Menken, Adah Isaacs. New York, 1868. 1st edition. Headpieces and 2 portraits. Decorated publisher’s cloth. 141 pp. 32mo. Very good-.
Very rare volume of poetry from the actress best known for her role in Mazeppa in 1866, in which she supposedly rode a horse across the stage in the nude. Menken’s third husband was the famed prizefighter John C. Heenan. She was acquaintances with the likes of Charles Dickens (for whom her only collection of verse is dedicated), Walt Whitman, George Sand and Dumas, among others. The volume is bound in green cloth with gilt lettering and contains a portrait of the poet as the frontispiece, as well one of Heenan. The beveled boards are toned and worn around the edges; fraying to the spine head and upper groove. Mildly shaken interior, but else the text block is crisp and unmarked.
Though she was better known as an actress, Menken sought to be known as a writer. She published about 20 essays, 100 poems, and a book of her collected poems, from 1855 to 1868 (the book was published posthumously). Early work was devoted to family and after her marriage, her poetry and essays featured Jewish themes. However, beginning with work published after moving to New York, with which she changed her style, Menken expressed a wide range of emotions and ideas about women’s place in the world. Her collection Infelicia went through several editions and was in print until 1902.