OUT OF HIS HEAD: A ROMANCE ... Edited by [i.e. written by] Thomas Bailey Aldrich. New York: Carleton, Publisher, 413 Broadway. (Late Rudd & Carleton.), 1862. 12mo, pp. [i-v] vi [vii] viii [9-11] 12-226 [227-228: ads], flyleaves at front and rear, original pebbled blue cloth, front and rear panels stamped in blind, spine panel stamped in gold, brown coated endpapers. First edition, first printing with "Thackaray" for "Thackeray" on the title page. This cloth issue was probably simultaneous with the paperbound copies. Aldrich's first collection of short fiction. "The title story is a short novel with three self-contained tales framed within a narrative that establishes the speaker (Paul Lynde) as a resident of a private lunatic asylum, followed by a short ‘found manuscript’ from colonial witchcraft days, in the light of which the three self-contained tales demonstrate the working out of an ancient curse. Taken as a whole, this marks an important, though overlooked, early contribution to American supernatural fiction. The work has some tonal inconsistencies that show up the author’s inexperience (he was only 26 at the time of its publication) but one can also see a rich imagination is at work here, deploying ghosts, dreams, sorcery, fate, curses, prophecies, reincarnation, witchcraft, magic objects and crazy inventions -- not to mention murder, madness and an early locked-room mystery. Chapters 11-14 (the third of the three tales) constitute the first detective story by an American to appear in book form since the publication of Poe's TALES (1845). Not the least of the work’s merits is that it mines native material rather than falling back on the accumulated glamour of the Old World. Alas, the hero’s repeated references to a 'moon-apparatus' never become more than a tease. But what a tease! While mooning about near his Portsmouth NH beach side cottage, Lynde conceives the idea that the real moon is generated in the depths of the sea, and that what appears in the sky is only a reflection of this. His device will gather these moon rays inside a copper cylinder and calcine them into a powder … In his room next to the moon-apparatus is a white lily in a glass globe, containing, as he explains to one of the asylum staff, the soul of Cecil Roylstone. The three tales are set, respectively, in New England, New Orleans and New York, where always the hero restlessly looks for something new, yet always finds the same thing: someone with a faint scar that appears at times on his or her upper lip -- and tragedy. The writing is marred, especially at the beginning and end of the story, by that studied leisureliness that poisons so much mid-nineteenth century American fiction, serving primarily to act as a badge of class affiliation; but in between break out passages of genuine horror and beauty. Over some there hovers a sheen of Baudelairean decay. Aldrich, a New Hampshire native who lived for a time in New Orleans as a child, was a member of the Bohemian New York scene in the early 1860s that included Bayard Taylor, Fitz-James O’Brien and Walt Whitman, among others; he became an accomplished lyric poet, and an editor (at Ticknor and Fields from the mid-1860s to the mid-1870s, and at the ATLANTIC MONTHLY during the 1880s). His fiction, especially his shorter works, show some of the precision and flair that distinguish his poetry. Of the five stories that round out this collection (rather clumsily cobbled together as from the notebook of Paul Lynde), one, ‘Pere Antoine’s Date Palm,’ is a rather poignant supernatural tale that was reprinted in some of Aldrich’s later collections. Altogether, Aldrich was an important voice in American letters and merits more attention than he generally receives today." - Robert Eldridge. Queen's Quorum 6. BAL 257 (form 1[2?]). Wright (II) 37. Cloth worn at spine ends and corner tips, slight spine lean, lacks front flyleaf, a good copy. An uncommon, important book. (#150809).
No statement of printing on copyright page. Note: First printing has "Thackaray" for "Thackeray" on title page; sheets bulk 7/8ths of an inch.