BROWNING, Robert (1812-1889). Sordello. London: Edward Moxon, 1840.
8° (161 x 100mm). (Without final advertisement leaf.) Presentation binding of contemporary brown morocco, covers with double gilt fillet and central arabesque, spine gilt, gilt turn-ins, crimson silk endpapers (upper cover detached, spine and corners chipped). Provenance: presentation copy from the author to William Charles Macready (front free endpaper inscribed: 'W.C. Macready Esq/with RB's sincere regards'; Macready's armorial bookplate).
FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION COPY TO MACREADY. Browning's introduction to William Macready (1793-1873), in November, 1835, was 'one of the milestone's in his life. The friendship led to others and also distracted him into the writing of a series of plays neither good nor successful. The inevitable quarrel with which their relations ended drove him back into poetry, but perhaps the plays prepared him for the dramatic monologue -- a form which was to become so distinctively his' (Maisie Ward Robert Browning and His World, 1968-69, I, p. 63). Macready was distressed, not only at finding Sordello unreadable, but by Browning's 'obstinate' belief in it. He noted in his diary, March 29, 1840: 'Browning called, and presented me with his book of Sordello'; June 17: 'After dinner tried -- another attempt -- utterly desperate -- at Sordello; it is not readable'; August 12: he 'honestly told' Browning his opinion of both Sordello and his latest play; April 27, 1841: 'Browning came before I had finished my bath, and really wearied me with his obstinate faith in his poem of Sordello, and of his eventual celebrity ... I fear he is forever gone' (The Journal of William Charles Macready, ed. J.C. Trewin, 1967, pp. 153-59). Broughton A14; Wise Browning 4.