“IN A MAN’S LETTERS, YOU KNOW, MADAM, HIS SOUL LIES NAKED”: FIRST EDITION OF LETTERS TO AND FROM SAMUEL JOHNSON, 1788, IN ORIGINAL BOARDS
PIOZZI, Hester Lynch, ed. Letters to and from the Late Samuel Johnson… London: Printed for A. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1788. Two volumes. Octavo, original drab blue paper boards, uncut. Housed in custom half morocco pull-off box. $2500.
First edition of Hester Thrale Piozzi’s significant selection of Dr. Johnson’s erudite and entertaining letters—“the first publication and canonization of a large body of his correspondence”—uncut in original boards.
Samuel Johnson once hailed Hester Thrale, later Piozzi, as "if not the wisest woman in the world… undoubtedly one of the wisest" (Allibone, 1601). She met him in 1765; he became a frequent houseguest, and she "was flattered by the attentions of this literary lion who took her sufficiently seriously as a poet not only to praise and criticize her efforts but also to suggest collaboration. With Johnson she was soon translating Boethius's Consolations of Philosophy… She assisted him in the preparation of his Journey to the Western Islands, and Johnson acknowledged that several of the lives in his Lives of the Poets… owed as much to her conversation as to her skills as amanuensis… Despite the glamour, the wit and the repartee, however, Johnson was an exhausting house guest, demanding, beyond attention to his various physical ailments, a mother love to compensate for his own rather austere upbringing" (DNB). Following her husband's death, her relationship with Johnson became strained; he reacted with fury to her marriage, in 1784, to Italian musician Gabriel Piozzi. Nevertheless, Hester "not only secured her own happiness but also, free from the inhibiting presence of Johnson ('in Johnson's intellect mine was swallowed up and lost'), found her own feet as a writer… For a decade Hester had been Johnson's principal correspondent, and it was natural that she should wish to produce an edition of his letters… Letters to and from the Late Samuel Johnson, representing the first publication and canonization of a large body of his correspondence (some 338 letters), also sold well… Arthur Murphy declared that the edition revealed the great man 'in the undress of his mind'" (DNB). Hester Thrale "elicited from Johnson no fewer than 373 surviving letters, including many of his finest" (Clingham, 224), and their correspondence presents an intimate, fascinating portrait of both the celebrated man of letters and an innovative, significant 18th-century female author. With initial blank, errata slip (in state B). Volume II with leaf [A6] bound before A2. Volume II with restoration to inner paper hinges. Fleeman 88.3L/1. Courtney & Nichol Smith, 168-69. Rothschild 1270. Contemporary owner signature to Volume I title page. Old pencil bibliographic notations.
Scattered light foxing. Light, expected age-wear to boards. An excellent copy in about-fine condition, in original boards.