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Sophronia: Or, Letters to the Ladies.

JOHNSTON (William), publisher

  • Publisher: London: Printed for William Johnston...,, 1761
London: Printed for William Johnston...,, 1761. FIRST EDITION. 12mo, 169 x 101 mms., pp. xii. 245 [246 blank], contemporary calf, red leather label; joints tender, corners very worn, generally rather worn; a fair to poor copy, but with ownereship notes on the end-papers, dated, 1766, the copy of John Haselden. The Critical Review, Or, Annals of Literature for 1761 did not exactly go head over heals for this piece of epistolary fiction: "The author of these letters seems to have forgot the adage, familiarity begets contempt. Straining to be natural, he descends to a meanness of expression and triteness of reflection, which, we fear, will incur the censure of fastidious readers-- We would avoid asperity, as we think the performance is decent, and calculated to the meridian of some capacities." The novel is notable, however, for its celebration of married love. The name Sophronia was popularized in the Italian Torquato Tasso's 1581 epic poem, La Gerusalemme Liberate a fictional romance set against the backdrop of the 1099 conquest of the Holy Land during the First Crusade and translated into English several times. The character Sofronia (later anglicized as Sophronia) is a Christian, Palestinian maiden who falsely accepts the blame for stealing an icon of the Virgin Mary. Sofrone's sacrifice is meant to prevent a massacre of Holy Land Christians at the hands of Aladine, the Muslim ruler of Jerusalem.� And for the aficianado of nomenclature, I record the pub quiz answer to name one of Joseph Smith's sisters - Sophronia, who was 24 when her brother found the plates that led to the formation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The book itself is the rare first edition: ESTC T117042. The ESTC finds only two copies in the British Isles, Oxford and BL, and only nine copies elsewhere, all being in the United States, but that nine includes only two Ivy League libraries (Princeton and Pennsylvania). There were two later editions, the Dublin of 1763 and the second London of 1775. All three are scarce in commerce.

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