“INSTINCT WITH THE VERY SOIL OF ENGLAND”: THE DELUXE “MELLSTOCK EDITION” OF HARDY’S WORKS, SIGNED BY HARDY, HANDSOMELY BOUND IN 37 VOLUMES, WITH AN AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED BY HARDY
HARDY, Thomas. Works. London: Macmillan, 1919-20. Thirty-seven volumes. Octavo, contemporary full navy morocco gilt, raised bands, marbled endpapers, top edges gilt, uncut and largely unopened. $22,000.
Handsome “Mellstock Edition” of Hardy’s prose and poetry, one of only 500 sets signed by the author in Volume I, very handsomely bound by Bayntun, with an autograph letter signed by Hardy tipped into Volume I.
"It was as a poet that he wished to be remembered… [and] if he had written only his earlier novels,… it might be granted that his poems were his more valid contribution to English literature. Yet these novels are so instinct with the very soil of England, so penetrating in their psychology, so fresh and colorful, that they alone would have made any writer's fame. But it is the two books which brought down on their author the foul abuse of every bigot and dullard of three continents that are Thomas Hardy's great and unique achievement. Nowhere else in English fiction are to be found the profundity, the unification of feeling, the perfect presentation of great tragedy, that make Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure immortal" (Kunitz & Haycraft, 277). This distinguished edition, named after Hardy's second anonymously published novel, Under the Greenwood Tree or The Mellstock Quire (1872), also includes such masterpieces as Far from the Madding Crowd, The Return of the Native and The Mayor of Casterbridge. The edition incorporates final changes made by Hardy to many of his texts (A Pair of Blue Eyes, for example, is significantly revised—"the people shadowed forth in the story being now all, alas, dead").
The autograph letter, reads in full: "Max Gate Dorchester, Eng. 20 September, 1913. Dear Mr. Duneka [of Harper's Magazine]: You mentioned that you would like to have something from me for the magazine. I send some new verses of a dramatic kind that may suit, on the chance of your editor being able to print them before I bring them out in a volume of poetry in early spring of 1914. If the editor finds that he cannot issue them by, say, February, will he kindly let me have the copy back again, that I may print the poem in a periodical on this side? The verses are of course offered for serial publication only, and you know approximately my terms. In the event of your editor putting them into the magazine I undertake not to print them here till the volume comes out. Very truly yours, Thomas Hardy." With finely etched frontispiece portrait of Hardy by William Strang in Volume I.