Backbiting. CIVILITY, Charlotte Elizabeth, Tonna.


New York: John S. Taylor, 1842.

First Edition. 4 x 6 inches, 46 pp, original brown ribbed blindstamped cloth boards, titles stamped in gilt on upper board. Chips out at the spine tips, lacking the lower half of the spine cloth, foxing to the endpapers and lightly throughout, but a sound, good copy.

Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna (1790-1846) was a popular Protestant pamphleteer and novelist who promoted both women's rights and civility (no mean feat in either her time or ours). Backbiting, as she maintained in essays appearing in the "New York Observer and Chronicle" (April 1842) and the "Weekly Messenger" (May 1842), "explains itself better than most words do. It gives you the idea of one who comes behind another and inflicts a wound, from which he cannot defend himself because the approach of the enemy is unseen, and he may also hide himself before the injured party can turn round. Thus the sufferer feels the effect of the wound without being able to discover how, or from what quarter, or with what assistance the wound is given."  This book, which seems to be aimed at a juvenile audience, features a young lady instructing her younger sister and cousin of their duty--as both friends and Christians--to refrain from gossiping behind one another's backs, or speaking ill of someone who is not present to defend herself. It was popular enough in its own time that it was reissued in not one but two posthumous collections, but there are today only seven copies listed in OCLC, in varying states (with and without publisher's ads, or bound together with another work). This copy, without ads, would appear to be an early, if not the earliest, issue.

Item #19803


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