George MacDonald's First Novel, in the Original Cloth,
Not in Sadleir or Wolff
MACDONALD, George. David Elginbrod. In Three Volumes. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1863.
First edition of the author's first published novel. Three octavo volumes (7 3/4 x 4 7/8 inches; 199 x 125 mm.). viii, 325, ; vi, 335, ; vi, 398.
Original brick red pebble-grain cloth with covers ruled in blind and spines ruled in gilt and blind and lettered in gilt. A few leaves in gathering N in Volume I poorly opened at top and a few leaves in gathering H in Volume III poorly opened at edge (none affecting any text). The front cover of Volume I shows evidence of a lending library label having once been affixed, and the front and rear pastedowns of Volume III show signs of there once having been a brown paper protective cover. Otherwise, this is as near fine a set as one could ever wish for, with the hinges sound and the gilt lettering on the unfaded spines fresh and bright.
"In 1855 [MacDonald] published his first book, a long dramatic poem on the subject of married love and misunderstanding entitled Within and Without; its admirers included Tennyson, Lady Byron and Charles Kinglsey…In 1857 he published a collection of poems. He and his family made a home for atime at Hastings on the south coast, where the air was though to be good for his lungs, and there he began to write ‘a kind of fairy tale…in the hope that it will pay me better than the more evidently series work'. This was Phantastes, completed in two months; it was published in Oct. 1848…After three years in Hastings the MacDonalds moved to London…MacDonald became Professor of English Literature at Bedford Collecge…During this period he was sturggling hard to write something as successful as Phantastes, but it was not until 1863 that he completed David Elginbrod, a long, didactic, and gothically romantic novel about a young man who has a career not dissimilar to MacDonald's own. His former publishers Smith and Elder turned it down, but it was read by Mrs Craik, who persuaded her own publishers Hurst and Blackett to take it on. It proved extremely popular and established MacDonald as a writer" (The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature).
"The germ of this novel was an epitaph related by Charles Manby Smith, a journalist, at a supper attended by MacDonald…the epitaph appears invol. I, ch. XIII: ‘Here lie I, Martin Elginbrodde:/Hae mercy o' my soul, Lord God;/As I wad do, were I Lord God,/And ye were Martin Elginbrodde.' The character of David Elginbrod was drawn from MacDonald's father; Funkelstein was based on the Polish mesmerist Zamoiski, whom MacDonald met in Hastings; and an Arundel archdeacon who gave him 'a good deal of trouble' was transformed into Appleditch, the grocer…Following on from The Portent [which had appeared in The Cornhill but was not yet published], the supernatural is again dealt with. According to Joseph Johnson (George MacDonald, 1906, p. 226) this element was responsible for much of the popular interest in the book. MacDonald experienced great difficulty in getting it published. ‘Smith, Elder & Co. [who had published his Phantastes but had then refused his first novel, Seekers and Finders—never published and now lost] found David Elginbrod hardly more attractive than Seekers and Finders. Their verdict coincided with every publisher's in London…Had it not been for the daughter of a Manchester friend…the book might never have been published. [She] asked if she might show it to her friend, Miss Mulock [Dinah Maria Mulock Craik]…The authoress of John Halifax, Gentleman at once realised the book's merits, and took it to her own publishers, Hurst and Blackett, and told them they were fools to refuse it…Never again had he difficulty in placing a book' (Life, p. 322)" (Shaberman).
Three-decker novels were affordable only to circulating libraries from which they were then rented out fortnightly and we have only ever seen this book in the original cloth once before (this copy) when it appeared at auction some twenty years ago (Sotheby's London, July 10, 1986, lot 96, £320.00, to Maggs).
Shaberman, George MacDonald: A Bibliographical Study, 14. Not in Sadleir or Wolff.
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