Ask Mamma: or, the Richest Commoner in England (in parts)
London: Bradbury & Evans, 1857-1858. First edition. First issue, in the original thirteen monthly parts, March 1857-April 1858. Publisher's original red-brown pictorial wrappers. A lovely, rather astonishing set with minimal wear, confined to spine extremes and small closed tear to fore-edge of Part I. Plates clean and bright. Octavo (8 3/4 x 5 5/8 in; 223 x 144 mm) Collating. ix, , 412, with thirteen hand-colored engraved plates (including frontispiece) and sixty-nine wood-engravings in text, all by John Leech. Set collates per Mellon/Podeschi and Schwerdt. First issue wrapper to Part I per Wolff (with back cover ad titled “Mappin’s Shilling Razor”). No Advertiser is called for in Parts XI and XII. Chemised and housed in a red cloth clamshell case with black leather spine label lettered in gilt. A Fine set.
One of the great pleasures of Ask Mamma is the interpretation of its events by the artist John Leech. He was introduced to Surtees by William Thackeray, a great friend and admirer of Surtees' work. The first novel Leech illustrated for Surtees was Mr Sponge's Sporting Tour. Surtees had originally asked Thackeray to illustrate this work, but Thackeray declined on the grounds that he could not draw horses; instead, he recommended Leech, being "of a sporting turn" and who "to my mind draws a horse excellently." Leech illustrated all of Surtees' subsequent works and the two men became friends. The illustrations follow the text closely, a result of close collaboration between the artist and writer. Although Leech was responsible for numerous book illustrations, and is lauded as the chief cartoonist of Punch, some of his best work is to be found in the pages of Surtees' novels.
Mellon/Podeschi 195. Sadleir 3161. Schwerdt II, 233. Tooley 472. Wolff 6632. (Item #3789)