The fruitless repentance: or, the history of Miss Kitty Le Fever. In two volumes.

The fruitless repentance: or, the history of Miss Kitty Le Fever. In two volumes.
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London: Printed for F. Newbery, the Corner of St. Paul’s Church Yard, MDCCLXIX. [1769]. 2 vols. in 1, 12mo: [2, t-p], 214; [2, t-p], 224 pp. with 4 leaves supplied in facsimile. Recent half calf with marbled boards, gilt ruled backstrip with red morocco label. Occasional browning and spotting. Ex-Harvard copy with discrete gift stamp, release stamp, and pencilled call number on verso of title page. First edition of this rare epistolary novel, widely attributed to the prolific yet almost forgotten author Phebe Gibbes, whose works Mary Wollstonecraft reviewed admiringly: “In these volumes some very uncommon words are introduced, and some very improbable adventures related; but there are many pages in them sufficiently pleasing and pathetic to distinguish this novel from the common run of such publications...” (Critical Review, 1770, p.43). The little that is now known of Phebe Gibbes (d.1805) comes from an application she made to the Royal Literary Fund for financial support in 1804. She describes herself as the impoverished mother of three children, widowed early, undermined by the compulsive gambling of her father-in-law, and subsisting on the proceeds of her writing. She lists 22 published titles, although only 14 of those have been traced and recorded and institutional copies are almost non-existent. Though sentimental in the style of Richardson, her novels have a strong feminist streak and common themes include child neglect, the lack of education for girls, and the evils of greed, gambling, and personal vanity. They were undoubtedly an influence on Wollstonecraft and later women writers of the 18th century. ESTC T107703. WorldCat records copies at the British Library, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and at least one copy in Germany (Sommerpalais). Only two are recorded in the US: Harvard and Penn. (Item Id: 110804)

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