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Robert Smith Surtees’s Mr Sponge's Sporting Tour, First Edition, 1853


R. S. Surtees (1805-1864) was an English novelist and sporting writer; Mr Sponge's Sporting Tour is probably his best story concerning his famous “characterless character” “Soapey” Sponge Surtees made to become a comic hero.  The mock hero “Soapey” Sponge, “marred by a jerky, twitchy, uneasy sort of air” that no one would deem him “a real gentleman”, is a horse-coper, the Victorian equivalent of a sound, but shameless, exploitative used-car salesman: he specializes in flogging and reconditioning ill-tempered nags.  With these nags, “Soapey” Sponge moves from country house to country house, capitalizing on his countrymen’s hospitality until their patience runs thin or sales of nags have been made.


Surtees’s works did not quite meet the stiff Victorian moral standards; that being so, they were not particularly well received at the time.  His comic rendition of mock heroes makes him, ironically, more readable today than in his time.  

Surtees’s powerful observations of the early Victorian society is remarkable: his works offer detailed glimpses of the middle-class society of the countryside, with an occasional raid into the sordid parts of London.  Surtees has esteemed admirers: William Makepeace Thackeray lauded his attention to depicting the Victorian life in great detail, and Surtees was "a master of life", William Morris said, placing his literary merits with that of Dickens.    


R. S. Surtees’s Mr Sponge's Sporting Tour contains 13 hand-colored plates illustrated by John Leech (1817-1864), a British caricaturist known for illustrating Romantic Realism in lifelike detail.  


This First Edition has recently been rebound in ¾ calf, has hand marbled boards, a snipped title page, some discoloration due to age; otherwise, it is in good condition, rare.  

Robert Smith Surtees's Mr Sponge's Sporting Tour

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