THE RING OF AMASIS. FROM THE PAPERS OF A GERMAN PHYSICIAN. New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1863. 12mo, pp. [i-v] vi-ix [x-xi] xii [xiii-xvi]  18-301 [302: blank][303-312: ads], double flyleaves at front and rear, original decorated brown cloth, front and rear panels stamped in blind, spine panel stamped in gold, cream coated endpapers. First U.S. edition. The story of a German count, a Byronic figure, whose life is blighted by an ancient Egyptian ring. The first half of the novel is narrated by a young German physician who meets the count on a steamer on the Rhine, with the legend of Lorelei, the supernatural femme fatale, shimmering in the background. The doctor and the count meet several more times, always in unusual circumstances. (While riding in the Bois de Boulogne outside Paris one day, the doctor suddenly hallucinates a scene of nautical disaster. He wakes up several days later clutching a fragment of manuscript in the count's hand, remembering nothing of how he obtained it.) The second half is told in epistolary fashion through the count's own voice and those of several others acquainted with him. We learn how the count obtained the fateful amethyst ring (supposedly belonging to the deity Seb Kronos) from the hand of an Egyptian mummy and how he gave it to his betrothed. Another being seems to take control of the count's body from time to time, and it is suggested that the count's soul at one time migrates to the ring, which, after being placed by his fiancée in a handkerchief, turns into a sphinx moth which dashes itself against the flame of a candle as soon as it escapes from the confines of the handkerchief. The story is oblique in some parts and padded in others, especially the first half, whose physician-narrator is much given to Latin tags and purples patches, but shows signs of imagination in its uses of the supernatural. In its concern with the dualism of real and ideal, the story reveals some of the same Platonic tincture that colors the work of his more renowned father. "This story is grotesque and fanciful; a love story which will not fail to interest those who like the peculiarly intense poetry of the author." - from a contemporary notice in HARPER'S WEEKLY, 31 October 1863, p. 691. Bleiler (The Guide to Supernatural Fiction, #1145) calls the work a "pseudo-philosophical, semi-allegorical novel" wherein the romantic triangle of the count, his brother Felix and his betrothed Juliet ends in fratricide and madness, recapitulating the original tragedy surrounding the life and death of the Egyptian prince Amasis. Bleiler relates the story that the author's more famous father, on reading this work, forbade his son to use the family name for a work of such low quality (a judgment in which Bleiler concurs). A scarce book which eluded Sadleir (#1465) and Wolff (#4238), both of whom mistakenly identified a Macmillan 1890 edition as the first "public" edition, preceded by a privately printed and anonymous 1888 edition. That neither was aware of the existence of this, the true first edition, seems somewhat extraordinary, especially in the case of Wolff, who wrote in detail about Bulwer-Lytton in his study, STRANGE STORIES, AND OTHER EXPLORATIONS IN VICTORIAN FICTION. Clute and Grant (eds), The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997), p. 149. Bleiler (1978), p. 138. Reginald 09387A. NCBEL III 637. Early owner's signature dated 10 November 1863 on the title page. Top edge of sheets dusty, otherwise a fine, bright copy. (#170292).
No statement of printing.