(1888). Twelvemo measuring 6.25 x 4 inches, original limp black roan ruled in gilt, marbled endpapers, all edges marbled. 69 manuscript pages in ink containing three original fairy tales, unused blank pages at rear. Six original pen and ink illustrations, initialed and dated by “E.M.P.” Ink gift inscription to first leaf: “Vera Lowe / With best love and good Christmas wishes / from Cousin Nellie / Xmas 1888.” Light wear to spine and edges, front free endpaper starting. Housed in a custom clamshell box.
Whimsical Victorian fairy tale manuscript, presented as a Christmas gift in 1888. Detailed pen-and-ink drawings accompany three wry stories of misadventure, starring a spellbound prince, a vengeful fairy, and an overburdened dwarf. The first story, “The Dwarf with the Yellow Nose,” recalls elements of the Sleeping Beauty legend. When a wicked fairy’s invitation to the palace goes astray, she curses the infant prince with a yellow nose so monstrous that his royal parents die on the spot. Raised by peasants, the disfigured baby grows into a good-hearted dwarf until a beggar maid kisses him, revealing him to be the prince, and the maid his destined princess. In the second story, “What Became of the Yellow Nose,” the wicked fairy tries to salvage the prince’s cast-off yellow nose for later use, but ends up accidentally attaching it to her own face, with comic results. The final story, “The Story of the Storm Dwarf,” has the feel of a personal allegory. Under ominous skies, the narrator encounters a miserable dwarf struggling under the burden of 365 parcels, one for each day of the year. Rather than carry one parcel each day, the Storm Dwarf insists on tying all the year’s burdens together and bearing them as one. When the narrator divides the parcels, “sorting out the shapeless masses of ‘Supposes,’ ‘Perhapses,’ & ‘Probablies,’” the storm clouds clear. The narrator notes: “I shall have, I fear, to keep a good look out on Jan. 1st 1889, lest my little friend should from old habit, proceed to tie together the whole year’s allowance into one burden & so make the weather of 1889 as cloudy and dull as that of 1888.” This neatly penned manuscript, with its gentle humor and inspirational bent, offers a window into Victorian women’s practices of reading, writing, and giving. Dwarf Stories recalls the work of Emmeline Mary Plunket, a contemporary children’s author (Merrie Games in Rhyme from ye Olden Time, 1886; and Very Short Stories in Very Short Words, 1887), but the relationship between “E.M.P.,” “Cousin Nellie,” and recipient “Vera Lowe” is unclear, and the attribution to Plunket is speculative only. A delightful survival.