London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown & Green, 1826. First edition. Contemporary half straight-grain morocco over marbled boards with gilt to spines. Marbled endpapers. Some light rubbing to boards and corners, but in all a square, pleasing set that presents well. Contemporary ownership signature "S. H. Cowley Nov. 1826" to header of each title page. A beautiful, fresh and unfoxed copy with just a bit of staining to the rear endpaper of volume I, else internally unmarked. Collating vii, , 400; , 453, ; , 536: bound without advertisements else complete, including half and full titles to each and errata slip tipped into front of volume II. Institutionally scarce and currently the only copy on the market, it has appeared only twice at auction in the last 30 years.
Anna Maria Porter began her literary career at age 13, publishing a series of stories under the title Artless Tales and featuring a frontis by her brother, the painter Sir Robert Ker Porter. Like her brother and her novelist sister, Jane Porter, she had "decided from an early age to devote her life to literature and the arts"; and Jane once "said of Anna that 'the quickness of her perceptions gave her an almost intuitive knowledge of everything she wished to learn'" (ODNB). A family friend of Charles Austen and an admirer "of Jane Austen's fiction during the period in which her literary reputation was at its lowest ebb," Anna wrote that "of all their country's novelists (with the exception of Sir Walter Scott), no novelist surpasses her in capturing truth or painting characters" (Knezevich & Looser).
Indeed, Anna's more mature novel Honor O'Hara drew together both Austen and Scott's influences. Historical rather than set in in its own time, and drawing on Pride & Prejudice for a basic plot structure, it comments on the continuing precarity of young women's social positions. "Honor O'Hara was not her most famous work of fiction, but it was a significant one...The sprightly, intelligent, rebellious, outdoorsy (albeit orphaned) heroine at first turns down a proposal from her worthy, reticent suitor. She endures mistreatment at the hands of a Mrs. Bennet-like vulgar guardian and contends with a Lady Catherine de Bourgh-like snob who tries to paint her as an opportunistic upstart of low birth" (Knezevich & Looser). Though her other historical novels tend to be more serious in tone, in Honor O'Hara Anna also pulls from Austen a lighter, more optmistic tone. And she continues pushing boundaries for a new type of heroine modeling a more modern womanhood. (Item #4019)