Harriet and her Cousin; or, Prejudice Overcome
Edinburgh: Thomsons Brothers, 1822.
Edinburgh: Thomsons Brothers, 1822. First edition. Contemporary half calf over marbled boards with gilt to spine. Measuring 140 x 80mm and collating complete including frontis and publisher's catalogue to rear: vii, [1, blank], 199, [1, errata], 8, [1, blank]. A Near Fine copy with some scuffing to boards and joints, and small chip to foot of spine. Contemporary ownership inscription to front endpaper: "Margaret Jane Palliser. Dublin 1824." A scarce work of juvenile fiction aimed at young women, it is unrecorded in OCLC and Sadleir (though there is mention of a later 1824 "fourth edition" and an American edition from 1827).
Simple on its surface, each new chapter of Harriet and Her Cousin unfolds a new layer of prejudice that all too commonly prevents young women from finding meaningful connections with each other. Raised in a rural religious household, young Harriet has a spiritual awakening that leaves her soul altered. More excited about the world and the people around her, and more capable of subtle observations, she undertakes a journey to Edinburgh both to visit her soon-to-be-wed best friend Maria as well as to visit her grandfather and cousin Julia. On arrival, Harriet is shocked by Julia's coldness and initially assumes it is prejudice against her own Christianity. Introduced to the sparkling and accomplished ladies of Julia's circle, she then begins to suspect it is prejudice against her simple country nature. Only over time does Julia feel comfortable opening up to Harriet about her loneliness -- an isolation born out of the high society expectations that women reserve warm feelings and engage instead in gossip, back-biting, and flirtations that make them untrustworthy. As she has witnessed Harriet's refusal to conform to these behaviors, Julia bonds with Harriet as an intimate friend capable of deep and meaningful conversation. Indeed, Harriet learns that even with her awakened spirituality, she too has much to learn about dismantling her own prejudices. (Item #5548)