A POPULAR FICTIONAL SHIPWRECK AND INDIAN SUBCONTINENT CAPTIVITY NARRATIVE: FIRST AMERICAN EDITION OF THE TRUE AND AFFECTING HISTORY OF HENRIETTA DE BELLGRAVE, 1823
ANONYMOUS. The True and Affecting History of Henrietta de Bellgrave. New York: W. Borradaile, 1823. Slim octavo, later half black sheep; pp. 40. $1800.
First American edition of this popular chapbook extracted from an 18th-century British novel narrating the misadventures of an aristocratic young French woman who survives a shipwreck on the way to Bombay, ends up in a forced marriage to pagan Indian man, and uses that story to try to bring her daughter to Christianity.
This compelling story was first published as part of a novel entitled The Lady's Drawing Room, first printed in London in 1743. The original novel comprised a collection of drawing room stories ostensibly told by a group of aristocratic men and women who were attempting to depict conditions in the larger world. The True and Affecting History of Henrietta de Bellgrave was a standout from the work, both for its sensationalism and its Christian resolution, and so began to be published as a separate chapbook in Britain beginning in 1750. The story, written as a letter, chronicles the misadventures of Henrietta de Bellgrave. Born to the daughter of a baron and the son of a count, Henrietta begins her life as a bright spot in a disfavored marriage that eventually drives her father to accept an India governorship to escape his father-in-law's disapproval. The trip to Bombay proves fateful as Henrietta's mother dies of illness and her father is lost in a shipwreck caused by a pirate attack. The victim of an attempted rape and witness to an associated murder, Henrietta is seized by Indian locals who, far from being her saviors, turn her over to a pagan for a forced marriage. De Bellgrave gives birth to a daughter from the union and tries to baptize her as a Christian, only to be interrupted by her pagan husband who makes her promise to abandon the idea permanently. This fictional letter is structured as an evangelical testimony from Henrietta to her daughter Zoa, in which she shares her horrible experiences and encourages her daughter to embrace Christianity. "The Henrietta story has much to offer any study of 'interracial romance,' or more particularly, 'how much religious difference endangers marital happiness'" (Emily Workman, Marquette University, quoting Wheeler). This work was printed in Britain numerous times during the 18th century and 19th century; this is the first American edition. See Sabin 19109 (later 1828 edition). Pencil and ink notations on title page and endpaper.
A bit of embrowning to interior, light wear and toning to binding. An extremely good copy. Scarce.