Baltimore: Printed for the Rev. M.L. Weems, by W.D. Bell & J.F. Cook, 1814. 12mo. 270 pp. Contemporary calf (rubbed, some wear at the extremities); text block browned, one signature pulled, contemporary ink names on pastedowns, but a very good copy. Item #51507
Second edition (but the first obtainable, as only a few copies of the first edition, published in Philadelphia in 1809, are known). Inscribed by Weems at the head of the title page "Mr. Wm. Moore / from an old friend / the Author." Though Horry is recorded as the author on the title page, the copyright is listed as held by Weems and reads, in part: "The Life of Gen. Francis Marion … from documents furnished by his Brother in Arms, Brigadier General P. Horry, and by his Nephew, the Hon. Robert Marion, Esq. of Congress." A copy of the 1809 edition held at the University of South Carolina is annotated by General Horry and his notes read, in part, "All this … is the fruitful invention of the Brain of Mr. Weems" and "Most certainly 'tis not my history, but your romance." Though published as a popular historical biography, Weems's Francis Marion has long been known to have been largely compromised by liberties he took with the manuscript and might now be looked upon as an early example of early American historical or romantic fiction.
Weems (1759-1825), a native of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, became one of the first two candidates to receive Anglican ordination for service in the United States. After settling in Dumfries, Virginia, in 1795, he became an agent for the Philadelphia publisher Mathew Carey, and for the next 30 years he traveled the roads of the eastern United States, especially the south, peddling books; during that time he published a number of moral tracts of historical biographies of major American figures, Washington, Franklin, and Penn, in addition to Francis Marion, all of which became best sellers of the day, going through many editions during the first half of the 19th century. "The Life and Memorable Actions of George Washington and The Life of Gen. Francis Marion [are] both early examples of the supposedly ultra-modern fictionized biography" (DAB).
Howes H-650: "General Horry furnished the facts, Parson Weems the rhetoric; so much of it that Horry became indignant and disclaimed all connection with the book. Unabashed, Weems continued its publication through many editions." Sabin 33044 (for this edition and with author attribution to Horry; Sabin does not record the 1809 first edition). Turnbull I, p. 504. We have been unable to locate a record for another copy of any edition of this work being signed or inscribed by Weems; indeed, we have found no other printed works inscribed by him over the past 65 years (ABPC, 1941-2006). Manuscript material of any sort by Weems is rare, with one autograph letter recorded at auction over the past 30 years (ABPC, 1976-2006).