Variety. A tale, for married people.

London, for J. Dodsley, 1776.

4to, pp. 24; small title ornament; a little light creasing but a very good copy; disbound.


US $121€115

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Variety. A tale, for married people.

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First edition of this verse fable on married life by William Whitehead (1715-85), the son of a Cambridge baker who rose to become fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, a successful playwright, and poet laureate in succession to Colley Cibber. ‘Variety’ is the tale of a well-read rural maid who marries her Milton- and Pope-reading lover only to find that they drift apart as each seeks the ‘variety’ of the title. An inheritance from a rich uncle offers the couple a new life in London but leads them into dissipation and further apart. Happily they rediscover their love, concluding ‘We live, my dear, too much asunder’. In his depiction of city life Whitehead could not resist having a swipe at the preposterous hairstyles of ‘British dames’ (‘Whilst the black ewes, who own’d the hair, Feed harmless on, in pastures fair, unconscious that their tails perfume, In scented curls, the Drawing-room’). The poem went through several London and Dublin editions in the same year.

Whitehead never married himself, noting that ‘a moderate precarious income has but little allurement’. He was buried in South Audley Street Chapel, a stone’s throw from our former premises.

ESTC T62734.

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