My holiday present to myself (what, you don't do that?) was a copy of Robert W. Chambers' In the Quarter. It'd be lurking on eBay for a little while and when the seller dropped the price, I was in like a flash; fighting off the hordes of other Chambers fans to pick up this little treasure (bids: 1).
First published in 1894, In the Quarter is Chambers' debut work. I'm just reading it now, but, so far, this review seems to have it down - "pretty well done, but characteristically melodramatic". Chambers never really outgrew melodrama and, in this case, it is additionally infused with a hearty dose of Young Author Angst. It isn't all roses and confectionary (unlike, say, The Green Mouse) and, as Chambers was a young Parisian art student himself, his writing isn't wholly inauthentic. (I've not stumbled on the rampant anti-semitism yet, but am fully prepared to be greatly disappointed in him.)
Anyway, a full review cometh (someday).
For Chambers, it was his second book that counted - The King in Yellow. In the Quarter, despite teasing a few of the same characters (not from "The Repairer of Reputations" or "The King in Yellow", but the other stories) and the same atmosphere, is completely overshadowed by The King in Yellow (as is everything else Chambers wrote). In this wonderful digital era, getting a copy to read isn't hard, but actually finding a proper original edition is nearly impossible.
So, all that means when an 1895 edition (the first UK printing) of In the Quarter popped up on eBay, I pounced. Plus, it is signed. Which is double-awesome.
Triple-awesome, in fact.
The inscription reads: "To Mrs. F.F. Van De Water with compliments of Robert W. Chambers, September 27th 1903." (I'm getting good at Chambers' handwriting, I'm pleased to say.) Mrs. Virginia Terhune Van De Water was the daughter of Mary Virginia Terhune (a.k.a Marion Harland), the widow of Frederic Franklyn Van de Water and mother of three sons, one of which (Frederic F. Van de Water) wound up becoming an author as well. Her New York Times obituary is here (sorry, log-in needed for the full thing).
Virginia Van De Water co-wrote a book with her mother (Everyday Etiquette) and went on to write more non-fiction (and novels and articles and...) flying solo, including From Kitchen to Garrett, In the Web of Life [a very Chambersian name] and the intriguing Why I Left My Husband.
More detection is obviously required...