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Warren, Mrs. Mercy Otis.

History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution, in 3 Volumes.


The First Publication By An American Woman
Of A Work Of This Scope
Warren, Mrs. Mercy [Otis]. History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution. Interspersed with Biographical, Political and Moral Observations. In Three Volumes. Boston: Printed by Manning and Loring, for E. Larkin, 1805.   
3 vols., 8vo.; pages occasionally evenly darkened or lightly foxed; minor loss along gutter to front blank of volume two; original full calf. Each in a specially made cloth slipcase.
First edition of Warren's masterwork. From the library of Louisa Grosvenor, with her printed ownership label in all three volumes. The Grosvenor family traces its American arrival back to John Grosvenor who emigrated from England in the 17th century. His descendant Thomas Grosvenor served during the American Revolution as a colonel on the staff of General George Washington. Louisa Grosvenor's ownership label is of a style that suggests the books came into her hands soon after the book's publication, and very likely she bears some relation to Colonel Grosvenor.
Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814), poet, dramatist, historian and patriot, sister of patriot James Otis, lived her entire life within the compass of eastern Massachusetts but shed an influence far beyond. Though she had no formal education, Mercy took lessons from her paternal uncle along with her brothers. Her brilliant older brother James taught her Greek and Latin which their uncle felt inappropriate for women. He also introduced her to the political theories of John Locke which influenced the political views of both brother and sister. Her husband was, like James, a Harvard graduate; they married in 1754. Their marriage was happy and fruitful; Mercy bore five children and encouraged by her husband started to write. Classical-style verse and her correspondence, with letters to friends such as Abigail Adams, became equally important modes of expression. As tensions rose in the American colonies, Mercy's husband, father and brother were increasingly active in political affairs. Warren agitated in her own way. She declared, "Be it known unto Britain even American daughters are politicians and patriots" and on behalf of the American cause wrote a series of plays (actually better described as political essays in the form of plays): The Adulateur (1772); The Defeat (1773) and The Group (1775). The last, the best known of the three, was issued just two weeks before the battles of Concord and Lexington. John Adams (who, like his cousin, Samuel Adams, was a frequenter of the Warren household) arranged for publication of The Group and later confirmed Warren had written the piece.
Warren's history of the American Revolution is unquestionably her masterwork. She labored over her manuscript for nearly three decades; and, while other accounts had appeared in the 17 years between the end of the revolution and the publication of History, hers was the only history from a Republican point of view. Though Warren was perhaps more cautious than her friend Abigail Adams on the role of women in politics and society, nonetheless, she opens History with a preface addressing just this issue: "every domestic enjoyment depends on the unimpaired possession of civil and religious liberty, [and] a concern for the welfare of society ought equally to glow in every human breast..." Warren also points to what is the main strength of History - her wide experience, direct and indirect, with the principals and events of the Revolution: "Connected by nature, friendship, and every social tie, with many of the first patriots... I had the best means of information..." As the subtitle indicates, the history incorporates biographical information on a number of American Revolutionary figures, information considerably enriched and enlivened by the writer's longtime association with the people themselves. Scholars and historians still consider these portraits uniquely valuable. It is an Emerging Voices title, and the Grolier Club catalogue calls its "a monument to a gallant American female patriot." (Bibliography Of American Imprints To 1901, Vol. 56, p. 12. )

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