Description

    Leigh Hunt's The Months, Descriptive of the Successive Beauties of the Year Inscribed by Mary Shelley. (London: C & J Ollier Vere Street Bond Street, 1821), small 8vo, vellum, with inscription by Mary Shelley on half title and annotations in an unknown hand throughout the text. Included is a postcard dated March 1, 1920 from Thomas J. Wise expressing his opinion that the handwriting in the inscription on the half title is that of Mary Shelley's.

    The card is addressed to "Percy Dobell, Esq., 77, Charing Cross Rd., London, W.C." Printed on the message side of the card is "'Kirkstead,' 25, Heath Drive, Hampstead, N.W." Wise writes, "Dear Dobell, I have looked up some document's written by Mary Shelley in August 1822, and am satisfied that the inscription in your copy of Leigh Hunt's 'Months' is in her hand writing. Truly yours, Thos. J. Wise".

    The inscription on half title reads, "Pisa 20th August 1822, Given her by the author". On page 8, it is stated that Wednesday is named for the gothic deity Woden, which in the House of Commons' Journal translates into Dies Mercurii. In the bottom margin is written "Just as if Woden the Scandinavian god was preferable in any respect to Mercury." In Hunt's praise of April on pages 43-45 appears an ode to the lark from Prometheus Unbound, with other Poems, by Percy Bysshe Shelley. On page 59, in the chapter on May, is printed, "The amorous, genteel, applauded rose." The word "genteel" is underlined and two exclamation marks are hand written after this line. In the discussion of June, on page 67 are words, in Greek, from the poet Moschus along with the following translation, "Now tell your story, hyacinth; and show Ai Ai the more amidst your sanguine woe." Handwritten in the lower margin is, "Now, Hyacynth! [sic] Thy tale in writing tell, and say Ai Ai in many a hill (?) or dell (bell?)". On page 74, still within June, is a passage, in Greek, from the poet Theocritus' Idyll, an exchange between Comatas, a goatherd, and Lacon, a shepherd, followed by translations. A word in Comatas' Greek passage and "sly" in the translation are underlined and an "x" marked to the left of each of the two translations. In the lower margin, is written, "Not the least like-especially Lacon's". On page 109, the last page of September, is an excerpt from Percy Shelley's Revolt of Islam, singing the praises of Mother Earth and harvest time. In October, page 113, the word "anemone" is underlined and further down the page in the right margin, next to a list of berries one is apt to encounter on a stroll in the countryside, is written, "astors". On page 114, in the left margin, next to a reference to a dandy in the "beau-monde" is written "Brummel" [sic]. On page 125 of Hunt's homage to November is printed another excerpt from P. B. Shelley's Revolt of Islam. In the top margin is written, "The last pale leaf, the last of its clan, Dancing as long as dance it can, Hanging so light and hanging so high on the topmost twig that looks up at the sky. Coleridge".

    James Henry Leigh Hunt was born in England of American parents, forced to leave America due to their loyalist leanings. Leigh was a poet, newspaper editor, and close friend of the Shelleys'. Hunt is best known for his poem "The Story of Rimini." He left for Italy in November 1821 at the invitation of P.B. Shelley and Byron to start a liberal quarterly magazine. Storm, sickness, and misadventure retarded his arrival until July 1, 1822, a rate of progress Thomas Love Peacock compared to the navigation of Ulysses. Shelley and another closed friend Edward Williams sailed across the Bay of Spezia to welcome the Hunt family to Italy. After a week-long visit, on July 8, 1822, both men drowned during their return voyage. Mary Shelley's inscription in The Months was written four days after her husband's body was cremated at Viareggio. On September 11, Mary and her son Percy moved to Genoa and lived with the Hunts near Byron.

    Leigh Hunt's life was fraught with mismanaged affairs, both legal and financial. In 1844, when Hunt found himself most wanting, Mary Shelley and her son Percy, having come into their inheritance, bestowed Leigh with an annuity of 120 pounds. In spite of his faults, Leigh Hunt was a consummate man of letters and Charles Dickens described him as "the very soul of truth and honour."

    Thomas James Wise, 1859-1937, was an English bibliographer, book collector, and well-known forger. He published a bibliography of P.B. Shelley among other English literary figures. The most heavily researched and thoroughly documented case of literary forgery in history centers around the series of pamphlets forged by Thomas J. Wise and his collaborator, Harry Buxton Forman. The Wise forgeries have been the focus of numerous books, countless articles and papers, entire symposia, and dozens of exhibitions.

    Bookplate of Lloyd B. Halverson on front pastedown, .125" x .375" pink stain below inscription on half title, .125" chip at top edge of page 125 above annotation, light stain in top margin of page 126, foxing on front free endpaper, verso of half title and on back free endpaper, the top of which is stuck to the back pastedown, .0625" chip at top front of spine, .375" hairline crack at front base of spine, top edge of front and back boards darkened, tip of top corner of front board darkened and slightly bent. From the Betty Bennett Collection.


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