Hagar of the Pawn Shop or The Gypsy Detective by Fergus Hume

First edition, first printing published in 1898 by Skeffington & Son, London
 
Condition: Good, 252pp+ publisher's catalogue bound in at the rear. Russet red cloth with gilt stamped titles and designs of a fly being caught in a spider's web to the upper board and spine. Titles and designs stamped in gilt and black, rough cut text block with title page printed in red and black. A worn copy, corners are bumped, cloth has dulled with a strip of sunning to the upper board, still visible but gilt stamping has faded as have some of the black stamped designs. Spine rubbed to the tips, titles and black spider/fly still clearly visible. Pages are toned, but tightly bound and clean, previous owner's bookplate. Essentially a mystery/detective novel where Hagar applies her romany charms and powers to strange cases. At the rear of the book are reviews and adverts for other weird Skeffington titles such as Richard Marsh's 'The Beetle', it says 'Dracula by Bram Stoker was creepy, but Mr Marsh goes one, oh many more than one better', also adverts for legendary weird fiction rarity 'Tenebrae'. This title is scarce first edition in any condition.
 
Strange mystery/detective novel which is historically significant as the protagonist was the first major female ethnic detective. Here is a wonderful piece written about the book by Jess Nevins:
 

"There were a very few female Native American detectives in American dime novels, but Stanley was the first female detective in English literature who was neither English, American, or French. She likely created the vogue for unusual female detectives in the 20th century, who until the pulps of the 1920s and 1930s were significantly more unusual than their male counterparts. The Stanley stories are also interesting as the culmination of the trend toward making Romany characters the heroes and protagonists of stories. Starting in the 1830s, with William Harrison Ainsworth’s Rookwood and G.P.R. James’ The Gipsey (1835), Romany were allowed to function in fiction both as villains–their traditional role–and as heroes, as in George Borrow’s The Romany Rye (1857) and eventually in Hagar of the Pawnshop. Unusually, the Romany protagonist of Hagar is not only a woman, but she is allowed
to remain both a Romany (rather than converting to Christianity) and a wanderer at the end of Hagar. This rejection of middle-class assumptions was very rare in 19th century English mystery fiction.

Stanley is the opposite of Hume’s London. She is immensely attractive. She is cool under pressure and in dangerous situations; when faced with an angry Englishman, who is bigger and stronger than she is, she promptly boxes his ears and completely breaks his spirit, so that he is afraid of her from that time forward. She has a “strict sense of duty, her upright nature, and her determination to act honestly, even when her own interests were at stake,” as she does with the pawnshop. She has an equal interest in justice and mercy. Hagar is also smart. She has a quick wit, giving as well as she gets in some amusing exchanges. She is self-possessed, and though capable of emotions is free of hysterics. She is pretty, but she always dresses in black; she remains in mourning for Jacob, her uncle, even though she viewed him with contempt. Finally, she is experienced in the ways of crime and criminals, having learned from Jacob things like invisible ink and ciphers. Hagar is moral, upright, smart, and tough. She is damn near ideal."

Hagar of the Pawn Shop by Fergus Hume

£75.00Price