Edinburgh; London: William Blackwood; T. Cadell, 1823. First edition. Contemporary half calf over marbled boards with gilt and tooling to spine. Mild rubbing to extremities. Internally a clean, pleasing copy. Collates , 401, [1, adverts]. Anonymously published, the work has been attributed to Anne Walker; the success of Rich and Poor allowed her to write a follow up novel two years later called Common Events. Incredibly scarce, OCLC reports one institutional holding, at the National Library of Scotland.
It was the archiving of the memoirs and letters of Scottish novelist and Bluestocking Susan Ferrier that revealed Anne Walker as the author of the present work. Across Ferrier's extensive correspondence, Walker appears regularly as a witty, observant friend; and in a letter to a family member Ferrier writes in 1825, "Anne Walker has been here straight from her brother Frank's, where she has been spending some days with a bride and bridegroom...Have you read Common Events? I think it is very amusing as well as profitable, and it seems to be better liked than Rich and Poor" (UC Berkeley). Rich and Poor was Walker's first novel, didactic in tone, tracing the life of the impoverished Amelia Bell as she tries to grow up into a good and virtuous woman despite the ambivalence of the society around her. Her story runs in contrast to that of Lady Amelia Truefeel, whose open heart and "sensibility to suffering of every kind" makes it possible for her to recognize Amelia Bell's plight. Unsurpringly, given her Bluestocking associations, much conversation and action occurs among circles of educated men and women, particularly at Mrs. Miller's school, whose practices reflect the recommendations of Maria Edgeworth's Practical Education. And in a move that taps into a burgeoning fascination with evolution and circles of life that would eventually shape the work of her Victorian successors, Walker's ultimate message is that we are all connected to those on what seems to be the distant or opposite end of society. "Society may be compared to a line or a chain composed of links, bent into a circle,of which the two extremes meet when those which are nearer in the line may never come in contact." Little known or studied today, Anne Walker's work offers new opportunities for considering the formation of the English novel and the canon. "Today's substantial engagement with once-shadowy figures such as Jane Barker, Maria Edgeworth, Sarah Fielding, Charlotte Lennox, Susan Ferrier, Hannah More, Anne Radcliffe...every one of these now well-known writers went eventually unread before critics restored them to readers...But those efforts are by no means complete, and we warn against a premature solidifying of the canons of eighteenth-century women writers" (Bowers). Walker, and other women whose works are being rediscovered, serves as an example of women's voices being reinvigorated and celebrated. (Item #2853)