Philadelphia; Boston: Carey & Lea; Cummings, Hilliard & Co. 1824. Twelvemo, [1-4], 5-217, ; [i-iv], 5-188, . Contemporary calf, red morocco spine label lettered in gilt, spine ruled in gilt. Amherst College ink-stenciled library mark to front pastedown; contemporary ink annotations, mainly to The Witch of New England. Margins of several pages in The Witch of New England torn or trimmed; Hobomok bound without half-title. Front free endpaper excised, text browned with scattering foxing; light shelfwear to binding. Expert repair to headcap, joints and corners.
First editions of two 1824 novels set in Puritan New England, both dealing with the theme of romance between Native Americans and white settlers. The early nineteenth century saw a wave of novels set in the early American colonies, reflecting the popularity of historical fiction by Walter Scott and James Fenimore Cooper, and looking ahead to the fiftieth anniversary of the United States. The Witch of New England, published anonymously by poet James Cadwalader McCall, is the more conventional novel, following one white family’s entanglement with the local tribes, as the infatuated Sachem Samoset attempts to abduct Agnes Bradley, and the “generous savage” Haneda sacrifices her happiness to help Edward Bradley escape the Indian camp. (The exasperated contemporary annotator of this copy notes that Edward’s captivity narrative is lifted “verbatim” from Revolutionary general Israel Putnam’s experience, and that an Indian maiden is unlikely to “blush.”) Published anonymously by abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, Hobomok was a far more controversial work, depicting a consensual (if never wholly equal) relationship between a white woman and a Pequod chief. Like McCall, Child foregrounds the sacrifice of a noble Native American, as Hobomok tearfully leaves his white wife Mary Conant and their child so that she can marry her first love, an Englishman long believed to be dead. In an 1825 review of both novels, the North American Review largely dismisses The Witch of New England as “ridiculous,” but notes that Hobomok has suffered from the “general prejudice against the catastrophe” of miscegenation: “we doubt not that it will one day be regarded with greater favor.” A very good copy, bringing together two scarce and complementary early American novels.