Recollections of an Excursion to the Monasteries of Alcobaça and Batalha. By the author of “Vathek”. London, Bentley, 1835.
First Edition. 8vo, (213 x 128mm), frontispiece portrait and pp. [iii]-xi, [i], 228, bound without the half title, in contemporary half calf over brown and cream marbled boards, spine simply ruled in gilt with label lettered in gilt: the headcap and top section (up to 17mm) of the spine missing, marbled endpapers, inscribed on the initial blank ‘? Goldsworthy March 1842... This Book is the property of Mrs Goldsworthy’ and with the later booklabel of Philip O’Riordan Smiley, with bookseller’s order form loosely inserted.
One of Beckford’s most readable and entertaining works, his Recollections of an Excursion to the Monasteries of Alcobaça and Batalha is an idealised compression of several visits to Portugal into one single twelve-day journey, based on diary notes made during a visit in 1794 - a trip during which he did not actually visit Batalha at all. However, it was his visits to Batalha which enchanted him and which inspired him in his designs for Fonthill Abbey, even though his impressions were not published until so many years after the event.
‘[Beckford’s] Recollections of an Excursion to the Monasteries of Alcobaça and Batalha is a charming, heavily humorous concoction... some biographers rate this short piece as his finest writing, and it is indeed a delightful evocation of a lost world, authentic in detail even if contrived in construction’ (Timothy Mowl, William Beckford: Composing for Mozart, 1998, pp. 217-300).
This copy has a piece of leather missing from the top of the spine, which rather mars its looks. Curiously, it contains an amusing piece of its history in the quotation sheet from a previous sale which is loosely inserted. ‘This is the best I have been able to find so far’, writes John Lyle, New and Second-hand Bookseller, to P. O’R. Smiley, Esq, of Victoria House, Ampleforth, Yorks. ‘Indeed, the only one. If you wish me to buy it for you, please reply at once to make sure of securing it’. Evidently, Philip O’Riordan, who was Head of Classics at Ampleforth College, replied in time to secure the volume, as it bears his booklabel. It set him back the princely sum of £3 post free.