A SINGLE MAN POSSESSED OF A GOOD FORTUNE

Munster Abbey, a Romance; interspersed with Reflections on Virtue and Morality … in three Volumes … Edinburgh: Printed by John Moir … for W. Creech, Cross, and S. Cheyne … [and] for Hookham & Carpentar … Vernor & Hood … London.

1797.

3 vols., 12mo. in sixes; a very good copy apart from a little spotting and a tear to the blank margin of K3 in volume I; contemporary half calf and marbled boards, morocco labels; armorial bookplate of Sir Henry Hay Makdougall of Makerstoun.

£1250

Approximately:
US $1620€1461

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Munster Abbey, a Romance; interspersed with Reflections on Virtue and Morality … in three Volumes … Edinburgh: Printed by John Moir … for W. Creech, Cross, and S. Cheyne … [and] for Hookham & Carpentar … Vernor & Hood … London.

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First edition. Despite its ‘gothic’ title this is a novel of contemporary high life in England and on the Grand Tour, avoiding ‘extravagant descriptions of supernatural scenes and events’. Munster Abbey in Devon is the seat of the hero, Mr. Belford, a bachelor ‘happily possessed of a fortune, ample as his wishes’. This was Leigh’s only novel – he died at 26 – assembled by his widow from her husband’s ‘scattered papers’ and, the ‘Advertisement’ implies, possibly finished by her.

Leigh was a distant relation of Jane Austen, and though there are only Austins and no Austens among the 1183 subscribers (the list extends to 34 pages), we can find there Egerton Brydges, brother of Austen’s friend Anne (later Lefroy), the Dowager Duchess of Chandos, and several other members of the Leigh family. There are many Scottish subscribers.

Despite the ‘liberal and unexampled countenance bestowed on this undertaking’ it did not meet with universal approval. ‘The fable … is uninteresting, the language incorrect and inelegant; and by endeavouring to put sentiment into the mouths of his characters on the most trifling occasions, the author often renders his work ridiculous’ (Critical Review).

Garside, Raven, and Schöwerling 1797: 53.

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