The Distress’d Wife. A Comedy. By the late Mr. Gay, Author of the Beggar’s Opera.

London: Printed for Thomas Astley … 1743.

8vo., pp. 88, including half-title with advertisement for the second edition of Polly on verso; a very good copy in half navy morocco by Edgar H. Wells & Co., New York, spine and edges gilt.

£350

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First edition, the issue with no press figures on pp. 8, 39, press figure p. 56: 3 (no priority). Gay’s comedy of the sexes revolves around Sir Thomas Willit’s attempts to inveigle his wife to leave London for the country, in order to reign-in her expenditure. Lady Willit abhors the idea, ‘Sure nothing can be more shocking than knowing the Day of one’s Death, except knowing the Day one is to be buried in the Country!’, and rails against his hapless ruses to lure her away from town. Confusion ensues as the gentlemen attempt to outwit the ladies and vice versa. Gay populates the cast with stock characters such as Willit’s uncle Barter, a sworn bachelor convinced of the evils of womankind ‘A Wife hath a thousand ways of blinding you … Flattery, Fondness, and Tears’.

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