ROSS, Percy [pseudonym for Lilian DUFF]. The Eccentrics by Percy Ross, Author of 'A Comedy without Laughters,' 'A Misguidit Lassie,' 'A Professor of Alchemy', etc. London: Digby, Long & Co., .
Three volumes, 8vo. Original blue cloth, spines lettered in gilt, covers blocked in blind; pp. [iv], 225, [3, blank], 8 (advertisements, dated October, 1894); [iv], 215, (8, advertisements); [iv], 225, [3, blank], (8, advertisements); apart from light rubbing to extremities and the occasional spotting to text; a very good copy.
Extremely rare first edition and a completely overlooked Victorian triple-decker novel by a woman, published under a male pseudonym. The Eccentrics is fortunate in that the title describes not only the main characters of the novel, but also the setting, prose and probably the author, though little public knowledge is available regarding her. In a wonderfully and needlessly dramatic fashion, the story is a classic tale woven of family intrigue, fainting ladies and dark inheritances. Perhaps a mark of a canny eye for satire, or perhaps just a mark of a severe talent deficit - regardless, the prose is as amusing as it is oddly gripping.
"Let me pass!" cried Bertha, "I am going to the ballroom!"
"Bertha, my dear girl," Renée put her white hand with soft magnetic touch upon Betty's arm, - "tell me."
"I worship him," Betty whispered hoarsely, looking directly into Renée's grey mesmeric eyes.
Typical of novels contemporary to it, the main topic of discussion throughout the volumes is the possibility of marriage for the female protagonists, and how to attract the attentions of the men they desire. The men, however, spend their time threatening to engage in civilised fisticuffs, and glowering at each other, before swooping in to save the heroines from certain death when the hour is most bleak. Perhaps not the most politically correct offering on the market, but a compelling and rare one. This novel is indeed typically aesthetic, with Moorish lamps burning in open doorways and Renée sheltering her agitated face with an ibis fan. Subtexts might be discovered by the reader of the book, which towards the end and after a marriage hints that 'when people talk of Mordant's marriage, the ladies bewail his alliance with so masculine a woman, who answers the description of his comrade more than of his wife. The men blame him severely, on the other hand, for his reckless exposure of the woman he pretends to love to so many hardships, and the way in which he denies her luxuries of her station in the county'.
Copies at British Library, National Library of Scotland and Cambridge University only on COPAC. OCLC adds UCLA, Yale and Arlington Public Library.
Halkett & Laing II, p. 135.