THE KING OF THOMOND: A STORY OF YESTERDAY. Martin W. Barr.

THE KING OF THOMOND: A STORY OF YESTERDAY. Boston: Herbert B. Turner & Company, 1907. Octavo, pp. [i-iv] [i-iv] v [vi] ix-xix [xx: blank] 1-218 [219-220: blank] [note: text complete despite gap in pagination ("ix" should have been numbered "vii" etc.)], inserted frontispiece (sepia portrait of the novel's heroine), title page printed in black and red, original pictorial maroon cloth, front panel stamped in white, gold and silver, spine panel stamped in white. First edition. "A brief foreword by the director of an insane asylum in rural Pennsylvania establishes a narrative frame for the novel, introducing us to the author of the first-person memoir that makes up its bulk. Una Constance Mabie O'Brien was a quiet reclusive lady who sometimes fell into periods of extreme melancholia and wandered out into the snow one winter day and died of pneumonia soon thereafter. Her story begins on a lonely island in ante-bellum Maryland called Thomond where she spent her first carefree days. When her mother dies she is claimed by her father, a sinister-looking man who takes her to Philadelphia where he works in a company of actors (a disreputable profession at the time), part of whose repertoire is an adaptation of Spenser's 'The Faerie Queen.' When she turns 17 she hears from an uncle who has arranged a position for her as a nurse-governess in a house back on Thomond Island owned by a Dr. Brian O'Brien. On her arrival he tells Constance about her charge, six-year old Geraldine, who never speaks; he muses at dinner about putting some machinery inside her. When she is introduced to his wife she discovers, when she accidentally knocks her over as she is climbing the stairs, that the woman is a giant wax doll. The daughter is also a wax doll. Yet Dr. O'Brien insists on treating both as if they were alive. Constance is to give Geraldine daily three-hour lessons, which she agrees to, having no other realistic option for supporting herself. Dr. O'Brien is something of a ventriloquist and sometimes manages to make the dolls 'speak' at family dinners. He also has a laboratory where he performs anatomical experiments. The two become friends and eventually fall in love. They enjoy dressing up and staging theatricals for their own benefit. One night, after O'Brien's return from a trip, she is kept awake by a whirring noise, which turns out to be the saw he is using in his laboratory to cut open the skull of a dead woman. The next day he tells his story. He confesses that insanity runs in his family. When he was younger he fell in love with a beautiful woman named Margaret Archer, who gave him as a love token a drop of her blood on a crystal jewel, saying that if it ever lost its red color it would prove her false. This indeed happens one day and O'Brien flees in despair. Inspired by a reading of FRANKENSTEIN, he makes wax dolls of his dead mother and sister, trying for years to bring them to life. On a trip out of town (after the arrival of Una) he happens across the corpse of Margaret in a morgue. She had died after falling into drug addiction. He brings the corpse back to Thomond Island and was doing an autopsy on her brain when Una walked in. Nevertheless, as he continues the story of his life, he confesses his love to Una and they become engaged. On the day of their planned wedding, however, O'Brien apparently suffers a psychotic break and is confined to a sanitarium. When the Civil War breaks out he escapes, is shot while being recaptured and dies in the arms of Una. She is left penniless and eventually winds up in the asylum where the novel began. The novel has some of the genteel sentimentality typical of the period but offers a good deal of effectively weird atmosphere as it weaves together the themes of imagination, legends, dreams and madness." - Robert Eldridge. Bleiler (1978), p. 16. Smith, American Fiction, 1901-1925 B-266. Former owner's pencil ownership signature on front free endpaper. The fragile white stamping is perished from the spine panel (but 99% intact on front cover), the spine ends have a touch of wear, a bright very good copy, nearly fine aside from the flaws mentioned. A scarce book. (#147921).

Price: $500.00

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Printing identification statement for this book:
"PUBLISHED MARCH, 1907" on copyright page