London: John Murray, 1818. First Edition. half calf. 4 vols. 1st edition of both novels, together, as published. 19th century half calf and marbled boards, a few little breaks at the joints smoothly strengthened, the original color die on the calf has faded unevenly, still very good, tighter than 2 coats of lipstick, but more vitally, it’s a complete set with the 4 half–titles, and the ad leaf, all usually missing in the sets that are offered, and which are imperfect because of their absence (assume half–titles and ads are lacking from any Austen book when the account of it fails to mention their presence), and reprint half–titles, or facsimiles of them, are too often found inserted and sold as real. The collation calls for 2 blanks at the end of vol. IV and our set is only bound with 1 of them, but this is a trifle compared to skeleton copies lacking everything except the bare bones of text and title pages. Go ahead and read the online descriptions of other copies being offered for more money than ours and see how the describers of those sets try to distract you from, or gloss over, their failings, with the carny side–show slight of hand at which so many booksellers have become so irksomely adept. And sets for less money than ours should only appeal to collectors and librarians equipped with a white stick and a guide dog. In contrast, we offer a 1st edition that’s whole, and it’s in an understated, slinky binding of quiet, unassuming, appropriate elegance, and the completeness guarantees it can be approached with confidence, the price confirms it can be purchased with safety, and the condition assures it will be owned with pride. Ex–The Earl of Shannon (his armorial bookplate) and a stalwart modern library (a small bookplate). Near fine. Item #315
People are quick to overpraise a famous name, but Jane Austen, with her faint penumbra of saintliness, deserves all she gets, chiefly, but not solely, because in 6 novels she fabricated modern romantic comedy and reshaped fiction forever. These last 2 of them, are filled with her exquisite moral discrimination, complex and subtle views of human nature, precise pen portraits, katana sharp dialogue, satirical wit, rustic values, tender skepticism, and an unobtrusive diligence of style, all laid into a pair of plotlines that are warm enough to bake a pizza and honed enough to slice it. When Austen puts these elements to work, her little world of struggling families, husband hunting mothers and daughters, eligible clergymen and landowners, and country fools and snobs, is elevated into a timeless miniature of the wider world where a man has to do what a man can do, and a woman has to do what he can’t. And she reworks a favorite theme (though less polemically and more subtly than in her previous novels), that no addiction is stronger than privilege and no privilege is more strongly addicting than that which is not earned by merit. Less subtle is an undercurrent, proposing that even if women understood men they wouldn’t believe it, but Austen not only grasped men, women, and their relationships better than her peers, she also understood it all more keenly than the most insightful women authors who followed a generation later (say, the Bronte sisters or George Eliot) even though they had the perspective of having read her novels, and the advantage of having been able to stand on her shoulders. And then there is her balancing of love against property, a dispiriting disunion of what on the surface may seem to be divergent objectives clashing in a mutual exclusivity, but romance and finance are conjoined beyond being words that happen to rhyme, in that when one or the other is missing, it’s hard to think about anything else.