London: John Bumpus, 1861. First edition. Original publisher's cloth ornately stamped in gilt. All edges brightly gilt. Yellow endpapers. Measuring 200 x 135mm and collating complete: viii, 160. Sunning to spine and top edges of boards; corners bumped and small splits to cloth at front joint near crown and lower rear joint but still tight and square. Internally fresh. Inscribed on the front endpaper by the author's sister and editor Johanna Chandler: "To William McGennis with Miss Chandler's kind wishes. July 12th 1872." Scarce institutionally and in trade, OCLC locates six copies (of these, only 2 in North America) and no others noted as inscribed.
Published shortly after the death of the author, Evaline, Madelon and Other Poems is a document of contradictions. Presented by its editors Johanna and Edward Chandler -- the author's surviving siblings and the book's editors -- as being for the benefit of the Sisters' Memorial Fund for the Paralysed and Epileptic, it appears on the surface to be a polite literary contribution with a justifiable philanthropic end. The lives of the three Chandler children, born to a middle-class evangelical family, are mostly recorded in history through such charitable work. In 1859, they became key contributors to the establishment of the National Hospital, which incorporates the siblings into several of its early founding narratives.
Yet if the Hospital and the Memorial Fund promote an image of the Chandler siblings as reliable, traditional Christian philanthropists, Louisa Chandler's poems set her apart and at odds from this public performance. The seduction and betrayal of innocent young women, their tragic illegitimate pregnancies and their falls into prostitution, figure heavily; so, too, do several of the poems emphasize the systemic abuse of women, children, and immigrants by the English labor markets. Hunger, disease, and disability go mocked and untreated. Within Chandler's poems, religion provides cold comfort; private hypocrisy lies below glowing public performances, and the only reliable figure in the end is not God but Death.
Evaline, Madelon and Other Poems is the only document preserving Louisa Chandler's separate identity -- one that she did not choose to share through publication. Further research could be done into the family itself, into the recipient of this copy, and into whether Louisa Chandler wrote other works or letters that could provide further insight into her. (Item #5339)