London: Smith, Elder and Co.,, 1863. Item #03723
George Eliot's Historical Novel set in Fifteenth Century Florence
ELIOT, George. Romola. In Three Volumes. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1863.
First edition. Three octavo volumes (7 1/4 x 4 5/8 inches; 184 x 117 mm.). iv, 336; iv, 333, [1, imprint]; iv, 292, pp.
Bound ca. 1865 in three quarter dark blue pebble-grain morocco over marbled boards, ruled in gilt. Spines with five raised bands decoratively tooled and lettered in gilt in compartments, matching marbled end-papers, all edges gilt.
Blank end-leaves foxed and some light foxing to preliminaries. A very good set in an attractive and near contemporary binding.
Romola is a historical novel by George Eliot set in the fifteenth century, and is "a deep study of life in the city of Florence from an intellectual, artistic, religious, and social point of view". It first appeared in fourteen parts published in Cornhill Magazine from July 1862 (vol. 6, no. 31) to August 1863 (vol. 8, no. 44). The story takes place amidst actual historical events during the Italian Renaissance, and includes in its plot several notable figures from Florentine history.
Florence, 1492: Christopher Columbus has sailed towards the New World, and Florence has just mourned the death of its legendary leader, Lorenzo de' Medici. In this setting, a Florentine trader meets a shipwrecked stranger, who introduces himself as Tito Melema, a young Italianate-Greek scholar. Tito becomes acquainted with several other Florentines, including Nello the barber and a young girl named Tessa. He is also introduced to a blind scholar named Bardo de' Bardi, and his daughter Romola. As Tito becomes settled in Florence, assisting Bardo with classical studies, he falls in love with Romola. However, Tessa falls in love with Tito, and the two are "married" in a mock ceremony…
English novelist George Eliot (pseudonym of Mary Ann, or Marian, Evans, 1819–1880) “was reared in a strict atmosphere of evangelical Protestantism but eventually rebelled and renounced organized religion totally. Her early schooling was supplemented by assiduous reading, and the study of languages led to her first literary work, Life of Jesus (1846), a translation from the German of D.F. Strauss. After her father’s death she became subeditor (1851) of the Westminster Review, contributed articles, and came to know many of the literary people of the day. In 1854 she began a long and happy union with G.H. Lewes, which she regarded as marriage, though it involved social ostracism and could have no legal sanction because Lewes’s estranged wife was living. Throughout his life Lewes encouraged Evans in her literary career; indeed, it is possible that without him Evans, subject to periods of depression and in constant need of reassurance, would not have written a word. In 1856, Mary Ann began Scenes of Clerical Life, a series of realistic sketches first appearing in Blackwood’s Magazine under the pseudonym Lewes chose for her, George Eliot. Although not a popular success, the work was well received by literary critics, particularly Dickens and Thackeray. Three novels of provincial life followed—Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), and Silas Marner (1861). She visited Italy in 1860 and again in 1861 before she brought out in the Cornhill Magazine (1862–63) her historical romance Romola, a story of Savonarola. Felix Holt (1866), a political novel, was followed by The Spanish Gypsy (1868), a dramatic poem. Middlemarch (1871–72), a portrait of life in a provincial town, is considered her masterpiece. She wrote one more novel, Daniel Deronda (1876); the satirical Impressions of Theophrastus Such (1879); and verse, which was never popular and is now seldom read. Lewes died in 1878, and in 1880 she married a close friend of both Lewes and herself, John W. Cross, who later edited George Eliot’s Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals (3 vol., 1885–86). Writing about life in small rural towns, George Eliot was primarily concerned with the responsibility that people assume for their lives and with the moral choices they must inevitably make. Although highly serious, her novels are marked by compassion and a subtle humor” (The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, at http://www.bartleby.com/65/el/Eliot-Ge.html).
Sadleir 817; Parrish pp. 17/18; Wolff, 2061; Baker & Ross, A7.2.