New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1869. Hard Cover. Good binding. Item #6925
Octavo. vi, 351, , 8 (ads), 4 (ads) pp. First American edition. In publisher's pebbled cloth with title in gold on the spine. Spine ends and corners are worn and fraying; binding is a bit soiled; bottom half of the front free and bottom quarter of the rear free endpaper have been clipped; contents clean but for some scattered foxing; several pages have been dog-eared.
A later novel by Hugo featuring a character whose disfigured face is permanently grinning. A 1928 film version of Hugo's novel stars Conrad Veidt with a disconcerting ear-to-ear smile that is said to be the visual inspiration for DC Comics's character, the Joker who made his debut in the first Batman comic in 1940. A glimpse at film stills and the comparison is unmistakable. This copy with an interesting provenance in that this copy with gift inscription from Samuel A. Eaton of Richmond, VA to Thomas W. MacMahon on the front free endpaper, dated August of 1869. MacMahon has related the fate of Eaton on the lower half of the first blank: "This poor creature, Eaton, perished at the fall of the Virginia Capitol, in Richmond, April 27th, 1870. He was clerk to Mayor Chahoon. Henry K. Ellison [Ellyson] contended (?) for the latter's office and the Court of Appeals decided in his favor. Nearly seventy persons were killed outright and many wounded. Curiosity had them to hear a paper read which was not read that day, and never since to them. Ellison and Chahoon were in the room when it fell; but they escaped unharmed." Eaton's connection to this disaster is a bit more interesting than MacMahon spells out. The curiosity that filled the gallery and caused the collapse was the decision by the Appeals Court on a contested mayoral election--the very reason Eaton would have been present though his job had ended with Chahoon's removal. Chahoon was the sitting mayor in March of 1870 and after Congressional Reconstruction ended, the newly elected Virginia governor appointed a new city council which in turn elected Henry Ellyson as mayor. Chahoon contested his removal and after a few days delay because of the disaster, the Appeals Court sided with Ellyson, though they did call for another election in May which, while fraught with its own shenanigans found Ellyson the winner. While this tale has nothing to do with Hugo's novel--though one might argue that political power plays be they 17th and 18th century English monarchs or 19th century Richmond mayors have everything in common--it is nevertheless a fascinating association. (George Christian, "The Capitol Disaster.").