‘LEAR, Fanny’, [pseudonym of Harriet Ely BLACKFORD]. ~ Le Roman d’une Américaine en Russie accompagné de lettres originales. Paris: [printed in Brussels by Cnophs, fils, for] A. Lacroix et compagnie, 1875.
12mo (200 × 120 mm), pp. 336. Uncut. Original plain wrappers, preserved (without spine) in slightly later blue half morocco gilt. Wrapper slightly spotted, but an excellent copy.
First edition, large paper copy on vergé (and extremely rare thus). The scandalous memoirs of Philadelphia-born Harriet Ely Blackford, calling herself ‘Fanny Lear’, who conducted an affair with Grand Duke Nicholas Constantinovich, nephew of Czar Nicholas I between 1870 and 1874. In 1874 she was accused of stealing diamonds belonging to the imperial family and she was banished from the court. Though written in English, Blackford supervised its translation into French for its Brussels-printed first edition—it has not appeared in English until recently. It was an instant bestseller, despite confiscation by the French police on request of the Russian authorities.
Blackford had been freed from an abusive marriage by the death of her husband before moving to New York and then to Europe, where she moved in increasingly elevated circles, often courting disapproval through her liaisons with prominent and influential men. In Paris she was the subject of a stage comedy by Halévy (Fanny Lear) in 1868 (revived in 1875, presumably in response to the success of this book). McDonald, Fanny Lear: Love and Scandal in Tsarist Russia, (2012).