“SHE WROTE WITH A FERVOR THAT AMOUNTED ALMOST TO FRENZY”: HELEN MARIA WILLIAMS’ TOUR IN SWITZERLAND, 1798
(SWITZERLAND) WILLIAMS, Helen Maria. A Tour in Switzerland; or, A View of the Present state of the Governments and Manners of Those Cantons. Dublin: P. Byrne, 1798. Two volumes bound in one. 12mo, contemporary full dark brown sheep rebacked with original spine and red morocco spine label laid down. $1300.
First Dublin edition of this “menagerie of topics including political commentary, history, [and] observations of nature,” with folding engraved map not found in the London edition and Williams’ translation of Louis Ramond’s treatise on Alpine glaciers.
A controversial figure in her time, Helen Williams was a political radical who “wrote with a fervor that amounted almost to frenzy” (DNB). By 1789 she had become a supporter of the French Revolution and shortly after moved to Paris. Arrested in 1793 as a revolutionary, she “narrowly escaped execution at the hands of Robespierre” (Cox) and was released only on condition that she leave France. In June 1794 she fled to Switzerland for six months. Her Tour in Switzerland contains not only an account of her travels, but also political commentary, a discussion of the current state of Paris, Swiss history, observations of nature, her poem “A Hymn Written amongst the Alps,” and a fascinating appendix on glaciers by Louis Ramond de Carbonnières that she translated into English. “We must allow, however melancholy be the fact, that the ice is gaining on the whole surface of the high Alps.” Cox I, 167.
Slight edgewear to map, not affecting image; text generally clean. Expert restoration to contemporary calf. A desirable copy in contemporary binding.