WOOD, Mrs. Henry. Anne Hereford. A Novel. In Three Volumes. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1868.
First edition. Three octavo volumes (7 1/2 x 4 7/8 in; 190 x 125 mm). , 295, [1, printer's imprint]; , 319, [1, printer's imprint]; , -316, [1, advertisement for Mrs. Henry Wood's Magazine "The Argosy"], [1, blank] pp.
Original violet vertically-ribbed moiré cloth with covers decoratively stamped in blind and spines decoratively stamped and lettered in gilt. Original cream-colored endpapers. Spines faded (as was Sadleir's copy). A bit of mild dampstaining to endpapers. Spine with slight cock. Otherwise, an excellent copy of this extremely scarce title. No. 1 in Sadleir's list of "Comparative Scarcities," with The Shadow of Ashlydat, Orville College, and Within the Maze, and ahead of East Lynne, at No. 2. Only one copy has sold at auction in the last thirty years. Housed together in a quarter purple morocco clamshell case.
Anne Hereford, like most of Mrs. Henry Wood's novels, was first published in monthly installments. It appeared throughout 1868 in the magazine Argosy which was owned and edited by Mrs. Henry Wood and her son Charles. It is unusual among Mrs Wood's novels in that it is written throughout in the first person. Its features include a young orphan, a gloomy mansion, deaths…violent and natural, and a missing will, mistaken identities and family loyalties.
Mrs. Henry Wood's works were incredibly popular in their time. A contemporary survey of the reading habits of the "lower and servant classes" showed that a majority of those surveyed who read any novels at all read hers exclusively; certainly, if they were looking for sensationalism and melodrama, she was the author to provide it.
Mrs. Henry Wood (Ellen, 1814-1887) "suffered from curvature of her spine. In 1836 she married Henry Wood a prominent banker who later lost his money. Most of the next twenty years were spent abroad…from where she began contributing immensely popular short stories to Bentley's Miscellany and the New Monthly Magazine. Her first financial success was Danesbury House, a comparatively serious novel which won a prize from the Scottish Temperance League. East Lynne (1861), her second novel, was an enormous popular success… Over thirty novels followed…In spite of her precarious health, Ellen Wood supported her family for many years by her writing " (Feminist Companion to Literature in English). "Her ingenious plots about murders, thefts, and forgeries, her numerous court scenes and well-planted clues, make her…one of the forerunners of the modern detective story. The sensational, and occasionally supernatural, events in her novels are presented in solidly detailed settings of middle-class country-town communities of doctors and lawyers, bankers and manufacturers" (The Oxford Companion to English Literature). "She was…an author who took risks, experimenting with scandalous plots, dark characters, and the hidden realities of Victorian life that many in her society were reluctant to acknowledge" (Bloom, Nineteenth Century British Women Writers, p. 412).
Aged eleven, the orphaned, shy, Anne Hereford arrives at a lonely country house to stay with her Aunt. The Gothic ambience and the Aunt's sinister, avaricious husband Edwin Barley set the scene for murder and more. The supposed murderer, a favorite of the Aunt disappears, the Aunt dies in suspicious circumstances, and her last minute will, witnessed by Anne, who is also the sole benefactor is not to be found. After a grim, private school education, followed by a somewhat better finishing school experience in France, she becomes in turn a governess then companion, eventually returning to England to live in the Chandos household—another lonely, Gothic house, full of shadows, mystery and ghosts. To make matters worse the sinister Edwin Darley turns up out of the blue as a new tenant of the Chandos estate. An excellent example of Victorian melodrama, of which Mrs. Wood was a prime exponent.
Sadleir 3326. Wolff 7265.
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