SEA HORSES. Francis Brett Young.

SEA HORSES. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1925. Octavo, pp. [1-6] 1-321 [322: colophon], title page printed in blue and black, original decorated blue cloth, front and spine panels stamped in orange, purple and gold, running Borzoi stamped in blind on rear panel, top edge stained yellow, other edges rough trimmed. First U.S. edition. A dense and carefully crafted novel combining psychological realism with nautical and African adventure, definitely a work of literary rather than popular fiction. But it is also a wrenching horror novel with imaginative supernatural highlights that should appeal to lovers of these genres. Finally, it is a love story between individuals who are not idealized or romanticized but shown to us with all their warts and weakness as well as their moments of heroism, which impress us all the more because we understand their cost. The hero, Captain Glanville, is a 40-year-old sea captain on his first command, a strong but brittle man, a bachelor who is uncomfortable around women, and we follow him along what is essentially a descent into hell -- and his final miraculous escape from it. From the moment of his first contact with the shipping agents in Naples who have become his new clients, through his agonizing love of Helen Salvia, to the intersection of his ship with an African tornado, this is a story of a self-contained man's encounter with the other, the alien, the uncivilized and inhuman, whether it wears the mask of god or devil -- or woman. Starting slowly with mundane events, the story builds up a mood of tension, dread and hostility that gains momentum and intensity, like a giant ship getting underway from a dead stop, until, cutting through all resistance of disbelief at full speed, it carries us into and through some quite miraculous events. The destination of Glanville's freighter is a moribund port in Mozambique, whither his passenger, a young English woman, with her five-year-old daughter, has come, gaining her passage on purely charitable grounds, to look for her Italian husband, absent for seven years, a scoundrel who has gone native in the worst way. The alien reaches one of its fullest expressions in the person of Almeida, the universally hated and feared Portuguese shipper with whom Glanville has business dealings. It is revealed to us after the fact that these were meetings with something that was either a ghost or a reanimated corpse. In the final scene, Glanville steams triumphantly away from the port at dawn in a wild storm, only to run aground, an easy target for his enemies ashore. Seconds later, a tornado lifts the ship off this shoal and sets it free -- "an act of God," as he and his first officer agree. The novel bears comparison with Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS, although its human horrors are mostly Europeans, with blacks merely forming a part of the background. Not as well known as Young's other supernatural novel, COLD HARBOUR, but a very fine novel and an effective thriller in its own right. (Reading note by Robert Eldridge). Day, The Supplemental Checklist of Fantastic Literature, p. 96. Not in Bleiler (1948; 1978) or Reginald (1979; 1992). NCBEL IV 782. A fine copy in very good pictorial dust jacket with shelf wear and shallow chipping at edges. (#101143).

Price: $150.00

Printing identification statement for this book:
"PUBLISHED, MARCH, 1925" on copyright page.