A ‘GOTHIC’S GOTHIC’

Don Raphael, a Romance …

London: Printed for G. Walker; and T. Hurst; by Exton ... 1803.

3 vols, 12mo, pp. I: [2], ‘338’ [i.e. 329], [1], II: [2], 291, [1], III: [2], 273, [1]; a clean copy in contemporary half calf; some wear to spines and joints, but all volumes perfectly sound, labels missing; the Downshire copy, with gilt monogram to spine (see below).

£3250

Approximately:
US $3984€3777

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First edition. ‘In order to satisfy the omnipresent needs of the Gothic industry, Walker apparently felt obliged to turn out a Gothic’s Gothic made up of fragments of Walpole, Beckford, Lewis, Radcliffe, and the cheap and tawdry Gothic chapbooks flooding the bookstalls. The dubious product was Don Raphael, Walker’s most confounding Gothic endeavour and a Gothic romance so complicated and top-heavy with plot twistings that the reader who enters it must necessarily lose his way many times ... Before the fiasco of Don Raphael, Walker had displayed true talent in novels of doctrine which explored social problems and criticised Godwinian radicalism. The prostitution of his own literary talents in Don Raphael apparently convinced him to abandon novel writing’ (The Gothic Quest, p. 82). Summers was more forgiving, calling it ‘equally good’ to The Three Spaniards (1800) – ‘Walker must certainly be accounted as an author of uncommon merit’ (ibid.).

Provenance: from the library of Mary Hill (née Sandys, 1764–1836), Marchioness of Downshire, later Baroness Sandys. Lady Downshire was a wealthy heiress, society hostess, and literary patron who married the young but ill-fortuned politician Arthur Hill in 1786. Raised by her uncle, one of Samuel Johnson’s ‘Streatham worthies’, she became a friend of both the Prince of Wales and Mrs Fitzherbert, and once entertained the Prince for four days at the family seat of Ombersley. She built up a fine collection of contemporary fiction, mostly by women, to add to the family library.

Garside et al 1803:73; Summers, Gothic Bibliography, pp. 298-9; Frank, The first Gothics 465.

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