George Selwyn and His Contemporaries; With Memoirs and Notes.

  • Jesse, John Heneage
  • London: Bickers & Son 1882


SKU: 4710 Category: Tags: , ,


4 vols., 8vo, pp. vi, 418; [iv], 404; [iv], 400; [iv], 411, [1] + frontispieces to each volumes and 5 additional plates. Contemporary half green morocco, marbled boards, spines divided by raised bands and lettered direct in gilt, top edges gilt. A little rubbed, wear to head of spine of vol. 3, a touch of sunning to spines. pencil marginal notes and corrections throughout, armorial booklabels of Archibald Primrose, Earl of Rosebury to pastedowns.


A memoir and biography of one scandal-hit parliamentarian, owned by another a century later.
George Selwyn was an MP for 44 years but was never known to speak in debates in that time, being more celebrated for his extra-parliamentary speeches and witticisms, many of which are collected here. He was also a member of The Hellfire Club and known to have a strong interest in viewing public executions. 'His fascination with the moment of death and the resultant corpse was widely commented on within his circle,' is how ODNB phrases it; a BBC history Magazine article from 2011 refers to him baldly in passing as a necrophiliac.
This copy was owned by Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebury, 1st Earl of Midlothian and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1894 to 1895. Largely regarded as something of a failure as a politician despite reaching high office, he like Selwyn before him, was dogged by rumours about his sexuality. He was hounded by the Marquess of Queensberry for his relationship with Queensberry's son Viscount Drumlanrig in much the same manner as the Marquess pursued Oscar Wilde for his liasons with Drumlanrig's younger brother, Lord Alfred Douglas, with Queensberry following Rosebury to a German spa town in order to horsewhip him until dissuaded by The Prince of Wales. Weeks after Wilde's trial and conviction Rosebury resigned his premiership and left politics. His large fortune (he had married an heiress) enabled him to build a substantial book collection, and in later life he turned to political biography himself, penning a biography of Selwyn's more celebrated contemporary William Pitt the younger.

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