Angelica Singleton Van Buren,
1817-1877

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Island 2
 

Mrs. Dolley Madison
From Munsey's Magazine ?? (?? ??).

It was Mrs. Madison who chaperoned Angelica Singleton to the White House dinner in March 1838 where she met her future husband, the president's son Abram Van Buren. Despite the hardships of being twice widowed and having a profligate son who had dissipated her late husband's estate through mismanagement, Mrs. Madison was nonetheless still renowned as one of the most gracious members of Washington's social elite.


An American [James Fenimore Cooper, 1789-1851]
Gleanings in Europe
Philadelphia: Carey, Lea, & Blanchard, 1837.
Signed "A. Van Buren."

Of particular interest among Miss Barnwell's books was this first edition, in the original binding, of a pseudonymous book by America's first major novelist, James Fenimore Cooper, better known for such frontier adventure stories as The Last of the Mohicans. It is one of five travel books Cooper wrote during the 1830's, when, disillusioned at the reception of several novels with European settings, he stopped writing fiction for several years. It is presented in the form of letters to friends from the author's travels, commenting obliquely on the danger to America of imitating Europe.


Thomas Gray, 1716-1771
The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray
London: William Pickering, 1836.
Signed "A. S. Van Buren 1842."

Gray is now best known for his poem "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," with such much-quoted lines on village virtue as "From from the madding crowd's ignoble strife," or "Full many a rose is born to blush unseen." This volume is part of the publisher Pickering's series, the Aldine Edition of British Poets, and includes a life of the poet. Pickering was the first British publisher to introduce cloth binding for books in 1823, leading to a their wider availability at lower prices. This series was available in both the cheaper cloth and a more expensive morocco leather binding, as shown here. Though Pickering was a British publisher, both this volume and the Burns shown next bear the label of an American bookseller, Lockwood's, of 411 Broadway, New York.


Robert Burns, 1759-1796
The Poetical Works of Robert Burns
London: William Pickering, 1839.
Volumes 1 and 2 signed "A. S. Van Buren 1842."

Famous for his songs and poems in Scottish dialect, Burns's nationalism and rebelliousness held natural appeal for readers in antebellum America. This three-volume set is the second edition of Burns in Pickering's Aldine Edition of British Poets. To ensure its success, Pickering claimed to have acquired two hundred original manuscripts and letters of Burns on which to base the new edition. Like the Gray volume, this book includes a memoir of the poet and his complete works.


Richard Monckton Milnes (later Lord Houghton), 1809-1885
The Poems of Richard Monckton Milnes
London: Edward Moxon, 1838.
Volume 2 only; signed "Angelica Van Buren London 1839."

Popular poetry of the mid-1800's often took its themes from travel and historical subjects, as in this collection of poems inspired by the author's Grand Tour of Europe. Milnes was an eclectic writer with a variety of interests. He wrote and lectured on contemporary political issues, prepared the pioneering life of Keats, was a friend of both Tennyson and Swinburne, and was the first to publish Ralph Waldo Emerson in England. Significantly, this volume was published by Moxon, also Tennyson's publisher. The inscription indicates that it was bought on Angelica's European honeymoon.


Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, 1803-1848
The Life of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry
New York: Harper & Bros., 1841.
Both vols. signed "A. Van Buren."

Commodore Perry, the naval officer and hero of the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812, is best known for his wartime report that "We have met the enemy and they are ours." This biography is part of Harper's Family Library series, the first such series published in the United States. The series ran from 1830-1845 with 187 volumes in all, mostly by British authors. The volumes were entirely non-fiction, including biography, travel and history. At a mere 45 cents per volume, the Family Library was much cheaper than its imported British rivals and helped make Harper's the largest U.S. book publisher of the period.

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