BROWNING, Robert (1812-1889). Balaustion's Adventure: including a transcript from Euripides. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1871.
8° (171 x 102mm). Original reddish brown bevelled cloth, spine lettered in gilt (extremities lightly rubbed). An ALS from the author tipped in before title, 2½pp., 12°, dated Allean House, Pitlochry, 9 September '71, to [?Horace Moule], thanking him for 'the Poem, this moment received ....' Browning considers Euripides' idiomatic use of the unusual Greek word \Kkaratouwn\k ('beheaded') to be 'corroborated' both by the manner that Perseus 'turned his back to the Gorgon and only saw her by the help of the reflection in a mirror,' and in Alkestis 'after the fashion in which Admetos stretched forth his hand and touched Alkestis [without looking at her]; as the words of Herakles indicate.' He will be 'glad to see' his correspondent's review 'if it appears.' Provenance: Ellen Hadwen (1871 ownership inscription on front pastedown) -- [Halliday's catalogue 211, item 195, reference in Kelley & Hudson p. :92] -- purchased from B. Halliday, Leicester, catalogue 230 no 98, 6 October 1938, £3 10s.
FIRST EDITION. Browning's letter mentions the key event in this dramatic re-telling of Euripides' story of Alkestis through the medium of his own invented character, Balaustion. The fates decree the death of Admetos, King of Thessaly, unless someone is willing to take his place. When Alkestis comes forward to save her husband's life, her only request is that he will give their children no stepmother. She dies, but is brought back from Hades by Herakles who offers her to the king veiled. To his credit Admetos refuses to accept an unknown woman, but Herakles eventually persuades him to touch 'the stranger-woman,' even though he will not look at her. 'There! A hand I stretch,' says Admetos finally, 'As though it meant to cut off Gorgon's head!' (pp. 146-47). The review that Browning looks forward to reading is evidently of his own book, published on 8 August. Broughton A91; Wise Browning 13.