transferred to J.L. 5 May 1874. F.L. Robert Browning was the donor, Janie Lampson is the owner". His inscription in volume II reads, "Transferr'd to Jane Hannah Lampson", initialled by him and with the same date. Volume III has a similar inscription, "Transferr'd to H. Jane Lampson", also initialled, but with the following day's date; as does volume IV, now just "Jane Lampson", and with the jocular couplet added below: "I'm Jane's! I belong to her own dear self! Read, and return me to yonder shelf".

A fine association copy of Browning's magnum opus, charmingly re-presented by Locker to his second wife. The book remained in their library, known as the Rowfant Library after Locker's home in Sussex, until the library was sold to an American bookseller in 1905 and dispersed.

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4 volumes, foolscap octavo (166 x 102 mm). Contemporary reddish-brown morocco by Holloway, spines gilt-lettered in two compartments, others with gilt quatrefoil ornaments and small cornerpieces, boards ruled in gilt with a two-line fillet, board-edges gilt with a floral roll tool, turn-ins gilt with a palmette roll, gilt edges. Housed in a dark brown cloth slipcase.


Bookplates of Frederick Locker. Spines a little darkened and gilt faded in places, sides a little marked in the grain, endpapers browned from turn-ins, still an excellent set.


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