Stock, Women & Writing

Almahide, or the Captive Queen. An Excellent New Romance, Never before in English. The whole Work…

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[SCUDERY, Madeleine de] / PHILLIPS, John
London, John Macock for Thomas Dring
US$ 2,500.00
A MOORISH ROMANCE FOR THE RESTORATION. Folio [31 x 19.5 cm]. 4 parts in 1. (4), 225pp, (1); 267 pp, (1); 107 pp, (1), 76 pp. Bound in full 18th century calf with gilt-and-red title label on spine; with a variety of ownership inscriptions and authorial attributions on pastedown and title-page including that of Ebenezer Pardee (Skaneateles, NY, 1765-1812). Upper margin of title-page lost (evidently some time ago, judging by the toning on the subsequent page); lower margin strengthened unobtrusively on verso. A few ink smudges and frayed margins throughout; loss of a few letters only on final leaf thanks to a torn corner. Generally a good, sound copy. Scarce first English translation of this elaborate novel by Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701) which introduced the ideal of the romanticized Moor into the European Enlightenment – a trope continued by Madame de Lafayette’s Zaÿde all the way through to Washington Irving’s Conquest of Granada (1829). Like most of Madeleine’s works, Almahide was published under her brother Georges’ name in 1661; and it was this French original which directly inspired John Dryden’s play Almanzor and Almahide, or, The Conquest of Granada (performed 1670, printed 1672 and several times thereafter). Here, the translator John Phillips (mischievous nephew of John Milton, see below) perhaps sought to capitalize on the popularity of Dryden’s play by publishing Scudéry’s foundational text, adapted into four ‘Parts’, of which the last two are entirely of his own invention. The Scudéry/Phillips text is inflected with intriguing subtleties which subvert common mores: for example, in Part II there is a discussion of the male ‘submissive Lovers’, who in fact enjoy more success than their traditionally violent, domineering counterparts ( ‘that submission which seems so feeble, is more strong, than all the Machines which Love employs against a Heart; It insinuates insensibly, it renders it self Mistress’ (Part II, p. 29). The plot here revolves around the Moorish Queen Almahide, who is unhappily betrothed to Boabdelin, King of the Moors, to the extent that she is considered a slave (‘ésclave’ in the French original, ‘captive’ here). Earlier in her life, Almahide had been shipwrecked and captured by the Spanish Duke of Medina, who raised her alongside his own son, Ponce. As soon as the two young people fall in love, Almahide is ransomed back by her Moorish family and forced to marry Boabdelin; she is followed by the desperate Ponce, who agrees to become her slave so that he can continue to enjoy her company. In the meantime, a civil war breaks out between two rival factions within the Granadan Moors, the Zegry and the Abencerrage. Almahide and Ponce naturally find themselves on opposite sides of the divide; and so the action continues. Phillips (1631-1706) was the nephew and godson of John Milton. “From infancy he lived with his uncle, from whom he derived all of his education… He soon chafed against his uncle’s strict discipline and principles, and… [wrote] a smart attack upon the religion of Cromwell and his friends, almost worthy of the author of ‘Hudibras’…” (DNB). A further licentious work, Sportive Wit (1656) was ordered to be burned by Cromwell’s Council of State. Phillips produced a large number of similarly scurrilous works and satirical imitations; in the years following his translation of Almahide, he found a sympathetic cause in the virulent bigotry of Titus Oates. We find just one copy in auction records of the last 25 years (Bloomsbury 2008: “title creased and slightly stained, large hole in 2C2 affecting a few letters [etc. etc.]); a copy before that sold at Swann in 1996 (“modern half calf”) for $316. ESTC shows 6 institutions in the UK; in the US it is held at Bryn Mawr, Columbia, Folger, Harvard, Huntington, LC Philadelphia, NYHS, Newberry, Princeton, UCLA, Chicago, Illinois, UNC, UVA, Wesleyan, and Yale. * Wing S2142; ESTC R226212; and cf Schweitzer, “Dryden's Use of Scudéry's Almahide” Modern Language Notes, Vol. 54, (1939), pp. 190-192; and Christian-Muslim Relations. A Bibliographical History Vol. 13 (2019), pp. 488-90.