The Flowers; or, the Sylphid Queen: a Fairy Tale. In Verse. Illustrated with elegant engravings. London, J. Harris, 1809.
First Edition. engraved frontispiece and pp. [iv], 52, with five further engraved plates, some with marginal dampstaining, in red quarter roan over marbled boards, printed paper label on the front board, extremities worn, spine ruled in gilt.
A delightfully illustrated verse fairy tale by Alicia Lefanu, Irish novelist, biographer and poet, member of the literary clan that included Frances, Thomas and Richard Brinsley Sheridan. This is Lefanu’s first published work, in which she introduces a number of strong female characters. Her subsequent works included fables for young girls, Byronic romances and historical novels as well as an important biography of Frances Sheridan.
‘In The Flowers... Lefanu adopts the romantic quest narrative of fairy tale and fantasy in order to grant her child audience sufficient independence to make moral judgments on their own. The texts do this by demonstrating the inculcation of self-governance in [its] protagonists, as well as tasking the reader to make an objective analysis of hte stories’ moral decision-making. Subsequently, Lefanu’s texts stretch the reader’s ability to empathize with, and make relevant to the real world, the stories’ various fantastic difficulties of the heart... Moreover, Lefanu’s strategic literary device allows her subtly to champion alternative and non-traditional female role models for young children, as well as resist the literary patterning of male transcendence usually associated with the romantic quest narrative’ (Jamison, Annie, Children’s Susceptible Minds: Alicia Lefanu and the “Reasoned Imagination” in Georgian Children’s Literature’ in Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 52, 2013, p. 587).
Well received by contemporary readers, the Gentleman’s Magazine commented, ‘Much credit is due to the fair Author of this neat little Poem; whose harmonious numbers strongly inculcate an excellent moral’ (GM, March 1810).
Cotsen Catalogue 3444.; Moon, John Harris’s Books for Youth, 1801-1843, 477.