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Night Scenes of City Life
By T. DeWitt Talmage, D.D. (1891)
First Edition, First Printing
DESCRIPTION: Oh Lord, what an unending string of Very Strange Books got published during the Victorian Age! And here's one of them, a salacious look at a modern world under siege from sin, by a man who was once commonly known as the second most well-known religious figure in America (behind only Henry Ward Beecher, who was untouchable in popularity). A pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Talmage's weekly sermons were reprinted in over 3,000 different local publications, reaching what was said to be a total audience of 25 million; and he was such a natural orator that his audiences kept outgrowing the churches he was assigned to, eventually landing in Brooklyn where the local church built a special multi-thousand-seat tabernacle just for him, with hundreds still having to be turned away every Sunday. (And in an interesting bit of trivia, all three tabernacles built for him in Brooklyn eventually burned down because of natural causes; Talmage was so frustrated by the third fire in 1894 that he gave up on the city altogether, moving to Washington DC for the last decade of his career, where he had a smaller, more conservative audience.)
Night Scenes of City Life is from the end years of Talmage's career, and he really doesn't seem to be messing around anymore: described even by his own words in the preface as "soul-stirring discourses on the temptations and vices of city life...as seen by him in his midnight explorations in the haunts of vice of New York City," this is modern link-bait in its oldest and purest form, with chapter titles such as "Satanic Agitation," "Among Thieves and Assassins," and "Poison in the Cauldron," a chance for the flock to be titillated while on their way to getting their dose of moral medicine. Delightfully overwrought, and a veritable checklist of Victorian vices (laudanum! bootjacking! rendezvous in shady alleys with women of loose morals!), admittedly a book like this is not worth very much money to a full-time collector, but is an amazing conversation piece for a snarky young urbanite's apartment. (And for locals, note that this was published by Chicago's Donohue, Henneberry & Co., and that this particular copy was literally printed and bound in the historic Printers Row neighborhood, quite literally at 407 S. Dearborn Street.)
CONDITION: Text: Very Good (VG). In general still in great shape for its age, but with a few white fabric creases on either end of the spine, and a spine crack on the inside front cover. Issued without a dust jacket. As confirmed by the McBride Guide to the Identification of First Editions, an agreement of date on its title page and copyright page, and lack of additional printing notices, makes this a first edition, first printing.
PROVENANCE: Acquired by CCLaP on September 2, 2013, at the Oak Park Book Fair.