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[Ellis, Robert]. The Fire Island.

[Ellis, Robert]. The Fire Island.

  • £39500


[London]: [1840].

8vo, 180 X 110mm, 185 p., text written predominately on rectos with some pages written across the page, two gatherings almost detached. Original black roan (worn), flat spine (upper joint cracked), gilt titling to upper cover and dedication to “Miss Marianna Uther i.e. Mary Ann Eliza Uther From The Author”.

This delightful and lengthy love poem of some 15,000 words is the work of Robert Ellis (1823-1885), father of Britain’s foremost 19th century and early twentieth century Wagnerian scholar, William Ashton Ellis. Ellis qualified from London University and joined the Royal College of Surgeons in 1844 and married one Mary Ann Eliza Uther, daughter of the owner of the well-known firm of gunmakers, Alexander Forsyth & Co, on August 5th 1845.

The text concerns a seafaring character, Jadah, possibly Jadah the magician from The Tarikh-i-Rashidi, who lands on the fire island and after battling with storm and volcano, discover of the fountain of youth, proceeds to bring a woman he finds there to to life and then on to a lengthy escape by boat through the storm being pursued by Asrael,, the angel of death, and a final scene with the destruction of the island.

Presumably intended to be allegorical for the blossoming romance between Miss Uther and Robert Ellis, it would be interesting to discover Miss Uther’s reaction, as the poetry is far from accessible. Ellis gives a scene description of the fire island “on the shores of Persia’ in the Persian Gulf. There are also footnotes explaining significant items such as the Muslim Tuba tree, found in Muslim paradise, Asrael, etc..

Ellis is clearly well acquainted with Muslim religious narrative. The Tuba tree for example appears once only in the Koran but was explored more expansively by later writers.

After producing this manuscript he developed his medical career, specializing obstetrics, and branched out into authorship, penning The Chemistry of Creation in 1850 and which earned him the role as scientific editor for the Great Exhibition catalogue in 1851. Further works came in 1852, Disease in Childhood, its common causes and directions for its practical management and in 1866, On the safe abolition of pain in labour and surgical operations. Bookplate of the Islamist, William Goût, author of Forty years in Iran.

Relations seem to have soured between Ellis and his wife by 1875 and she is shown living a short distance away from him. He appears to have left London altogether in 1876 and is later to be found in North Devon with a Miss Wilkins. He died from liver cirrhosis in 1885.

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