Memoirs of an Unfortunate Young Nobleman; by ANNESLEY, James, (1715-1760).

cruel uncle - kidnapping and slavery - the stuff of fiction but a true story
ANNESLEY, James, (1715-1760).

Memoirs of an Unfortunate Young Nobleman; return’d from thirteen years slavery in America, where he had been sent by the wicked contrivances of his cruel uncle. A story founded in truth, and address’d equally to the head and heart. London, J. Freeman, 1743.

First or Early Edition. 12mo (165 x 90 mm), pp. [iv], 277, [7] advertisements, several of the early leaves a little sprung, otherwise an attractive copy in a contemporary binding of plain calf, double gilt filet on covers, spine ruled in gilt with red morocco label lettered in gilt, with the contemporary armorial bookplate of Bartholomew Richard Barneby.

One of a spate of editions of this best-selling novel, the first semi-fictional account of James Annesley’s tumultuous life, previously attributed to Eliza Haywood (1693-1756). Annesley’s claim to the earldom of Anglesey, one of the wealthiest estates in Ireland, was visciously refuted by his uncle, Richard Annesley, who wanted him out of the way so badly that he had him kidnapped at the age of 12 and shipped to a plantation in Delaware where he was sold into indentured servitude. After several attempts to regain his freedom, James finally escaped to Philadephia and onwards to Jamaica. Here, being recognised by a former school friend, he signed on with the Royal Navy and served for a year under the command of Admiral Vernon. After his return home in 1741, when he accidentally killed a man during a hunting excursion in Scotland, his uncle seized the opportunity to try and get James hanged for murder, but the case was unsuccessful due to witnesses of the accident. The court case for the earldom and the lands then begun, with James being defended by the Scottish barrister Daniel Machercher. Not only was the case a cause celèbre which captured the popular imagination - elements of Annesley’s extraordinary life live on in Smollett’s Peregrine Pickle, 1751, Scott’s Guy Mannering, 1815 and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped - it was also a key trial in the formulation of many important legal precedents.
Although this is complete as published, two further parts later appeared, the second under the title ‘Memoirs of an unfortunate nobleman in which is continued the history of Count Richard’, published later in 1743, and the third part, under the same title as the present first part, followed in 1747. The present edition, which may be the first, is distinguished from other editions of the same year and same collation, by the following points: the second line of the imprint ends ‘and sold’, the catchword on p. 1 is ‘words’ and the vignette on p. 1 is a cherub (in an expansive pastoral scene, looking at a bird through a telescope).

Provenance: with the attractive contemporary armorial bookplate of Bartholomew Richard Barneby, who changed his surname from Lutley to Barneby in 1735, ‘pursuant to the will of John Barneby’ (see the Office of Public Sector Information website). The Barnebys (they were subsequently to change their name to Barneby-Lutley in the nineteenth century) lived at Brockhampton Park, near Bromyard, Hereforshire, until 1946 and the estate is now property of the National Trust.

ESTC t81624.

Keywords: English Literature
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