PEACOCK’S LAST AND MOST AMBITIOUS POEM

Rhododaphne: or the Thessalian Spell. A Poem.

London: Printed for T. Hookham, Jun. … and Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy ... 1818.

12mo., pp xi, [1], 181, [1], with half-title and the separate fly-titles to Rhododaphne, each of the seven cantos, and the notes; a particularly fine copy, in contemporary speckled calf, spine gilt; with the bookplate and ownership inscription of Frances Anne Vane Tempest, lady Lady Londonderry.

£1000

Approximately:
US $1283€1166

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First edition. A mythological narrative set in ancient Thessaly, Rhododaphne tells the story of the shepherd boy Anthemion, in love with the mortal girl Calliroë, and of the nymph Rhododaphne, who carries him off to her enchanted palace. When Rhododaphne is destroyed by Heavenly or Uranian love – pure passion for the good and the beautiful – the mortal lovers are reunited.

Rhododaphne is notable in part for its influence on Keats. ‘The chief characters in Rhododaphne have their counterparts in Lamia’; cantos six and seven, describing an enchanted palace erected by magic and its sumptuous banqueting hall, music and slaves, are clearly echoed ‘by the younger but more gifted poet’; and there are parallels in the theme of conflict between enchantment and reason (Harrold). Mary Shelley transcribed the poem for Peacock in December 1817 (when they were all living at Marlow), and Keats is likely to have read it in manuscript at that time, but it was also in print well before the writing of Lamia. Shelley, too, shared this appreciation for Rhododaphne, and in an enthusiastic review written for The Examiner just before his final departure for Italy but never published, described it as ‘the transfused essence of Lucian, Petronius and Apuleius’.

William E. Harrold, ‘Keats’s Lamia and Peacock’s Rhododaphne’, Modern Language Review, LXI (1966), 579-84; Ashley Library, III, 202.

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