Yeast: a Problem. Reprinted, with Corrections and Additions, from Fraser’s Magazine.

London: John W. Parker … 1851.

12mo., pp. vi, [2], 379, [1], with 8 pp. publisher’s catalogue at end; rose-madder wavy-grain cloth, blocked in blind and lettered in gold; a good, crisp copy, but with a few marks to front cover, stain to back cover and endpapers, spine dull.


US $524€447

Make an enquiry

First edition in book form of Kingsley’s first novel, and the scarcest (in original condition) according to Sadleir. Yeast was inspired by Kingsley’s passionate reaction to contemporary social unrest in town and country. It first appeared in Fraser’s Magazine in 1848, the year of the Chartist demonstration. Conservative forces persuaded the publisher to make Kingsley cut the serial short and not, at that time, publish it in book form.

Lancelot Smith, a rich and rather frivolous young man, is thrown from his horse while hunting near the country estate of Squire Lavington. During his convalescence at the Squire’s house, where he is recovering from a broken leg, he makes the acquaintance of Lavington’s gamekeeper, Paul Tregarva, and his eyes are opened to the appalling living conditions of the rural poor, who ‘sleep like pilchards in a barrel’ and ‘are fed worse than a hound’. Lancelot’s sympathies begin to change and, inspired by the visionary prophet Barnakill, he decides to embark upon a philanthropic mission with Tregarva. During the course of the novel Lancelot also falls in love with the Squire’s eldest daughter, Argemone, who, having bravely nursed the sick during a typhus epidemic, contracts the disease and dies.

Yeast is a rather stilted fiction, something which Kingsley himself acknowledges in the Epilogue as he refers to the ‘fragmentary and unconnected form of the book.’ It is, however, an unusual rural contribution to the ‘condition of England’ genre, which was dominated by novels concerned with urban poverty, such as Hard Times (1854) and Gaskell’s North and South (1855). Sadleir 1341; Wolff 3814 (‘not a nice copy’).

You may also be interested in...


The Western Mail: being a Selection of Letters made from the Bag taken from the Western Mail, when it was robbed by George –––––, in 17––. Now first published.

First edition. Like her better-known older sister Anne, Annabella Plumptre (‘Bell’) was a translator and novelist. Their father was Robert Plumptre, prebendary of Norwich and president of Queen’s College, Cambridge. They began their writing careers as part of the Enfield circle where participation in private theatricals may have contributed to Bell’s easy assumption of different characters and idiolects in this collection of stories.

Read more


The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. In six Volumes …

Second edition, although not so designated, the errata corrected and the errata leaf in volume I omitted (the ‘Contents’ extended to c8 recto to fill the gap). The first edition (2000 copies) was almost completely subscribed before publication when this second edition (1500 copies) was ordered. Both editions were in circulation on 28 February, the date of publication.

Read more