London, Oxford, and Bristol: various publishers, 1771-1774. Quarto, measuring 10.25 x 8 inches, containing ten separately published works: ,44; , 4-38; 6, 71, ; , 24; , 37, ; , 24; , 18; , iv,30; , 31, ; vi, 7-41, . Contemporary polished calf, rebacked and recornered, floral gilt rules to boards, spine ruled in gilt, marbled endpapers. Engraved vignettes to five title pages: “The Prostitute,” “Armine and Elvira,” “The Concubine,” “Youth,” and “Richard Plantagenet;” pages 13-14 and 17-18 bound out of order in “Faldoni and Teresa” (all present). Bookplates of John Oxley and J.O. Edwards to front pastedown. Occasional ink note by an early owner, including the identification of “A Young Lady” as “Miss Moore;” light occasional foxing to text, light shelfwear.
Sammelband volume of ten English poems, published between 1771 and 1774, including the scarce first appearance in print of Hannah More (1745-1833). One of the most widely read reformers of her time, Bluestocking More is best remembered for her writings on the education of women, starting with this pastoral verse play, written when she was eighteen, and published anonymously in her twenties. It was once believed that “A Search After Happiness,” which is undated, was published in the 1760s, but recent scholarship points to 1773 as the likeliest date, a claim strengthened by the poem’s placement in this volume. More expanded the play in later editions, retitling it “The Search After Happiness:” it was reprinted well into the nineteenth century. More’s play features four unhappy girls who flee society to seek the advice of a wise shepherdess. Jaded Euphelia, “bred in the regal splendors of a court,” is bored, vain, and jealous. Pretentious Florissa is an intellectual snob, driven by “the idol fame” rather than a love of knowledge. Silly Pastorella, addicted to novels, has abandoned all judgment: “Fiction my nature, and romance my law.” And ignorant Laurinda is so easily led that she has no character at all: “Too indolent to think, too weak to chuse, / Too soft to blame, too gentle to refuse.” Unsurprisingly, the shepherdess counsels modesty and Christian virtue, but the girls’ confessions linger beyond the play’s didactic conclusion, testifying to the real limitations that baffled young women. It is illuminating to read More’s pastoral in the context of the other poems collected in this volume, all by men, which portray young women as fallen victims (John Wynne’s “The Prostitute”), depraved seducers (William Mickle’s “The Concubine”), passionate suicides (Edward Jerningham’s “Faldoni and Teresa”), and doomed pleasure-seekers (Charles Jenner’s “Louisa.”) By comparison, More’s self-aware schoolgirls are models of critical reflection. The poems included in this volume are: “The Prostitute” by John Wynne (first edition, 1771); “Armine and Elvira” by Edmund Cartwright (fifth edition, 1772); “The Concubine” by William Mickle (fourth edition, 1772); “Alonzo, or, the Youthful Solitaire” by John Nott (first edition, 1772); “A Search After Happiness: A Pastoral” by Hannah More (first edition, likely 1773, followed by two theatrical prologues); “Youth” by Hall Hartson (first edition, 1773); “Faldoni and Teresa” by Edward Jerningham (first edition, 1773); “Richard Plantagenet” by Thomas Hull (first edition, 1774); “The Cave of Morar” by John Tait (first edition, 1774); and “Louisa” by Charles Jenner (first edition, 1774). A compelling collection.