New York: Beadle & Co, . First edition. Recently rebound in three quarter leather over marbled boards. Ownership stamp and signature of Samuel Dodge to title page. Internally complete, including the frontis. Gently toned overall, as is common of imprints of this period. Paper repairs to page 110 and the verso of 111. Bound with Sybil Cambell; or The Queen of the Isle at rear. Scarce in trade and at institutions, this is presently the only copy on the market and OCLC reports only 4 copies held at libraries.
The second detective novel by Metta Victor (pseudonym Seeley Regester), whose previous work The Dead Letter broke new ground as the first full-length mystery novel written in America. With The Figure Eight, Victor continued expanding the genre she had created -- blending the gothic with qualities from popular Victorian domestic novels. Dissatisfied with the simple, she also began weaving social commentary into her sensational writing, tying the events surrounding the murder of Dr. Meredith and the investigation of his poor nephew Joe to some of the great debates of the moment. "Questions about social climbing, racial passing, and gender roles were pressing matters in the upheaval that followed the Civil War. Victor's novel, which evokes a world of suspicion and deception, shows that these issues of personal identity were understood at the time to be connected to national identity. When Victor has Dr. Meredith bring home a fortune from the California gold rush, she reminds her readers of how recently California had joined the union, and when she has him bring home a bride from Cuba, she reminds them of how annexation of Cuba was a real possibility in the antebellum expansionist ethos...Like The Dead Letter, The Figure Eight suggests that there was a new place in the imagination of the moneyed classes for the detective figure, someone who would root out the corruption and fakery but would never forget that he was one of them in the end" (Duke). By following up her first detective novel with a second success in the genre, Victor proved that she and women like her were "active agents in the formation of American popular culture, even in a genre many readers view as a fundamentally masculine one" (Duke). (Item #3151)