"THE OPENING OF A BRILLIANT LITERARY CAREER": FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH OF POOR FOLK, DOSTOEVSKY'S FIRST NOVEL
(DOSTOEVSKY, Fyodor) DOSTOIEVSKY, Fedor. Poor Folk. London / Boston: Elkin Mathews and John Lane / Roberts Brothers, 1894. Small octavo, original yellow pictorial cloth, uncut and partially unopened. $2800.
First edition in English, English issue preceding the American issue by one month, of Dostoevsky's critically acclaimed first novel, one of only 1100 copies, in original cloth pictorial binding with an illustration by Aubrey Beardsley.
Dostoevsky's "psychological penetration into the darkest recesses of the human heart had a profound and universal influence on the 20th-century novel" (Encyclopedia of Literature, 340). "Dostoevsky's life as a writer began auspiciously. His first publication, the short epistolary novel Poor Folk, was extremely well received and heralded by Vissarion Belinskii, the most important critic of the day, as the opening of a brilliant literary career… Poor Folk is a clear continuation of the theme of the downtrodden low-level clerk as represented by Pushkin's 'The Station Master' and Gogol's 'The Overcoat'" (Stone, Historical Dictionary of Russian Literature, 50). In his preface to this edition, Irish novelist George Moore notes that "Poor Folk is written in letters, the most artificial of all forms of narrative, but so easily are the difficulties of the form overcome that no trace of composition appears on the page, and in each succeeding letter is distilled some further addition to our knowledge of the poor old copying clerk, the harshness and rigor of his life, and the pure, idolatrous affection he bears for his cousin, who lives over the way, in as poor circumstances as himself" (page xiii). Translated from the Russian by Lena Milman; Introduction by George Moore. Originally published in 1846 in the almanac St. Petersburg Collection. Published in England in June 1894, one of only 1100 copies (Lasner 27), and in the United States in July of the same year (Line et al., 18). Issued as part of Mathews and Lane's Keynotes Series, the book includes cover and title page design by Beardsley, as well as Beardsley's "key monogram" that appears on the spine, rear cover, and page [v] (Lasner). The book is bound in yellow pictorial cloth similar to that of the quarterly Yellow Book, for which Beardsley served as art director; Yellow Book was also published by Mathews and Lane and began publication in April 1894. With 16 pages of publisher's advertisements at rear dated March 1894. As issued without dust jacket. LEG, 18. Bookplate of renowned historian and bibliophile Christopher Clark Geest.
Interior fine, lightest soiling to cloth. A near-fine copy.