Westward Ho!

or, The Voyages and Adventures of Sir Amyas Leigh, Knight, of Burrough in the County of Devon. In the Reign of her most Glorious Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Rendered into modern English.

Cambridge: Macmillan and Co.. 1855.

First edition. 8vo. (195x125mm). pp. viii, 303; vi, 356; vi, 373, [2 advertisements], 16 advertisements. Original blue cloth, lettered in gilt to spine. Pale yellow endpapers. Wear to corners, edges and joints. Wear to head and foot of spines and a small tear to the cloth on the spine of volume I. Slight rubbing to the boards. Later 19th century repairs to head and foot of spine. The contents are in very good condition. Ownership inscription of "A. Macmillan" on the half title of all three volumes. This is Alexander Macmillan, the publisher. Front pastedown has the bookplate of Stephen George Holland, who, in 1836, founded the cloth merchants Holland and Sherry and was also a major art collector. It is probable that Macmillan gave this copy to Holland. On his death in 1908, Holland's collection and personal belongings were sold and the branch of the Macmillan family from which this was acquired bought it so bringing it back into family ownership. This copy is one of the first printing limited to 1,250. Page 119 of volume III is misnumbered "11" and the sixteen pages of advertisements are dated February 1855 and are at the end of volume III along with the single leaf of advertisements for two other Kingsley titles. This first printing is hard to find and is said to have been considered scarce when Jane Eyre was considered common.

Westward Ho! was the first novel published by Macmillan and Co. The firm had been founded in 1843 by the brothers Alexander and Daniel and, for the first decade of its existence, concentrated on theology, classical literature and collections of sermons: works of morally uplifting seriousness. Novels were regarded as mere popular entertainment and fraught with potential danger: Alexander Macmillan had been sacked from his first job with a Glasgow bookseller for being caught in possession of a Minerva Press novel. But the Macmillans saw, in Westward Ho!, a mixture of popular appeal and high moral tone. After reading a draft of it, Alexander wrote to his brother Daniel: “I have been reading Kingsley’s novel and like it immensely…it certainly has noble passages and will, I fancy be a noble whole”. Kingsley’s tale of British naval success against the heathen and heretic (i.e. Roman Catholic) Spanish during the reign of Queen Elizabeth was designed to inspire similar feelings of patriotism during the Crimean War – the months before the book’s publication had seen the Battles of Balaclava and Inkerman; and the Siege of Sevastopol was at its height in early 1855. Macmillan described the book as “spirit stirring” and it certainly seemed to capture a widespread mood in the country. Westward Ho! was an immediate success becoming one of the most widely read books of the nineteenth century. It also reconciled the Macmillans to the idea that a book could be both serious and popular.