LAMB, Charles (1775-1834). John Woodvil: A Tragedy, London: T. Plummer, 1802. 12° (168 x 100mm). Woodcut tail-piece. Original paper-backed blue boards (upper cover detached, spine worn with sections lacking), brown morocco solander case by Riviere. Provenance: presentation copy to [Mr. Childs] (front free endpaper headed 'From the Author' and with a further 11-line inscription in Lamb's hand -- 'Recd Sept 26 1834' (inscription on front pastedown; further inscription erased) -- Frank J. Hogan, part 2 of his sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, lot 459 for $575 (£143 15s) -- Halsted B. Vander Poel. Exhibited: Grolier Club (exhibition label).
FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION COPY. John Childs (d. 1853), printer of Bungay in Norfolk, wrote to Lamb in December 1834, saying his copy of Elia had been sent on an oriental voyage, and could he replace it. In his reply, Lamb remarked 'the volume you seem to want is not to be had for love or money', but offered to lend him his own copy, and also to order him a copy of the newly-published Last Essays of Elia. 'In return, you shall favour me with the loan of one of those Norfolk-bred grunters that you laud so highly: I promise not to keep it above a day. What a funny name Bungay is! I never dreamt of a correspondence thence' (The Letters of Charles Lamb, ed. E.V. Lucas, 1935, III, pp. 420-421). As Lamb's presentation inscription makes clear, Child took this whimsical suggestion seriously. The author of the essay, 'Dissertation on Roast Pig', writes to say he has eaten the pig with zest: 'In great haste, the Pig was faultless -- we got decently merry after it, and chirp'd & sang "Heigh! Bessy Bungay" in honor to the Sender.' Lamb also enquires after the safe delivery of the two volumes of essays: 'Pray let me have a line to say you got the Books: Keep the 1st vol. two or three months, so long as it comes home at last.' Lamb's play was published at his own expense after its rejection by the Drury Lane management, causing him a loss of £25. Among the fragments at the end is Mary Lamb's poem "Helen", thought to be her first published work. VERY RARE. Thomson XV.