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Charles Lamb “The King and Queen of Hearts,” Methuen & Co. Edition w/ Separately Bound Introduction by F.V. Lucas, William Mulready Illustrations, c.1902
In 1782 a poem by an anonymous author appeared in “The European Magazine,” a British publication. It contained a stanza now known as “The Queen of Hearts” (along with three additional stanzas, “The King of Spades,” “The King of Clubs,” and “The Diamond King”):
“The Queen of Hearts She made some tarts, All on a summer's day; The Knave of Hearts He stole those tarts, And took them clean away. The King of Hearts Called for the tarts, And beat the knave full sore; The Knave of Hearts Brought back the tarts, And vowed he'd steal no more.”
This stanza was immediately popular, came to be published as a children’s nursery rhyme, and by 1785 had been set to music. It probably owes some of its notoriety today to the fact that it is quoted in, and forms the basis of, Chapter XI in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” (i.e., “Who Stole the Tarts?”).
In 1805, the famous British essayist (and aspiring but disappointed poet), Charles Lamb, wrote a poem for children known as “King and Queen of Hearts: with the Rogueries of the Knave who stole the Queen's Pies,” which gives each line of the original, followed by a poem commenting on the line. According to Lamb biographer E.V. Lucas, a copy of the original edition (1805) of this poem in book form was discovered almost 100 years later, and it was reissued by Lucas in a “facsimile” edition in 1902. It is this facsimile edition that is for sale here, along with a separately bound volume published concurrently by Lucas giving the history of the poem in the context of books written by Lamb for children.
The facsimile edition includes a series of illustrations by William Mulready, an Irish genre painter. Mulready also supplied illustrations in 1807 for the much more famous “Tales from Shakespeare,” a children’s book by Lamb and his sister, Mary Lamb, that made Shakespeare’s plays accessible to children while preserving as much of the poetry as possible.
The bound poem itself, with the 15 Mulready illustrations, measures approximately 5¼” by 4.” It has a front cover and back cover and interior pages. The interior sides of the covers are printed, and the pages appear in pairs in the book. The “back sides” of the interior pages are blank. If the interior sides of the covers are included, there is printing on 16 pages.
The Lucas volume is slightly larger, measuring approximately 6¼” by 4⅞,” and is paginated, containing 15 pages.
The bound poem is in excellent condition, except for significant soiling to the front and back covers. The Lucas volume is in excellent condition, and has very slight and very occasional foxing at several places.
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