8 December 2015
?POPE, Alexander. The Character of Katharine, Late Duchess of Buckinghamshire and Normanby. London: M. Cooper, 1746.
2° (310 x 199mm). (Two text leaves with small hole in fore-margin.) 20th-century black cloth with red morocco spine label. Provenance: Gerald E. Slater copy (his sale, Christie’s New York, 12 February 1982, lot 141).
FIRST EDITION, SLATER COPY. Pope claimed to have revised but not written this short 5-page memoir (Correspondence, ed. Sherburn. v. 460), and it was not included in volume 2 of his Prose Works (1986). Since it concerns a woman with whom he had a long and sometimes stormy relationship, it nevertheless has strong interest. Katharine’s character probably became more extreme after the death of her husband, John Sheffield, Duck of Buckinghamshire, on 24 February 1721. As agreed, Pope arranged for posthumous publication of the Duke’s papers. The “tempestuous Duchess,” a natural daughter of James II, made “overbearing demands on his time, not merely for the niceties of the inscription honouring her husband in the book but for the design of the monument she was erecting to him in the Abbey” (Mack, Alexander Pope 396). Their relationship nevertheless remained friendly until 1729 when Pope’s revision of a character the Duchess had written of herself caused a rupture lasting five or six years. The over-bearing character of Atossa in Pope’s Epistle to a Lady probably represents her (see next lot; also TE Poems. iii.2. 155-64n). ESTC lists 16 copies, no auction sale is recorded on-line since 1953. Griffith 617.
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