London: Macmillan, 1888. First edition of an uncommon title. OCLC lists twelve copies in North America. Spines cocked, binding extremities lightly rubbed, but still a fine, bright copy. Publisher's taupe cloth with spine and covers stamped in gilt. Three volumes, twelvemo. 4], 313, , [2, ads]; , 316; , 306, [2, ads] + 32 pp. publisher's catalogue. Item #16807
Margaret Oliphant (1828-1897) was born in Scotland. Her first novel, Passages in the Life of Margaret Maitland (1849) attracted the attention of both Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë. She worked extensively for the publishing firm of Blackwood’s, becoming as she described it the “general utility woman,” sometimes contributing as much as one third of their periodical. In later life she became the friend of Thomas Carlyle. As the sole breadwinner responsible for an alcoholic brother and several children, she wrote constantly to make ends meet, and her publications numbered around ninety. At the end of her life, she regarded her work as generally a failure. Her tales of the supernatural, however, have recently been republished and are highly regarded. Tennyson, Gladstone and Darwin all praised her work.
"The herculean fictional output…undoubtedly shows her ability to gauge changing fashion: the novels span social concern, Scottish tales, the Gothic, the sensational, the historical, provincial sagas, and quieter psychological studies. They equally reveal her as creator as much as creation of her literary milieu: the voracious reading involved in her twenty-five works of non-fiction and over three hundred periodical articles fuelled the disconcerting questions repeatedly raised in her fiction as to the age's accepted ideologies of marriage, family, religion, and gender. In her obituary Henry James asserted that 'no woman had ever, for half a century, had her personal “say” so publicly'; contemporary writers flinched at the whiplash cracks of epigrammatic wit sometimes woven into her reviews. It seems likely that Anthony Trollope's Lady Carbury in The Way we Live now (1875) and James's Mrs Stormer in 'Greville Fane' (1892) were vitriolic responses to the power her voice carried" (Oxford DNB). Sadleir 1864. Wolff 5250.