Book Description

O’MEARA’S CELEBRATED ACCOUNT OF NAPOLEON’S EXILE ON ST HELENA, IN A NAPOLEONIC BINDING

2 volumes, octavo in 4s (201 x 130mm), pp. I: [iii]-xxviii (title, verso blank, note on the frontispieces and plates, prefaces to the first and second editions), [3]-512; II: [4 (title, verso blank, dedication, verso blank)], [1]-552. Engraved additional titles with vignettes after T.H. Shepherd, engraved frontispieces by T. Wollnoth et al. with guards, and 2 engraved plates by T.A. Dean and J. Barnett after Baynes et al. Letterpress tables in the text. (Some light spotting or marking, light damp-marking on a few ll. and engravings.) Late 19th-/early 20th-century half blue calf over cloth, spines gilt in compartments, lettered directly in 2 and dated at the foot, others with ‘N’-monogram, bee, fleur-de-lys, and eagle tools, marbled endpapers, top edges gilt. (Extremities slightly rubbed, possibly bound without half-titles.) A very good set in a Napoleonic binding.

Provenance: occasional, early annotations and marginal markings – Hugh Selbourne (1906-1973, physician and bibliophile, inkstamps on I title verso; I, p. 51; II additional title verso; and II, p. 51).
Dealer Notes
Sixth edition. The Irish physician Barry O’Meara (1786-1836) was medical attendant to Napoleon at St Helena from 1815 until he resigned from his post in July 1818, as the result of strong differences of opinion with the Governor, Sir Hudson Lowe, and was expelled from the island by Lowe. On his return to England O’Meara sent a letter to the Admiralty, insinuating that Napoleon’s life was not safe in Lowe’s hands, and then published Napoleon in Exile in 1822, which created a sensation, especially because of O’Meara’s denouncement of the treatment meted out to Napoleon by Lowe and the government.

Its publication had been eagerly anticipated, and the appearance of the first edition in July 1822 ‘caused so much stir and was so much in demand that arrangements had to be made to keep those requiring copies in a long file to prevent [Simpkin & Marshall’s] shop being overcrowded, purchasers being so numerous that they could not be supplied with sufficient despatch. The crowd of buyers were made to pass through the shop in Stationers’ Hall Court, and to prevent confusion had to pass out through Amen Corner’ (J. Shaylor, The Fascination of Books, with other Papers on Books & Bookselling (London, 1912), p. 207). O’Meara was characterised by Byron in ‘The Age of Bronze’ (1823) as ‘[t]he stiff surgeon who maintain’d his cause / Hath lost his place and gain’d the world’s applause’, and five English editions of Napoleon in Exile appeared in the year of publication and translations into French (1822), German (1822), Dutch (1822), and Spanish (1827) followed rapidly. This sixth edition contains the ‘Preface to the Second Edition’ – which explains that ‘[t]his Edition has been carefully revised, a few verbal inaccuracies corrected, and a new Engraving added of a drawing from the statue presented to me by Napoleon on my leaving St. Helena’ (I, p. [xxi]) – and was the first to be issued by Jones. It was also the first edition to include the engraved additional titles with a vignette after T.H. Shepherd depicting ‘The Northumberland & Myrmidon Conveying Napoleon to the Island of St. Helena, Octr. 15, 1815’.

Despite its popularity with Napoleon’s supporters due to its portrayal of Lowe as ‘spiteful, arbitrary, and vindictive’, Napoleon in Exile ‘was received with scepticism, not least because of inconsistencies between it and earlier accounts by O’Meara’ (ODNB); nevertheless, although it later became evident that O’Meara had overstated his case, the work remains an important primary source for Napoleon’s exile on St Helena.

Kircheisen 4141.
Author O’MEARA, Barry Edward
Date 1827
Publisher London: J. M’Gowan and Son for Jones and Co

Price: £295.00

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