“GENUINE RURAL SPIRIT”: MARY MITFORD’S OUR VILLAGE, ILLUSTRATED BY HUGH THOMSON, HANDSOMELY BOUND
(THOMSON, Hugh) MITFORD, Mary Russell. Our Village. London: Macmillan, 1893. Octavo, early 20th-century full crimson crushed morocco, raised bands, elaborately gilt-decorated spine and cornerpieces, marbled endpapers, top edge gilt, uncut. $600.
Later illustrated edition of Mitford’s tales of everyday village life, considered a “new style of graphic description,” with 100 detailed line illustrations by Hugh Thomson, who “takes first place among the genteel book illustrators” (Harthan, 238). Handsomely bound by William Warsfold.
In the early years of the 19th century, Mary Mitford was forced to turn, in her words, “from the lofty steep of tragic poetry to the every-day path of village stories.” “Her inimitable series of country sketches, drawn from her own experiences at Three Mile Cross, entitled Our Village, began to appear in 1819 in the Lady’s Magazine, a little-known periodical, whose sale was thereby increased from 250 to 2,000. She had previously offered them to Thomas Campbell for the New Monthly Magazine, but he rejected them as unsuitable for the dignity of his pages. The book may be said to have laid the foundation of a branch of literature hitherto untried… The tales, at once, made Miss Mitford famous… Christopher North spoke of their ‘genuine rural spirit… Mrs. Browning called Miss Mitford ‘a sort of prose Crabbe in the sun.’ While Harriet Martineau looked upon her as the originator of the new style of ‘graphic description” (David Nash Ford). Illustrator Hugh Thomson’s “smiling awareness of the unheroic aspect of everyday life; his relish for the counterbalancing bravery of period costumes, coaches and horses, and elegant furniture; and his brisk style give his work irresistible charm” (Hodnett, 218). Mitford’s sketches were collected in five volumes, published respectively every other year from 1824 to 1832. Editions of the whole first appeared in 1843. Bookplate of distinguished bibliophile and member of the Grolier Club, Abel E. Berland. “Mr. Berland kept none of his books behind glass to be venerated. They were all on open shelves in his library, to be lived with, touched and enjoyed. ‘The most important thing I can say to you about these books is that I never take them for granted… I am nothing more than their temporary keeper. It is my privilege to visit with them every day, and to be in their company” (New York Times).
Occasional faint patches of foxing, expert repairs to joints. A nearly fine copy with distinguished provenance.