Edinburgh and London: Blackwood, 1858. Two octavo volumes, measuring 8 x 5 inches: , 7-366; , 381, . Original claret morocco-grain cloth elaborately stamped in blind, spines lettered in gilt, cinnamon endpapers. Neat initials “M.S.D.” to half-titles, penciled bookseller notes to verso of front free endpaper in Volume I. Spine ends and corners very lightly rubbed, small abrasion to rear pastedown of Volume I from label removal. Housed in a custom clamshell box.
First edition of George Eliot’s first published work of fiction, three related stories of love and loss in an English village: “The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton,” “Mr. Gilfil’s Love-Story,” and “Janet’s Repentance.” The stories first appeared anonymously in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1857, and were published together the following year as the work of “George Eliot,” the first use of that pen name by Mary Ann Evans. Upon the book’s appearance, Charles Dickens wrote Blackwood to congratulate the unknown author and to predict, correctly, that George Eliot would eventually be revealed as a woman. These early stories sound the depths of feeling experienced by everyday people, foreshadowing Eliot’s major achievement in Middlemarch: “At least eighty out of a hundred of your adult male fellow-Britons returned in the last census are neither extraordinarily silly, nor extraordinarily wicked, nor extraordinarily wise; their eyes are neither deep and liquid with sentiment, nor sparkling with suppressed witticisms; they have probably had no hairbreadth escapes or thrilling adventures; their brains are certainly not pregnant with genius, and their passions have not manifested themselves at all after the fashion of a volcano. . . . Yet these commonplace people -- many of them -- bear a conscience.” This first edition was issued in a run of 1,050 copies. Baker & Ross A3.2B. A bright, near-fine copy in the original cloth, much nicer than usually found.