Presentation Copies to The Prince of Wales from Viscount Esher

Group of 13 novels, most with gift inscriptions to HRH Edward, Prince of Wales, from Viscount Esher.

London: Various publishers, Ca. 1900-1920.

Price: $5,000.00

About the item

Later editions. Some illustrated. 13 vols. 8vo. Presentation Copies to The Prince of Wales from Viscount Esher. Uniformly bound in 3/4 green calf, panelled spines gilt, t.e.g., by Hatchards, leather a little rubbed, internally fine. Formerly the possession of HRH Edward, Duke of Windsor. James Lees-Milne: The Enigmatic Edwardian: The Life of Reginald 2nd Viscount Esher.

Item #22709

Best known for his novel, Under the Red Robe, Weyman, after an unsuccessful career as a lawyer, turned out a number of action-filled popular historical novels, of the sort boys like the Prince would be apt to enjoy. The titles, most inscribed (to "Prince Edward") by Lord Esher on the flyleafs to commemorate Christmas and birthdays are: A Minister of France; The Castle Inn; In Kings' Byways; A Gentleman of France; The Red Cockade; The House of the Wolf; Under the Red Robe; The Man in Black; Francis Cludde; Shrewsbury; Sophia; The Abbess of Vlaye; The Long Night. Inscribed or not, these were all presumably presented by Lord Esher, and subsequently rebound in matching style

Reginald Brett, 2nd Viscount Esher (1852-1930) was, in retrospect, one of the most fascinating individuals in early 20th Century English public life - although his own career was anything but public. After reaching his mid-forties, "without much to show for his life" he was offered - and turned down - the offices of permanent under-secretary at the Colonial and War Offices, Governor of the Cape Colony, Secretary of State for War, Viceroy of India, Ambassador to Paris, and Chief of the Imperial General Staff. He became, instead, a notable éminence grise, a power behind the scenes to such a degree that he was caricaturized by Max Beerbohm as a frock-coated figure pointing at Britannia and saying, "Never mind who I am. Just go and do what I tell you." It was only in 1986, with the publication of the Lees-Milne biography, that the reason for his reluctance to accept conspicuous office - an incestuous passion for his younger son ("Molly") - became evident. In spite of this departure from convention, his talents as courtier and counselor were noteworthy, and were gratefully accepted at face value by his peers, and - as least so far as his distinguished public activities are concerned - by history, and by a Britannia who, by and large, did what she was told