Memoirs of Maria, Countess d'Alva: by CAVENDISH-BRADSHAW, The Hon. Mary…

CAVENDISH-BRADSHAW, The Hon. Mary Anne Jeffreys (PARLANTE, Priscilla, pseud.), (1758-1849).

Memoirs of Maria, Countess d'Alva: being neither Novel nor Romance, but appertaining to both. Interspersed with Historic Facts & Comic Incidents; in the Course of which are introduced, Fragments & Circumstances, not altogether inapplicable to the events of this Distracted Age, and to the Measures of the Fore-sighted Defenders of Our Holy Faith. In Two Volumes. By Priscilla Parlante. Vol. I [-II]. 1808.

First edition. 2 vols, 8vo (228 x 135 mm), I: pp. [xvi], 384; II: [iv], 494, [ii], last leaf blank, engraved frontispiece to each volume designed by the author and a third plate bound facing p. 268 of vol. I, uncut throughout, some offsetting from plates, small paper flaw to lower blank margin of one leaf, edges dusty, slight browning, occasional minor spotting, in the original drab boards, white paper spine, printed paper labels on spines, the label to Vol. II chipped with loss of one letter of title, spines a little dusty, with the contemporary ownership inscription of M. Meath on the first page of text in each volume.

A scarce and rather unusual gothic novel, uncut and in the original boards, with three striking plates, in fine and strong impression, after designs by the author. Mary Anne Jeffreys Cavendish, the author of two novels, came to public notice after the ‘criminal conversation’ proceedings (and later divorce) filed against her by her former husband, the Earl of Westmeath, after her adultery with Augustus Cavendish-Bradshaw. The preface of the present novel includes ironic comments on the ‘helpless and defenceless state of our miserable sex’ in addition to references to the ‘absurdities and quaintness of old style’, which she had abandoned in favour of ‘those elegancies, with which the present enlightened and improved state of literature abounds’. The critics praised her ‘marvellous and exuberant fancy’ and narrative skills (’The British Critic’, 1809, p. 300), whilst remaining unconvinced by the length of the work and the characters.
‘There is considerable degree of ingenuity in this production; which, though carried on to a great length, is, generally speaking, supported throughout with vigour, and, to the conclusion, maintains a fast hold of the Reader’s mind. The plan, though complicated, is neither deficient nor perplexed; the characters, though numerous, are sufficiently distinct, and well supported. The heroine and the other principal figures are never obscured by an injudicious mixture of interests; and there runs through the whole such a knowledge of the workings of the human mind, such a discrimination of the moral and active qualities of human nature, as we should hardly have expected from a female writer, for such, from the title-page, we are to presume is the case, though the name is evidently fictitious. The chief error into which Madam Priscilla appears to have fallen is, a redundancy of epithets, and too much amplification in some passages, chiefly descriptive. The work, however, is interesting, and will be very useful to the Playwrights and Melo-dramatists of the present day’ (The Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol. 78, 1808, Part 2, pp. 921-922).

Garside, Raven & Schöwerling 1808:36; Summers p. 410; not in Block.

Keywords: The Arts
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