London: Various, 1693. First editions. Late 18th - early 19th century full polished calf with gilt to spine and front board. Marbled endpapers. A pleasing, square copy with just a bit of rubbing to extremities. Gilt and embossed bookplate of bibliophile Edward Hailstone (1767-1851) to front pastedown. Containing four complete, exceedingly scarce pamphlets from the 17th century querelle des femmes debates about women's humanity and place in society, interleaved with blanks (likely for manuscript glossing, although all remain unmarked). Comprised of:
1. Petition of the Ladies of London and Westminster to the Honourable House for Husbands. London: Printed for Mary Want-man, the fore-maid of the petitioners, and sold by A. Roper in Fleetstreet, 1693. First edition. Complete, including all four pages called for by ESTC and listing its imprint in the colophon. ESTC records only 8 copies, with only 3 listed in the modern auction record since 1940.
2. An Humble Remonstrance of the Batchelors, in and about London...in Answer to the Late Paper , Intituled A Petition of the Ladies for Husbands. London: Printed for and Sold by the Bookselling Batchelors in St. Paul's Churchyard, 1693. First edition. Complete, including all four pages called for by ESTC and listing its imprint in the colophon. In all a clean and neat copy of this scarce and important part of the debate on women. ESTC lists only 8 extant copies, with only 2 listed in the modern auction record. ESTC R4393.
3. The Petition of the Widows, in and about London and Westminster for a Redress of their Grievances. By the Same Solicitor that Drew up The Petition for Ladies. London: Printed for the Use of the Wide--ows, 1693. First edition. Complete, including all four pages called for by ESTC with the imprint appearing at the rear colphon. A scarce piece, recorded at only 7 institutions by ESTC and recorded only twice at auction since 1927. ESTC R25582.
4. Lambeth Ale. London: Printed for Abel Roper, 1693. First edition. Complete in four pages, with the imprint recorded on the rear colophon. With no listing on ESTC and no appearances at auction, a truly scarce piece.
A unique opportunity to trace a string of direct argument-and-response publications rapidly produced within one year of the 17th century querelle des femme pamphlet wars. Brought together in one binding by solicitor and bibliophile Edward Hailstone, whose remarkable library at Walton Hall included rare books and antiquities.
The Querelle des Femmes (the Woman Question) was a debate on women's status that raged across Europe and England through the 16th to 18th century, depicted at times in drama and literature but most often enacted through broadsides and pamphlets. While early iterations of the debate focused on whether women were humans or indeed possessed souls, emphasis began shifting as an increasing number of women began printing responses of their own. In this collection's first pamphlet, "Mary Want-man, the fore-maid of the petitioners," the anonymous female author, draws attention to the negative impacts that misogynist bolster lectures have had on the general state of matrimony. By labeling women as natural harlots predestined to cuckold their husbands, the Petition alleges, polemicists endangered women and men alike: the former would lack economic and legal security without a spouse, and the former would turn to drink and debauchery. "Mary Want-man," in this sense, turns the tables on the terms of the debate. Men are morally weak without a helpmeet and need wives -- and women are placed at social disadvantage by the rules that define them as men's companions. To this end, the Petition sets out the demand that men be required to marry much as women have been, and that they meet five terms: "First, that all men of Quality and Degree soever shall be obliged to marry as soon as they are one and twenty and that those persons who decline so doing shall for their Liberty as they call it pay yearly to the State...Secondly, that no Excuse shall be admitted but that of natural Frigidity or Impotence...Thirdly, since it is found by experience that the generality of young men are such Idolators of the Bottle...that no person whatsoever shall be privileged to enter a Tavern who is not married...That every Poet or pretender to be a poet or anyone who is hired to write ...to the derogation of the Matrimonial State shall be obliged to marry before Lady day ensuing...Lastly...every person of Quality pretending to keep a Miss...must dispose of her in Marriage to his Footman or Groom." Biting and witty, this feminist satire suggests that men must be corralled and that marriage is the means by which to do it, thus also ensuring stability for women.
Soon after, the "Bookselling Batchelors" engaged "Mary" with their own publication -- and in attempting to break down the Petition's satirical arguments, An Humble Remonstrance relies on many of the misogynistic commonplaces that the Ladies decried. And in its conclusion, Remonstrance teases the possibility that women were right about men's current debauched tendencies, shifting The Petition's desire for social instability to one of bawdy fulfillment for men's benefit. "The Ladies are weary of lying alone, and so are we: They would fain be advantageously married, and so would your humble Servants. The Quarrel on their side is therefore unjustly begun...[but] because Jacob could serve two Apprenticeships for his Rachel they imagine that we must do the same; not considering that the Race of Methuselahs and Patriarchs is quite extinct."
Unwilling to be outdone, the women clap back; and a pamphleteer claiming to represent the interests of the region's Widows joins the printed fray. "Last week a petition subscribed by the unmarried Ladies came before you...Tis true we wondered to find an Army of Maids, from whom the world usually expects modesty and silence...Widowes indeed who lye under no such restrictions, are allowed to speak for themselves." Thus, the Widows point out a crucial (and problematic) differentiation among women based on marital status: the division of the femme covert (unmarried or married women with legal identities subsumed by fathers or husbands under coverture) versus femme sole (orphaned or widowed women with more independent legal and social status). To this end, the widows recognize the need of the Maids to raise concerns about the issues most affecting them; while the more empowered widows can build on this foundation and push for a further expansion of rights.
While the final pamphlet of the group is not a direct engagement with the others, it does suggest the collector's own interest in the role alcohol plays in much of the behavior decried by women in these works.
An opportunity unlikely to arise again, for acquiring three incredibly scarce, directly related arguments released only weeks apart. (Item #4178)