Rare first printing of the US edition, revised from the English edition and the author's preferred version of perhaps the greatest children's gothic.
Very good plus.
"He died—scarlet fever," said the dragon, moving on to the next picture. "Don't trouble yourself, Paddy—some people don't mind dying."
TENTHRAGON ranks with the best of Joan Aiken and John Bellairs. Such was its ambition that it perplexed as many contemporaries as it attracted; THE OBSERVER called it an "odd, unusual novel," while Punch questioned whether it could properly be called a novel at all.
Savery's later works for children, less strange and consequently more successful, burst with adventure, good spirits, and explicitly Christian virtues; her most notable work for adults, a book-length continuation of Charlotte Brontë's unfinished fragment EMMA, is ambitious, but an ambitious pastiche. TENTHRAGON stands alone in a strange place: the greatest children's gothic, but not quite a children's book, only a book about a child. Among Savery's unpublished manuscripts is the curious CHARLES OF DOLOROUS GARD, described by its author in similar terms: "neither quite a story for children nor a story about children," and among her published works are countless sets of twins, doubles, rival brothers; an "atmosphere of fear" (Schonblom); severe adults and children persecuted, tormented, despised and disguised. Nowhere but in TENTHRAGON, however, do all these elements add up to such a towering total. The book was first published in England in 1929 as FORBIDDEN DOORS, a better title but an inferior text, with publisher's cuts reducing the devastating ending (restored in TENTHRAGON) to a series of oblique hints. Savery, whose letters record "speechless indignation" in response to "being 'edited'", concurred: "I don't like lending FORBIDDEN DOORS when the other is so much better."
The daughter of a vicar and herself an enthusiastic religious believer, Savery nonetheless admitted her mother to be possessor of "a curious psychic gift, that of hearing what we called in the family, the knock. From time to time a sharp and unmistakable rap on the wall would tell her that someone of importance to her had died." While biography is never sufficient explanation for art, this double spiritual inheritance offers some clue to the particular blend of mercy and doom in her works. "Psychological fantasy" is a useful label to fall back on when the classifier does not wish to commit herself to any definitive interpretation of which events in a story are real, which are imagined or symbolic, and which are simply misunderstood or magnified by the terrified eye of an orphan in a dangerous house. We call TENTHRAGON, accordingly, a psychological fantasy: in which all things are doubled, even the house; and all things may be dangers, even those guardians who ought to love you best; and the pre-eminent emotion is terror, which wins out over all things, even love.
Read more: Eric Schonblom, Another Lady: A Biography of Constance Savery.
New York: Alfred H. King, 1930. 7.25'' x 5''. Original orange cloth with bright blue lettering. Edition also issued in green cloth; no priority established. Lacking dust jacket. 314 pages. Light edgewear; very minor soil to cloth and edges of text block. Top edge toned with faint foxing.
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