FIRST EDITION OF THACKERAY’S THE NEWCOMES
THACKERAY, William Makepeace. The Newcomes, Memoirs of a Most Respectable Family. London: Bradbury & Evans, 1854-55. Two volumes bound as one. Octavo, later three-quarter green morocco, marbled boards and endpapers. $950.
First edition, bound from parts, of this panoramic novel of snobbery and mercenary marriages, with two engraved vignette title pages, 46 full-page plates and over 100 historiated initial letters and in-text illustrations by Richard “Kitcat” Doyle.
Admiringly called by Henry James, along with Tolstoy's War and Peace, one of those "loose, baggy monsters… that have life," The Newcomes is considered by many to be Thackeray's finest novel. It tells the tale of Colonel Thomas Newcome and his son Clive, who studies to be a painter, and provides a detailed study of prosperous middle-class British society. The majority of the novel's action is set a decade or two after that of Thackeray's Vanity Fair (1847-48), and there are peripheral references to some of its characters in The Newcomes. The title page lists Arthur Pendennis, Esq., as the editor; Pendennis is, in fact, the narrator of the novel, and the title character of Thackeray's 1848-50 novel The History of Pendennis. "You have constructed your Colonel Newcome out of two characters already familiar to all students of good literature," Henry Bellows once observed in conversation, "Don Quixote and Sir Roger de Coverley"— to which Thackeray responded "You have touched on the very truth." Famous Punch cover-artist "Dicky" (Kitcat) Doyle provided the spirited illustrations for The Newcomes. Doyle gained fame from illustrating three of Dickens' Christmas books. In his illustrations for Thackeray, he "was remarkably good at crowded group scenes, such as the wonderfully fecund street brawl of 'Newcome versus Newcome' at the political rally [Volume II, 284]" (Hodnett, 120). Doyle devoted the autumn of his career to book illustration, particularly children's fairy tales, "where his delight in the grotesque is given full rein" (Houfe, 122). First published in 24 parts from October 1853 to August 1855. Van Duser 147.
Interior generally fine, light wear to binding extremities, morocco toned to brown. A handsome copy.