3 March 2004
BROWNING, Robert (1812-1889). Aristophanes' Apology including a transcript from Euripides being the Last Adventure of Balaustion. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1875.
8° (172 x 103mm). Uncut in original dark green bevelled cloth, gilt-lettered spine, grey endpapers (inner hinges split), hinged cloth box. Provenance: presentation copy from Browning to his son (inscribed 'To dearest Pen -- from RB./Apr.15. 75.' on half-title) -- R.W. Barrett Browning ('Pen'), sold in his sale Sotheby's 5 May 1913, lot 489, to Quaritch for £29 -- Frank J. Hogan (morocco label), sold Parke-Bernet, New York, 24 April 1945, lot 93 for $10 (£2 10s.) -- [George M. Millard, Pasadena (bookseller's typed description loosely inserted)].
FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION COPY TO THE POET'S SON. This was the longest of Browning's poems apart from The Ring and the Book and Sordello, and one of the most difficult since there are no footnotes to elucidate the immense scholarship. In 1871 Browning had published Balaustion's Adventure, in which Balaustion herself tells the Euripides story of Alkestis and describes the play as she had seen it. In the present poem, Balaustion returns, married to the man she had come to love in the earlier one. Even though Browning only actually knew her as a middle-aged invalid, critical conviction is unanimous that Elizabeth is to be seen in the character of his young and beautiful heroine, and he may therefore have given this copy of Aristophanes' Apology to his son as a conscious tribute to the woman they had both loved and lost. Broughton A100; Wise Browning 17.
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