A PARISIAN SULTANA: A translation of Adolphe Belot's "La Sultane Parisienne." By H. Mainwaring Dunstan. Adolphe Belot.

A PARISIAN SULTANA: A translation of Adolphe Belot's "La Sultane Parisienne." By H. Mainwaring Dunstan. London: Remington & Co., 1879. Octavo, three volumes in one: pp. [1-2] [1-3] 4-356; [1-3] 4-312; [1-3] 4-320, original decorated brown cloth front and spine panels stamped in blind, spine panel stamped in gold, brown coated endpapers. First edition of this translation and probable first edition in English. A translation of LA SULTANE PARISIENNE, LA FIEVRE DE L'INCONNU and LA VENUS NOIRE, a long novel published by E. Dentu in 1877 in three volumes. "After a year of mourning, Laura de Guéran, an Englishwoman by birth and the daughter of a member of the London Geographical Society, launches an expedition to Africa in order to recover the remains of her husband who disappeared near the Sahara Desert. She is accompanied by Messieurs Delange, de Morin, and Périères, the latter two former suitors whom she selects for their specific skill sets and bravery, and Beatrice Poles, an experienced female explorer, the sole survivor of the ill-fated Alexina Tinne (Alexandrine Tinné) expedition to discover the source of the Nile. As the opening chapters of A PARISIAN SULTANA emphasize, Laura is well-educated, forthright, determined, individualistic, and fearless. She knows full well that she may die on the journey, and her mettle so impresses de Morin and Périères that they insist she be the leader of the expedition with de Morin serving as her commander-in-chief. Laura earns the nickname the 'Parisian Sultana' from the Egyptians who find her so beautiful and exotic, especially in terms of her outfits, which she herself has designed, that they refuse to believe she is European. When Laura learns that her husband might be alive in the mysterious kingdom of Ulindi, the expedition heads to uncharted territory in Central Africa and discovers that the Baron de Guéran is being held captive by Walinda, a warrior queen who rules over a matriarchal society and has taken the baron as her lover. The Walindis, Walinda's tribe, are protected by an army of Amazons led by Walinda herself. The females of the tribe begin a rigorous course of training at the age of twelve that develops their strength, speed, and endurance with formidable results: 'These female warriors … were young, for the most part lovely, and strong and grave to a degree. They did not waste any time in shooting arrows, or fighting at a distance; they came to close quarters at once and committed fearful havoc with their steel pikes and long knives. It was impossible to seize them, or even to approach them at all closely; their foreheads, necks, waists, wrists, legs below the thigh, and feet above the ankle were surrounded with iron rings barbed with sharp points a foot long, which served at once for offensive and defensive weapons … [W]hilst fighting, they utter most terrifying cries, their eyes flash fire, and they foam at the mouth; they give no quarter, despise making prisoners, and as soon as they have wounded an enemy, they dispatch him. Consequently, these women inspire … unconquerable fear.' For successful service in the army, the Amazons' reward is being allowed to marry and reproduce, and the Walindis engage in a kind of primitive eugenics in which any of the Amazons' daughters who are physically deformed are mercilessly slaughtered at a young age. The queen's male sons are also smothered at birth to ensure the queen's daughter ascends to the throne. Male members of the Walindis are entrusted to governing districts, and while they do maintain an army of their own, it is vastly inferior to the queen's Amazons. Belot's depiction of Walinda is a classic portrayal of an exotic female, beautiful, terrifying, powerful, and alluring: 'Yes, she is a Venus, a marvelous bronze statue … [with] fine, almond-shaped eyes, at one moment soft and languishing, at another cruel and determined … [and] small, even sharp teeth, showing the brilliancy of their whiteness behind the pouting, ruddy lips; and a smile wherein cruelty and tenderness are curiously blended.' Told from multiple perspectives, including letters and journals written by the principal characters, A PARISIAN SULTANA is an intriguing blend of fiction and travelogue with excellent action sequences and well-executed humor. Belot makes numerous references to contemporary African expeditions and incorporates a wealth of detail from the writings of Sir Samuel Baker, James Augustus Grant, and Georg August Schweinfurth, and John Hanning Speke. While A PARISIAN SULTANA is certainly not free of racial stereotypes and physical grotesques, de Morin, Périères, and Delange, who replaces Desiroux as the group's doctor, often marvel at the beauty of some of the African women they encounter while Laura and Beatrice provide very astute commentary on the socio-economic circumstances that allow the slave trade to prosper. Belot's depiction of tribal customs can be both fascinating and horrific, such as the practice of using elderly slaves as live scarecrows who rot on hillsides in the sun's extreme heat as they protect stores of grain from birds, or the Monbuttoos carving up and feasting on the flesh of their enemies on the battlefield. Belot's fine sense of humor is displayed throughout the novel, particularly in the numerous instances in which Delange, an inveterate gambler, coerces de Morin to play cards, including once during a particularly fierce battle between warring tribes that prompts Delange to remark that he may have to operate on himself if the fighting becomes much fiercer. A PARISIAN SULTANA is a very engaging, entertaining novel. Several bibliographers, including George Locke, err in claiming that Beatrice Poles is an early example of a superhuman because she is able to run faster than a horse. This is not the case. Beatrice has a lanky frame with notably long legs and rather large feet. She walks very fast when she is upset or embarrassed, which is entirely for comic effect; there is nothing superhuman about her." - Boyd White. Bleiler (1978) p. 20 (citing the 1881 Munro edition). Not in Reginald (1979; 1992). Wolff 379. Early book label of Mr. J. Haworth, Church Hall, Church affixed to the front paste-down. Cloth rubbed at spine ends and along outer joints and fore-edges, some scuffing to front and rear covers, Inner hinges professionally strengthened, a sound, very good copy of this nearly 1000-page novel in a fragile Victorian era cloth binding. (#164541).

Price: $2,500.00

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