A DISSERTATION UPON SECOND FIDDLES. London: Grant Richards, 1902. Octavo, pp. [1-8] 1-270 [271: blank] [272: printer's imprint], original brown cloth, spine panel stamped in gold, all edges untrimmed. First edition. This oddly titled, but glorious volume ... [which] appeared in 1902 under the Grant Richards imprint, is a collection of four novellas loosely linked by both a common theme and the reappearance of certain minor characters from one tale to another. Stylistically, the novellas are a great improvement over the earlier short stories. O'Sullivan has discovered humor, albeit of a midnight-black variety, and perhaps a new literary master as well. The lean, razor-sharp intelligence of Baudelaire that had heretofore served as O'Sullivan's literary Pharos has been supplanted by a more discursive, grandly baroque manner of expression. O'Sullivan now sounds like nothing so much as an English-language Leon Bloy. The first section, "Of Kindred," presents another mysterious stranger offering a deal too good to be true to another desperate protagonist. But whereas in the earlier story, "The Bargain of Rupert Orange," the Mephistopheles figure is a real demon, and Orange, a man within an ace of starving to death in a garret, in this tale an aging titled hypochondriac has a run-in with a mysterious German academic with a novel theory on the prolongation of life. (Briefly it consists of identifying your strongest enemies and gifting them with annuities that expire upon your death, thus turning their hatred into fervent wishes for your continued good health.) The black humor aspect involves one enemy misunderstanding the arrangement and literally killing the goose that laid the golden egg." - Andrew Mangravite. Not in the Colbeck catalogue. Mild rubbing to cloth at edges, small spot to rear cover, endpapers tanned, hairline crack along inner rear hinge, a very good copy. "Library" is blind-stamped on the front cover, but there are no library marks inside or outside. A very scarce book. (#155530).
No statement of printing.