London: Chatto and Windus, 1884. [Literature] FIRST UK EDITION, ASSOCIATION COPY, being novelist Sir Walter Besant's copy, a friend of the author and an early public champion of this book. Octavo (20 x 14cm), pp.xvi; 438; . With 174 wood-cut illustrations by Kemble. Pictorial red cloth boards, brown floral endpapers, later adverts dated January 1885. Illustrated bookplate to pastedown "Walter Besant, M.A." An enthusiastically read copy with some leaves roughly/poorly opened, one of which (p.383) has a resulting chip/loss. Flyleaf with some abrasion caused by clumsy offset adhesive from bookplate, cloth neatly repaired to spine. Although used, this is a copy of great significance. Walter Besant was a prolific and successful novelist of the late-Victorian period. Like Charles Dickens, many of his books concerned life in London, poverty and social hardship. He was founder and first chairman of The Society of Authors and was acknowledged by Rudyard Kipling as an influence. Knighted for services to literature in 1895, he was also treasurer of the 'Atlantic Union', an association seeking to improve social relations between Britons and Americans. In 1898 Besant published a lengthy essay in Munsay's Magazine, praising this Huckleberry Finn and reckoning his choice might be 'perhaps unexpected' since it was not (at that time) 'one of the acknowledged masterpieces, or a book that had been reviewed over and over again'. Mark Twain was "delighted when Sir Walter Besant, the British novelist, critic, historian and philanthropist nominated Twain 'his favourite novelist' and Huck Finn as Twain's best book" (Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of Humanities, Yale). Twain wrote to 'Dear Sir Walter' from Vienna stating the article "makes me very proud - I have just read it in Munsey's for February" and elaborating how Besant had effectively conveyed what writers do not realise in their own work; "Thank you for compacting into words an unarticulated feeling... we often see in pictures and books things which an artist and author did not themselves know they had put there". Their mutual respect culminated in a friendship, and in June 1899 a dinner was held in Twain's honour at the Author's Club, London. After a cordial introduction from Besant, Twain gave an address in which he spoke of their personal friendship and also of friendship between England and America. Item #51352
Bloom; Mark Twain (2009). ALS, Feb.22, Samuel L Clemens [held at New York Public Library's Berg Collection].
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