Very Good. Item #6015
Cambridge: Constable and Company Limited, 1929. Octavo; Vol. I xxv + 176pp; Vol II. vii + 162pp, including appendices in English and French. Both volumes have four tipped-in plates (painting reproductions) apiece, all B&W except the frontispiece to Vol. I, which is in color. Navy blue cloth with orientalizing gilt spine stamping. Textblock top edge trimmed and gilt on both volumes; fore-edges and bottom edges untrimmed. Principal text entirely in French; introduction and ancillary material in English.
Both volumes clean and square. Slight nudging to spine crowns and feet, and minimal bumping to panel corners. Gift inscription in ink on front free endpaper of Vol. I, repeated in abbreviated form in same position on Vol. II. Small ink stamp of previous owner on pastedown of both volumes. Top edge gilding of textblocks brilliant; textblocks unmarked and unmarred, with even, minimal age-tanning.
"Vathek," one of the pillars of the Gothic genre in English literature (along with Horace Walpole's "Castle of Otranto" and Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein") was actually written by Beckford in French in the 1780s, and soon translated into English by Samuel Henley. This two-volume critical edition presents the original French text, with the ancillary episodes that Beckford wished to include.
Beckford's imaginative cosmos, as both a supersonically wealthy aristocrat and a closeted gay connoisseur of the arts, repeats that of the earlier Walpole. His life, as both an internationally famous writer who married to satisfy social norms, was later destroyed by journalistic outing of his sexuality, and eventually exiled himself on the Continent, predicts that of Oscar Wilde. "Vathek" is a fascinating story within a fascinating story.