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1. ATHERTON, Gertrude [Franklin Horn] (1857-1948). The Splendid Idle Forties. Stories of Old California....
New York & London: Macmillan & Co., 1902. vii  389 pp., 8
halftone plates by Harrison Fisher. 8vo, original red pictorial cloth
in gilt and colors. Spine slightly dark, joints rubbed, extremities lightly
worn, corners bumped, a few minor spots to binding, lower hinge starting,
occasional mild foxing (mainly affecting a few of the plates and adjacent
leaves), overall very good, the lovely pictorial upper cover with mission
and poppy motifs fine and bright. With Beatrice Simpson Volkmann’s pencil
notations on front pastedown: “1st ed. Rummage Sale.” Armorial
bookplate of Josselyn on front pastedown. On lower pastedown is the small
printed cream pictorial label of San Francisco bookseller Robertson’s.
As quoted by Lawrence Clark Powell, in his California Classics,
bibliographer and historian Phil Townsend Hanna proclaimed
Atherton’s Splendid Idle Forties as “the finest stories
ever written about early California.” While agreeing with Hanna, Powell
went on to remark: “Although romantic, mechanically plotted, and theatrical
in characterization, they are nevertheless essentially faithful to history,
landscape, and human motivation. They poignantly embody the drama of that
crucial decade.” Her novel, along with Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona,
gave us the popular and nostalgic Anglo-American view of Spanish California
and its demise during the Gold Rush. As brought out in her novel, California,
however, was not splendid for women as the ruling families and the church
overly protected them, denied them worldly experience, and relegated them
to subservient roles.
—Gary F. Kurutz
Additional sources consulted: Gertrude Atherton, Adventures of a Novelist (New York: Liveright, 1932); Emily Wortis Leider, California’s Daughter: Gertrude Atherton (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991), pp. 111-12; Oscar Lewis, Preface to The Splendid Idle Forties: Six Stories of Spanish California (Kentfield: The Allen Press, 1960); Lawrence Clark Powell, California Classics (Los Angeles: The Ward Ritchie Press, 1971), pp. 103-114.