London: J. Bailey, [c.1800]. First edition in English. Modern card wrappers, measuring 173 x 105mm and collating complete including frontis: , 28. Bookplate of children's collector Albert Howard to recto of rear wrap. 3.75 inch tear along title, repaired along verso; some toning along fore-edge of text block and outer margins. A scarce and delicate piece which does not appear in the modern auction record and which OCLC reports at only 4 libraries, and a testament to the rising popularity of Russian fashion and literature in England during the late Georgian and early Regency periods.
While Russophobia would set into English culture later in the century, the late Georgian and early Regency periods saw a rise of cultural exchange and admiration as the two nations allied against Napoleon. The present is an example of Russian-inspired literature translated into English for juvenile audiences. A romance that appeared first in French and Italian, Maria Menzikoff presented the star-crossed courtship, marriage, and death of two royals from competing families; and for young readers, it had the appeal of a familiar plot (to which both Ovid's Pyramis and Thisbe and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet would have introduced them) as well as the exotic and fashionable novelty of a Russian imperial setting. The strength of women -- as monarchs, as wives, and as individuals -- is highlighted throughout. (Item #5087)