1ST ENGLISH EDITION OF DUMAS FAIRY TALE WITH FEMINIST PROVENANCE
FIRST EDITION. TWO VOLUMES BOUND IN ONE. Half-titles not called for; FIRST part with wood-engraved frontispiece printed in gold and colours and title-page printed in red and black; Lacking frontispiece for second part; numerous wood-engraved illustrations in text, in black and white. 80, 8 [adverts],; 78, 10 [adverts] pages. Yellow endpapers. Front free endpaper with contemporary and extensive ink inscription, written by Bertha Thomas & dated November 20th 1878. All edges gilt. Title page with some offsetting; scattered foxing throughout. Some gatherings very slightly protruding from the main text block. 10.5 x 16.5 cm Original publisher's green horizontally patterned cloth. Spine unlettered and very slightly creased; upper cover with gilt titling within double gilt fillet border and scrolling decorative inner border and leafy corner-pieces. Lightly rubbed. This the first English translation of Dumas' "Histoire d'un casse-noisette", 1871. ETA Hoffman drew in his Nutcracker and Mouse King, a macabre exploration of wide-eyed childlike imagination pitted against the bourgeois values of 19th-century Bavaria, from folk tales of Bohemia, Poland and Muscovy. Hoffmann’s "Nußknacker und Mausekönig" German original was first published in 1816 in a volume entitled Kinder-Mährchen (Children’s Stories). Nutcracker and Mouse King is a Christmas story, its central character is Marie. & the key figure to the whole work, is Pate (Godfather) Drosselmeier, whose Christmas gift of a toy palace with mechanical figures produces tension between himself and the children because he thinks they do not properly appreciate it. The highest ranking European general of all time of African descent, General Dumas was born to a former slave and a French nobleman on the island of Sainte Dominigue (present day Haiti). Alexandre Dumas was only four when his father died in 1806, but the young boy grew up hearing about his extraordinary military career during the French Revolutionary Wars. These tales of derring-do and extreme exploits in battle helped shape his writerly imagination, and explain why The Battle (in The History of A Nutcracker) is so vivid – despite being played out by tin soldiers and assorted toys.
Dumas’s wife, the actress (born Marguerite-Josephine Ferrand) is credited with translating Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King from German into French. Dumas himself then adapted it, introducing a framing device and restoring the tale to its oral storytelling tradition. Dumas’ version is famously more saccharine than Hoffman’s lugubrious tale, and when Tchaikovsky was commissioned to compose the score for a libretto by Marius Petipa, he was unhappy that Petipa had adapted directly from Dumas. The resulting two-act ballet premiered in December 1892, to mixed reviews. It wasn’t until 1934 that a complete performance reached England, and the ballet wasn’t staged in its entirety in the US until Christmas Eve 1944. That production, by the San Francisco Ballet, met with such acclaim that The Nutcracker has been in production in San Francisco every Christmas since.
Provenance: Bertha Thomas (1845-1918) Not much is known about her life because of not being perceived as 'literary'. However, New Woman Hybridities: Femininity, Feminism, and International Consumer Culture, 1880–1930 (p. 20-21) makes a case for her cultural significance as a feminist, an atypical member of the 'New Woman' movement of writers, and for the Anglo-Welsh cultural sensibilities she brought to her works. She was, in fact, not at all 'unliterary', and moved in the Continental literary circuit that included Samuel Butler, Helen Zimmern, Amy Levy, and Henry Festing Jones. Her novels include Proud Maisie, Cressida, The Violin Player, In A Cathedral City & Ichabod and she wrote about George Sand and Richard Wagner.
WorldCat locates 5 copies in the UK (23 copies worldwide).