Life’s Fairy Tales book J. A. Mitchell 117 pages 1895


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Life’s Fairy Tales book J. A. Mitchell, Author of the Last American, 117 pages 1895

Gorgeous quill gift inscription from a man W. Lees, with love to a woman Rhoda Weston, her initials stamped with personal insignia gold gilt stamps.

Reading copy, Sadly page 5 has come loose from the binding and is badly stained. There is only one word on the page that cannot be read though.

New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1892. illustrations by C. D. Gibson and others, original pictorial blue cloth, front panel stamped in black and gold, spine panel stamped in black. First edition. “A slim collection of fifteen very short fairy tales with contemporary settings and sophisticated treatments. A few veer off into the sentimental but most strike a tone of cheerful cynicism that is pleasantly tart: wry without being sour, cheerful despite the clear cold eye they cast on the threadbare tapestry of human life. ‘The Fairy Bishop,’ to take an example, offers up an ironic version of an Ovidian etymological myth. A fairy floating down a New York street sees two girls on a stoop fondling a kitten and, eager to take part in some of this fun, turns himself into a kitten, but is pursued by a pair of malicious boys and their dog. He bounds up some steps and turns himself into a bishop, bringing instant consternation to his pursuers. At the same moment, the owner of the house storms out, thinking to rescue the kitten from the boys. The fairy explains his true identity and offers to reward the man for his good intentions. What is his fondest wish? The man is an Episcopalian clergyman, enervated by the tedious demands of his career. He would like to become – a family coachman. ‘That is asking more than you realize,’ replied the bishop. ‘You are probably laboring under the common delusion that a family coachman is mentally inferior to an Episcopal clergyman.’ Nevertheless, the wish is granted, and, in fact, prompts a series of similar transformations. ‘So whenever you see a coachman whose intense respectability suggests a clerical origin, you will understand how it came about.’ Eleven of the stories are minor gems, fit to put alongside the work of John Collier or Oscar Wilde. An underrated — or, more accurately, unknown — book that deserves a wider audience. The illustrations add to the charm of the book.” – Robert Eldridge. Bleiler

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