Thursday, 10 November 2011

The History of Miss Leonora Meadowson

Haywood's The History of Miss Leonora Meadowson is a fascinating and curious work for many reasons. I invested an enormous amount of time in searching for a copy—or, indeed, any trace—of Leonora Meadowson; and when I did find a copy at the Fales library in New York it was one of the major milestones in my Haywood research. My first conference paper (at the 1999 BSANZ Conference), and my first published article, were also on "Eliza Haywood's last ('lost') work."

After my 1999 article the discoveries continued, when I realised that Leonora Meadowson was a revision of Cleomelia, making it one of a tiny number of examples of Haywood revising one of her works, and it was one of the key pieces of evidence tying the death(?) of Haywood's daughter-in-law to 2 Cowley Street in Westminster in 1788.

Since my Bibliography was printed in 2004 I have continued to search for references to this work in particular. Every time a new resource becomes available I use it to trawl for something I might have missed, but so far my finds have hardly been noteworthy.

On ECCO I found two bookseller's catalogues which contained copies of Leonora Meadowson. These are: Sael's Catalogue for 1792 (London: G. Sael, Bookseller, at the English Library, Newcastle Street, Strand, [1792]), 120 (no. 3284), "History of Miss Leonora Meadowson, 2 vols. h[alf]. b[ound]. new, 3s 6d" and Lackington, Allen, & Co.'s Catalogue, vol. 1 [Michaelmas 1798–99] (London: Lackington, Allen, & Co., Booksellers, Temple of the Muses, Finsbury-Square, [1798]), 116 (no. 4512): "Leonora Meadowson, a Novel, 2 vols. new, half bound 3s 4d 1788".

On the Burney newspaper text-base I found only one new advertisement, in The World, 11 July 1788, issue 479, from five months after the release of the book (see below). And on Google Books I found another bookseller's catalogue and advertisement. The catalogue is A Catalogue of Books in John Harding's Circulating Library, in the Market-Place, Abingdon, Berkshire ([Abingdon: John Harding], 1804), 37 (no. 617–18): "Leonora Meadowson, 2 vols. 5s." (the price being the replacement cost, as set out in clause IV of the terms of subscription); the advertisement appears in The British Mercury; Or, Annals of History, Politics…, 4:10 (3 March 1788): 318 "New Books … Leonora Meadowson. A Novel, 2 vol. Pr. 5s."

The geographical spread of these last two finds is interesting, particularly The British Mercury, which was edited by Johann Wilhelm von Archenholz in Hamburg. The British Mercury contained a digest of political and literary news from England and information about works available in Hamburg.

* * * * *

My recent discovery of a copy of Leonora Meadowson in another circulating library is much more important than the above—because the circulating library in question was in New York and it is possible that the unique Fale's copy of Leonora Meadowson is the same copy as that recorded as being held in Louis Alexis Hocquet de Caritat's Circulating Library in an 1804 catalogue.

In 1940 George Gates Raddin, the owner of one of only two surviving copies of this 1804 catalogue, published an annotated Checklist of the Fiction in H. Caritat's Circulating Library. He then published a series of studies of Caritat in very limited editions. Two of these studies are: The New York of Hocquet Caritat and his Associates, 1797–1817 and Hocquet Caritat and the Early New York Literary Scene. I have the checklist in front of me, and have put in loan requests for the other two studies.

According to Raddin's An Early New York Library of Fiction: With a Checklist of the Fiction in H. Caritat's Circulating Library, no. 1 City hotel, Broadway, New York, 1804 (New York: H. W. Wilson Co., 1940), 66, Haywood was reasonably well-represented in Caritat's Circulating Library. The following five works are listed:

[1] Ab.68.4 The History of Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy, New ed. (1769) [Raddin locates a copy at MBU, but it does not appear on their online catalogue.]

[2] Ab.35.2 The History of Miss Leonora Meadowson

[3] Ab.69.6 The Invisible Spy, New ed. (1773).

[4] Aa.3.3 Secret Histories, Novel and Poems, 4th ed. (1742)—although "Caritat lists a 1-vol. ed." suggesting the set was incomplete.

[5] Ab.70.1 The Wife (1756).

Raddin was unable to locate a copy of Leonora Meadowson, so he quotes the entry from the 1804 catalogue in full ("History of Miss LENORA MEADOWSON, a novel, 2 vols"). What is not clear is if Leonora Meadowson appeared in any of the earlier Caritat catalogues. Of these there were at least two in English, the three being:

[1799] The Feast of Reason and the Flow of the Soul. A New Explanatory Catalogue of H. Caritat's General & Increasing Circulating Library (New York: M. L. & W. A. Davis, 1799) [ESTC: W27154; two copies (MWA, NN)].

[1803] A Catalogue of the Library of H. Caritat's Literary Room, New-York (New York: Isaac Collins & Son, 1803).

[1804] Explanatory Catalogue of H. Caritat's Circulating Library; no.I. City Hotel, Broad-Way, New-York (New York: G. & R. Waite, 1804).

Unfortunately, the nearest copy of an original of any of these is 7800 miles according to WorldCat! All of these are available online in the Early American imprints database, but not to me, so I am going to have to ask a colleague to look at them for me to establish when Caritat might have acquired his copy of Leonora Meadowson.

As for when he disposed of it: in 1804 Caritat sold the library to Isaac Riley, who soon after went bankrupt. What happened after that isn't clear. Yet. I hope to find out more about the fate of Caritat's books from Raddin's two histories. But presumably the library was sold, piecemeal. And, having been sold, it looks like this copy of Leonora Meadowson stayed put in New York until about 1970 when it was (mis)catalogued at the Fales library.

Of course, the Fales copy may not be the Caritat copy—in fact, the lovely condition of the Fale's copy argues against it—but so few copies of Leonora Meadowson are recorded that it is even more improbable that two copies made it to New York in the 1790s.

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