London: James Hewetson & Son, 1907. Small quarto (7 1/4 inches tall), original white paper spine with printed label, white textured paper boards, top edge gilt, uncut, original publisher's dust wrapper. Slight wear to spine head, very faint spotting and soiling to boards, mild tanning to blank flyleaves. A handsome copy. Item #1012
"JESU, MARIA—I AM NEAR TO DEATH, / AND THOU ART CALLING ME / I KNOW IT NOW" Lovely illustrated edition of John Henry Newman’s most enduring poem—this copy complete as issued in the original textured paper boards with the very scarce matching dust wrapper. Derived from the Greek word for "old man," Gerontius was first published in 1865 by the Jesuit magazine, The Month. This meditation on the journey of the soul from life to death to heaven illustrates Newman's embrace of a distinctive Catholic theology. "The Dream of Gerontius, widely praised by many people in England including some of Newman’s critics, touches on many of the obstacles to the Roman Catholic faith overcome by the Oxford don in his intellectual and spiritual pursuit of the truth" (Juan R. Velez, New Blackfriars). This edition—with a frontispiece, title page, and four additional illustrations by Marie Preaud Webb—predates the great Stella Langdale-illustrated edition (published by Longmans in 1916) and is the earliest illustrated edition of Gerontius we've encountered. Known to be ambivalent about his longest poem, Newman was surprised by the warm reception of the first and second Burns Oates editions in 1866. Gerontius "was a great success and probably ran through more impressions than any other work, being reprinted twenty-seven times by 1890. In 1886 it had to be reset because the plates had worn out. It was ordered for nearly every prison in England, and General Gordon meditated on it before his death at Khartoum" (Vincent Blehl). The acclaim reflected the prevalent Victorian fascination with the supernatural and the after-life and the work continued to be influential long after Newman's death. The first of the publisher's series, The Queens Quartos, with a brief Foreword by Charles Cecil describing Gerontius as a "Spiritualised Faust" and a short biographical note on Newman. Blehl. John Henry Newman: A Bibliographical Catalogue of His Writings.