Reuben Apsley. By the author of Brambletye House, The Tor Hill, &c. In three volumes. Vol. I [-III]. London, Colburn, 1827.
First Edition. Three volumes (187 x 113 mm), 8vo (195 x 115 mm), pp. viii, 340, [ii], 369; [ii], 392; half-title present in the first volume only, in a striking contemporary binding of half pale calf over marbled boards, the boards slightly rubbed, spines gilt in compartments with two red morocco labels on each spine, lettered and numbered in gilt, endpapers and edges marbled in brown and blue, with the booksellers ticket of Poole and Harding, Chester and the later contemporary ownership inscription of ‘Hugill’.
A very handsome copy of the first edition of one of Horace Smith’s popular historical novels. In 1812, after the rebuilding of the Drury Lane Theatre, the managers offered a prize of £50 for an address to be recited at the opening. Together with his elder brother James, Horace wrote parodies of poets of the day which were then published as supposedly failed entries for the competition. Horace’s own entries included parodies of Byron, Moore, Scott and Bowles while James parodied Wordsworth, Southey, Coleridge and Crabbe. The resultant Rejected Addresses, which was published in 1812, was hugely popular and is still acclaimed as one of the most brilliant parodies of English poets. Smith enjoyed a wide circle of friendships, most particularly including Leigh Hunt and Shelley, with whom he entered numerous poetry competitions; he also helped Shelley to manage his finances.
In 1818, Smith took part with Shelley in a sonnet-writing competition on the subject of the Nile River, inspired by Diodorus Siculus and submitted to The Examiner. Both poets wrote sonnets called ‘Ozymandias’: Shelley’s was published on 11th January 1818 under the pseudonym Glirastes and Smith’s was published on 1st February 1818 under the initials H.S. Smith later renamed his sonnet ‘On a Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below’ and it was published in his collection Amarynthus.
Shelley’s sonnet is well known to all but here for fun we reproduce Horace Smith’s:
‘In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows.
"I am great Ozymandias," saith the stone,
"The King of kings: this mighty city shows
The wonders of my hand." The city's gone!
Naught but the leg remaining to disclose
The sight of that forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when through the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the wolf in chase,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What wonderful, but unrecorded, race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.’
Alongside his literary output, which included poetry and several novels strongly influenced by Walter Scott, Horace Smith was a stockbroker. Shelley said of him: ‘Is it not odd that the only truly generous person I ever knew who had money enough to be generous with should be a stockbroker? He writes poetry and pastoral dramas and yet knows how to make money, and does make it, and is still generous’.
Sadleir, XIX Century Fiction, 3107; not in Wolff, who lists most of his other novels.