The Position of Peggy Harper by Leonard Merrick; with an Introduction by Sir Authur Pinero, published by E P Dutton of New York in 1919, 2nd limited edition of 1550 copies, of which 1500 were available for sale, hardcover. Condition, good with slight wear to the hardcovers, the original owners name is on the inside cover. Binding is tight, no marks, tears, or missing pages. Some patina on the inside covers and some of the pages, see photos for detailed condition.
The Position of Peggy Harper is an Edwardian novel set in the shabby genteel world of England's theatrical boarding houses and struggling provincial repertory companies. Its hero, Christopher Tatham, is an aspiring playwright who achieves a minor success with a tawdry little potboiler (from which he earns almost nothing) but continues to dream of writing a serious modern drama in the style of Shaw or Ibsen. Things look grim for Tatham until he meets the charming and shamelessly self-promoting Peggy Harper - a pretty young actress of limited ability who'll stop at nothing to win the fame she's convinced it's her 'destiny' to find. Tatham quickly finds himself engaged to Peggy, only to discover before the book ends that he doesn't really love her, and probably never has.
What makes the book so remarkable for the period is the way Merrick portrays the seedier side of the Edwardian theatrical world - a world populated by hack writers, drunken actors, pushy stage mothers, unscrupulous managers and penny-pinching landladies - without trying to glamorize or romanticize it. This is a world of aspiration and failure, of living in uncomfortable rooms where you're forced by lack of money to toast your engagement in unpaid-for ginger beer rather than champagne, of waiting for that ever-elusive big part you probably won't be lucky enough to get. Peggy is a very 'modern' character in the sense that she puts her career first, and allows nothing to distract her from pursuing it, taking full advantage of every opportunity she can find to foist her talents on an unsophisticated, easily satisfied public. She's alluring and appealing but she's also completely vain and empty, so of course she succeeds beyond her wildest dreams, eventually becoming a star of the theater and the fiancee of a peer, while Tatham, as poor and unsuccessful as ever, finds consolation for the continuing frustration of his artistic ambitions in the arms of her more down-to-earth room-mate.
A great readable novel of yesteryear.
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