Armorel of Lyonesse: a Romance of To-day ... in three Volumes ...

London: Chatto & Windus ... 1891.

3 vols., 8vo., with half-titles, publisher’s 32-page catalogue (dated October 1890, in volume III); original green cloth, decorated with the design of a pale green fern leaf across the front covers and extending onto the spines, slightly skew, and faint marks where library labels have been removed, otherwise a good copy.


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First edition. The plot concerns the exposure of a bogus poet-painter who passes off the work of others as his own, ‘a fraud more common, I have been told, ten years ago, than it is now’, Besant was to write in his autobiography in 1902 (quoted in Wolff). A crusading spirit infuses much of Besant’s best work and it is reasonable to assume that – as a founder member of the Society of Artists – he would have been familiar with the abuse of struggling artists by such a charlatan as his fictional Alec. The setting of this novel ranges from Amorel’s native Scilly Isles (the highest peaks of the lost Lyonesse of Breton legend) to the literary and artistic salons of fashionable London and the seamy parts of town inhabited by the destitute writers and painters. Not in Sadleir (who had most of his other novels); Wolff 431.

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