Paris: A. & W. Alignani and Baudry's European Library, 1851. Pirated Edition. Released in English the same year as the true first from Colburn in London.
[bound with] [Hamilton, Mrs. Charles Granville] C.G.H. Constance Lyndsay; or, The Progress of Error. New York: Harper & Brothers, . First American Edition, released in the same year in London and Edinburgh.
Half calf over ribbed cloth with gilt and morocco to spine. All edges marbled. Marbled endpapers. A tall, square copy with minor spotting and rippling to cloth and minor bumps to corners. Contemporary ownership signature to title of first novel identifying this as the property of Lt. Conway Mordant Shipley (1824-1888), officer of the HMS Calypso and illustrator of Sketches in the Pacific (1851): "Conway Shipley. Malta. Nov./51." Otherwise unmarked, with light scattered foxing throughout. Measuring 225 x 140mm and collating , 136; iv, 5-116: complete including titles to both. OCLC reports only 3 copies of Ponsonby's pirated edition and 3 of Hamilton's first American edition at libraries (with the true firsts being similarly scarce for each).
Together in one attractive volume, two Victorian women's novels present the reader with narratives sentimental and sensational. In the first, young Ernest De Grey harbors dreams of becoming a soldier and living a life of heroism; but he's torn by love for his home of Clare Abbey and duty to his mother, who insists that the wealthy have no profession and are most heroic when conquering their own desires. Time and education lead him from his earlier fantasies of martial glory toward the Church; and his mother ultimately loses ownership of the family estate, which passes to another family. Their arrival -- and the children's possession of a robust social circle -- transform Ernest's quiet life into one of intrigue, courtships, friendships, gossip, and betrayal, requiring him to make a decision about whether he is a man of privilege or a man of God.
In many ways, Hamilton's novel serves as a mirror to Ponsonby's. It similarly focuses on the lives of the upper classes, as was popular in the genre. Like its companion, it raises questions about the role of religion and religious figures in politics and society. At its outset, though, the preface shifts focus from the Protestants to the Catholics, stating that the novel "is intended to illustrate the mischief done by the wily priesthood." Whereas Ernest had an omnipresent and controlling mother in Mrs. De Grey, protagonist Constance Lyndsay was "deprived from infancy of a mother's care" and begins her narrative with the loss of her father as well. In need of oversight, she is moved to Delamere Castle and the care of relatives; it is a move that introduces her to a new echelon of people, entertainment, and travel. But a fateful trip to Rome and a bout of brain-fever bring about new and unpleasant developments in Constance's life, including entanglements with priests of the Catholic Church who begin persuading members of her circle to abandon the lives they know to become nuns.
A pair of novels whose print histories, authors, and socio-economic and political implications deserve greater research, separately and together. (Item #4820)