London: Vernor and Hood, 1804. First edition of the first book by Elizabeth Anne Le Noir (1754 – 1841), daughter of Christopher Smart. Some rubbing to boards. Hinges somewhat tender. Contemporary ink ownership signatures (Elizabeth Wright) to title-pages. Overall quite clean aside from some light occasional foxing. A few tears to leaves with early paper repairs (with no loss of text). A very good set, and an uncommon one. Contemporary light brown calf over marbled boards with red morocco spine labels titled in gilt. Three volumes, twelvemo. 262; 306; 303, [2, errata] pp. Item #17109
Village Anecdotes was a turning point in English fiction. The work focuses on the middle-class residents of a rural area rather than on aristocrats, who had previously been the near-universal stars of English fiction. In English Fiction of the Romantic Period (1989), Gary Kelly described the non-aristocratic characters as “the moral and self-disciplined middle classes.” Mary Russell Mitford admired Le Noir’s work and described her books as “when taken up one does not care to put down again,” (Mitford, Recollections of a Literary Life, 1852, 3.101). .
Le Noir’s other works include Clara de Montfier, a Moral Tale, with Original Poems (1808) and her Miscellaneous Poems (1825 - 6), her most popular publication. Her father was the poet Christopher Smart (1722 – 1771) and her mother’s stepfather was the publisher John Newbery, who encouraged Le Noir’s literary efforts. In 1762, Newbery handed the management of the Reading Mercury to Le Noir’s mother; for fifty years, Le Noir contributed poems to the first issue of each year. During the 1790s, Le Noir and many other Catholics in Reading assisted the French refugees who had fled to the area, which led to Le Noir meeting her husband in 1795. The pair had no children, but Le Noir adopted her niece and god-daughter Eleanora Cowslade (b. 1792), with whom she opened a boarding-school (Oxford DNB).