DescriptionMary Austin Holley. Texas. Observations, Historical, Geographical and Descriptive, In a Series of Letters, Written during a Visit to Austin's Colony, with a view to a permanent settlement in that country, in the Autumn of 1831. By Mrs. Mary Austin Holley. With an Appendix, Containing specific answers to certain questions, relative to Colonization in Texas, issued some time since by the London Geographical Society. Also, some notice of the recent political events in that quarter. Baltimore: Armstrong & Plaskitt, 1833. First American edition, having first been published in London the year before. This is the first book written entirely about Texas in English. 12mo, 167 pages. Appendix. With folding map, "Map of the State of Coahuila and Texas" by W. Hooker (13.25" x 10.75"). Map has one archival repair and very light foxing; right edge is slightly chipped. "Copper Mine" and "Whaco a Village" circled in pencil. There is, however, no paper loss and the map is in near pristine condition. Taliaferro calls Hooker's map "one of the earliest maps of Texas to show all of Texas to the Arkansas River, including the Panhandle." This map conforms to Streeter's 2nd with "Beales and Rayuelles Grant" at top left, Hooker's name added beneath the title, and Milam's Grant labeled "Beales Grant." Reddish-brown cloth, with title and decorative device in gilt on front board. Cloth is rubbed and soiled and heavily faded in parts; spine faded with the author's name and title handwritten in black ink. Edges and extremities are worn; corners bumped and frayed. Joints worn causing spine covering to detach in places; front hinge cracked, but binding is tight. Gilt dulled slightly. Moderately foxed throughout. Pencil notations in places. Page 86 is misnumbered as "62" and covered over with black ink. In a clear dust jacket. Book is in generally very good condition.
A signature reading "Almonte" dated 1834 appears on the front pastedown and is purported to be that of Juan Nepomuceno Almonte, a Mexican general who served as an aide-de-camp on the staff of General Santa Anna throughout his invasion of Texas during the Texas Revolution. Below the signature appears the following: "Rare autograph of 'Almonte'/Mexican leader/Texas Revolution/[illegible] his [illegible] given at San Antonio/Alex Dienst." While the above notation by Dienst is heavily damaged by waterstains to the point of being nearly illegible, the "autograph" of Almonte is bold and bright, despite a portion of it lying in the same dampstaining. Directly opposite, on the front free endpaper, is written: "Dr. Alex Dienst/Temple/1915." Several notations in pencil also appear on the rear pastedown endpaper listing the contents of the book, also in the hand of Dienst. Alexander Dienst was a dentist and historian who amassed a large collection of books and primary sources dealing with Texas history, primarily the Texas Revolution and the Texas Navy. From 1932 to 1935 served as president of the Texas State Historical Association and authored the book "The Navy of the Republic of Texas, 1835-1845."
"Texas" is an epistolary account of the author's journey to Texas (specifically to Austin's Colony) in the fall of 1831. Mrs. Holley was, in fact, a cousin of Stephen F. Austin, and the book is dedicated to him. Holley was enthusiastic about the country and its prospects, and in this series of letters, she describes many aspects of the region, including the landscape as well as the political, economic, and social climate. Holley was so taken with this "splendid country" that she rhapsodizes about Texas, describing it as an almost idyllic utopia: "Ones feelings in Texas are unique and original, and very like a dream or youthful vision realized. Here, as in Eden, man feels alone with the God of nature, and seems, in a peculiar manner, to enjoy the rich bounties of heaven, in common with all created things. [...] [T]he profound stillness; the genial sun and soft air, - all are impressive, and are calculated, both to delight the imagination, and to fill the heart, with religious emotions" (Holley, p. 127). She concludes - somewhat vehemently - that a person would do well to "settle accounts at home, and begin life anew in Texas. He will find, here, abundant exercise for all his faculties, both of body and mind, a new stimulus to his exertions, and a new current for his affections. He may be obliged to labour hard, but riches are a very certain reward of his exertions" (p. 131). Mrs. Holley was certainly one of the most persuasive boosters of emigration to Texas, and many of her readers were no doubt swayed to head to this new Promised Land as soon as they could!
Reference: Basic Texas Books 93. Graff 1934. Howes H593. Raines, p. 116. Sabin 32528. Streeter Texas 1135, 1136. Taliaferro 241.
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