Bethel Merriday, A Novel of the Young Girl on the Stage

Bethel Merriday, A Novel of the Young Girl on the Stage

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Author: Lewis, Sinclair [Harry] (1885-1951)

Year: 1940

Publisher: Doubleday, Doran & Co

Place: New York


[i-vi]+vii-viii+[ix-x]+390 pages. Octavo (8 7/16" x 5 3/4") issued in red cloth with initials "SL" impressed on cover decorated with impressed laurel branch superimposed over cover initials; gilt title in black rectangle on spine; author's name in black on gilt rectangle on spine. Dust jacket in blue with red and white banner on cover lettered in verso, gilt and white on spine. 33,250 printed of the first edition in dust jacket. (Pastore:259) First edition.

In the Summer of 1939, Lews and Fay Wray collaborated loosely on a play titled (and unpublished) Angela is Twenty-Two. Lewis did the writing with the intention of playing the male lead; Fay Wray helped with the staging and visual dramatics. Lewis became more involved with drama and acting, even so far as joining Actors Equity, sponsored by Helen Hayes. When the play opened on December 30, 1939, it was well-received leading Lewis to take it on the road where he not only acted but directed as well. This tour became the narrative framework of Bethel Merriday, right down to the young heroine having an affair with the much odler director. When the book landed in bookstores, Lewis was in Hollywood negotiating for screen rights to the movie version of the book. while he received $50,000 for these rights, the film was never produced. Total sales for the novel were the lowest of any of his books since Free Air, 48,770 copies were sold through book club and reprints in addition to the first printing which ended up being remaindered in the amount of 9500 of the 33,250 copies of the first editon. The dust jacket, designed by John Falls for Doubleday has a 4th of July motif unrelated to the novel, but patriotic in appearance, apropos America's entry into WWII. The absurd blurb on the verso states "America is made up in equal parts of movie double-features, chewing gum, swing, straight-eights, and Sinclair Lewis, who has made lusty American literature out of all the rest." It is difficult to believe Doubleday, who created the SL - olive branch laureate logo, could have sanctioned this shallow promotional fluff. the irrational collection of cover design, jackt design, content, and promotional inexactitude made this book the landmark of Lewis's literary decline; in few other cases has the book as artifact so paralleled the chaos of an author's life, the publisher's asyncopy and the nation's ambivalence. (Pastore: 255)


Corners gently bumped. Dust jacket price clipped, spine ends and corners chipped closed tear with crease at front head hinge. A very good copy in a very good dust jacket.

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