INFELICIA

Menken, Adah Isaacs

Published by Philadelphia ; New York; Boston, 1868
Hardcover
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1stedition, first printing, of Author’s only book. Original Publisher’s Cloth, Brown cloth cover stamped in gold, 16mo, 7-124 pages; 15 cm. Singerman 2085 (for the 126 page edition) . Singerman notes as well that he, the "compiler[, ] saw the rarer 124 page edition without the publisher's statement [about Dickens]. " Poems. The true first edition, first printing, dedicated to Charles Dickens but without his warm letter thanking her reproduced, as appeared in later printings. The success of this book meant that later editions appeared the same year in London as well as in the US (published by Lippincott) but with more pages (141 & 126, respectively) and the Dickens letter reproduced. Includes some poems with Jewish themes, such as "Judith (‘Oh forget not that I am Judith! /And I know where sleeps Holofernes’) , " "Hear, O Israel (‘The God of Jacob is our Shield’) , " etc. Menken (1835-1868) was "Internationally famous for her starring role in the equestrian melodrama Mazeppa, in which she was stripped on stage to a flesh-colored body stocking, lashed to the back of the ‘wild horse of Tartary, ’ and sent flying on a narrow ramp above the theater, Adah Isaacs Menken consistently defied social mores. She cropped her black hair and smoked cigarettes, and publicly disparaged conventional married life. Menken represented an early example of the cult of personality, blurring her private life with her public persona. She married four times in the course of seven years. Her second marriage, in 1859, was to the heavyweight boxing champion of the world, John C. Heenan . One of the most glamorous celebrities of the 1860s, Menken also cultivated a literary following. She wrote poetry and developed relationships with the likes of Walt Whitman, Charles Dickens, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Alexandre Dumas, and Algernon Swinburne. George Sand was a close friend to the actor and was godmother to Menken’s second child . A major bone of contention to this day is the authenticity of her Jewishness. Though scholars have some evidence that Menken was raised a Catholic and converted to Judaism only after marrying her first husband, Menken herself once publicly rebuked a journalist who labeled her a convert by announcing that she was ‘born in that faith [Judaism], and have adhered to it through all my erratic career. Through that pure and simple religion I have found greatest comfort and blessing. ’ Whatever her origins, it is clear that Menken was fervently Jewish in her adult life. After moving to Cincinnati with her first and only Jewish husband, Alexander Isaacs Menken, Adah learned Hebrew fluently, studied classical Jewish texts, and contributed many poems and essays to The Israelite, a weekly founded by Rabbi Isaac M. Wise. Her poems indicate a passionate temperament, deeply committed to a kind of proto-Zionism and even messianism. Many are collected in the posthumously published volumeInfelicia[this volume]. Menken viewed herself as a modern Deborah, calling on Jews to rise up against persecution in Turkey and protesting the kidnapping of a six-year-old Jewish boy in Bologna by representatives of the Catholic Church. She was one of the few Jews in America to protest when Lionel Nathan was denied the seat in the English Parliament to which he had been elected. And, at the height of her acting career, she refused to perform on Jewish High Holidays. On her deathbed at age thirty-three, suffering from what may have been peritonitis or tuberculosis (or both) , and treated by the personal doctor of Napoleon III, Menken was visited by a rabbi. Adah Isaacs Menken died on August 10, 1868, in Paris. She is buried in the Jewish section of Montparnasse Cemetery" (Ackerman, 2014) . The book is also cited inPodeschi, J. B. Dickens & Dickensiana, ; B295(2) ; Wolff, R. L. 19th cent. Fiction, ; 4738. OCLC lists 28 copies of this rare first printing. Light wear to cloth, stains to title and half title, otherwise a nice clean book, about Very Good- Condition. (AMR-4. Bookseller Inventory # 34572

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Bibliographic Details

Title: INFELICIA

Publisher: Philadelphia ; New York; Boston

Publication Date: 1868

Binding: Hardcover

Edition: 1st Edition

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