London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1809-1812. Six twelvemo volumes, contemporary three-quarter calf over marbled paper boards, spines ruled and numbered in gilt, red morocco spine labels lettered in gilt and tooled with a floral gilt border. All half-titles present. Contemporary stamp of Ashley Combe to front pastedowns, later stamp of Ben Damph Forest Library to front free endpapers. Shelfwear to paper boards and corners.
Complete set of Anglo-Irish educator and novelist Maria Edgeworth's Tales of Fashionable Life: the second edition of Volumes I-III, and the first edition of Volumes IV-VI. Known as “the Great Maria,” Edgeworth was widely acclaimed in her day: her emphasis on practical, hands-on education for children was influential on both sides of the Atlantic, and bestsellers like Castle Rackrent and Belinda inspired a generation of English novelists. Tales of Fashionable Life includes a series of short works, most notably The Absentee, which traces the exploitation of the Irish land and people at the hands of absentee landowners: “a great part of your timber, the growth of a century -- swallowed in the entertainments of one winter in London!” Informed by Edgeworth's firsthand knowledge of Anglo-Irish manners and politics, The Absentee's regional realism impressed writers as diverse as Walter Scott, Ivan Turgenev, and John Ruskin. This set was part of the library at Ashley Combe in Somerset, built in 1799 and improved in 1835 for the benefit of Ada Byron, daughter of poet Lord Byron and young bride of Ashley Combe's owner, William King, later the First Earl of Lovelace. A gifted polymath, Ada Lovelace would work with mathematician Charles Babbage on his Difference Engine and Analytical Engine, and her notes on the latter, which contain an algorithm for generating Bernoulli numbers, are often cited as the first computer program. In 1886, decades after Ada’s death, the Earl purchased the Ben Damph Forest in Scotland, and built Ben Damph House, where these books eventually settled. A near-fine set of literary classics, with a connection to two pioneering nineteenth-century Englishwomen.