ANONYMOUS (GIBBES, PHEBE) - The History of Eliza Musgrove

ANONYMOUS (GIBBES, PHEBE) - The History of Eliza Musgrove

1st edition. Printed for W. Johnston, in Ludgate-Street. 1769.


Though experiencing somewhat of a critical comeback, Phebe Gibbes remains a relatively obscure author. She published a good deal in her lifetime, though most of her works were published anonymously. She explained in a letter of appeal for financial support to the Royal Literary Fund that her family “rejected every species of Literature, except devotional” and she herself was of a “withdrawing turn of temper.” She furthermore listed several anonymously published contemporary works as her own, including The History of Eliza Musgrove, wisely enclosing as well an attestation by Joseph Johnson (one of her publishers) that she had written Elfrida, or Paternal Ambition. Despite her withdrawing nature, Gibbes' writings were full of pronounced views on freedom of marriage choice, lack of educational opportunities for girls, women's role in society, and the evils of gambling. Indeed, the financial difficulty that led her to write to the Royal Literary Fund was due in part to her father-in-law's love of gambling as well as the early death of her husband, leaving her with three living children. Eliza Musgrove was one of her earliest published novels, and it earned an approving nod in the Critical Review: “this under our inspection seems to have been written by a female hand…it seldom happens that ladies equal in genius to Lennox, Brookes, and Scott…though some…have discovered talents…Among these the authoress of this little history, carried on in the epistolary way, which is on the whole interesting and affecting” (emphasis original).


PROVENANCE: George Baillie (1644-1738), Scottish MP from 1691-1797 (engraved armorial bookplate applied posthumously); Hon. George Baillie (c. 1721-1797; signature on title pages); thence by descent to the Earls of Haddington library.


2 volumes; 8vo. Contemporary calf, spine gilt with Baillie’s golden fleece motif, red morocco spine label; small residue mark on inner margin of volume one title page. Interior pages clean but for contemporary notes at bottom of page 16 of both volumes (pictured).


Rare example of anonymous eighteenth-century authorship; ESTC lists copies at Yale, McMaster University, and the British Library only. ESTC N66509; Raven 1272