Stewart, Mary: The Last Enchantment
(researched by Tim Bragan)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Stewart, Mary. The Last Enchantment. New York, New York:William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1979. Copyright 1979 by Mary Stewart.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first edition is published in blue cloth with a dust jacket
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
274 leaves, pp. [1-12] 13-538 [539-544]. There is a tan page at the beginning and end of the book that does not count in the numbering. Page numbers are centered and 13/16î from the bottom of the page. The novel is divided into 4 books and sections labelled ìThe Legendî and ìAuthorís Notesî There are 12 chapters in book 1, 10 in book 2, 10 in book 3, and 10 in book 4.
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
The first edition is neither edited nor introduced.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
The book contains very few illustrations. There is a map of lower England on the page following the table of contents (p. 9). The inside covers are the same tan color as the first and last leaves. They have identical illustrations of a compass rose consisting of a dragon inscribed in a circle around which are located swords points labelled with the cardinal directions. The point labeled as south is indicated with the hilt of a sword. On the first and last page (both unumbered brown leaves) is a map that is identical to the one mentioned earlier. There are no credits given for the illustrations although the book design is credited to Carl Weiss
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
The book is fairly substantial in size and weight. The print is standard, easily read, and appears to be well-printed. A page of text measures 8-1/2î x 5-3/4î x 1-3/4î Print size is 90R Margins are 7/8î at the top and outside, 5/8î at the inside and 1-5/16î at the bottom. The cloth binding is navy blue and on the spine in gold lettering is written ìMary Stewartî above ìTHE LAST ENCHANTMENTî along the length of the spine. Across the bottom of the spine is written ìMorrowî. The dust jacket is protected by a plastic sleeve. Its front and spine are black. Just below the center of the front is an illustration of an old harp with Celtic inscriptions and a blue ribbon. The area immediately around the harp is reddish that becomes almost white behind the harp as if there were a spotlight on it. Above the illustration in tall yellow words is written ìMary Stewartî and below it in white words of the same size ìThe Last Enchantmentî. Below the illustration is written ìA novel by the author of THE CRYSTAL CAVE and THE HOLLOW HILLSî. Along the spine of the jacket appear the words ìMary Stewartî one above the other followed be ìThe Last Enchantmentî again with ìMorrowî written across the bottom. The entire back of the dust jacket is a black-and-white photograph of the author. At the top of the front inside flap of the dust jacket is the price ($11.95) followed by a paragraph of praise. Below this are written the author’s name and title in the same manner as on the cover followed by a description of the book which is continued on the back flap. The description continues on the back flap and is accopmanied by publishing information and jacket illustration and design credits (Alan Hood and Cheryl Asherman).
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The paper used for the first edition is fine white paper with no finish. As mentioned before, the first and last leaves (unumbered) are tan and of slightly thicker stock than the other leaves. The paper has aged well and shows no indication of yellowing.
11 Description of binding(s)
The binding is navy blue cloth with gold reflective lettering. The pages appear to be uniformly glued to the binding which is then attached to the cloth cover. The first and last pages (tan) are glued to the inside of the chipboard covers. The binding is 1-3/4î wide.
12 Transcription of title page
Recto: Mary Stewart / THE / LAST / ENCHANT- / MENT / William Morrow and Company, Inc. / New York 1979 Verso: Copyright 1979 by Mary Stewart
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
National Library of Scotland
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
On inside of dustjacket preceding a brief description of the book is written: ìIt has been suggested that Mary Stewart, the highly acclaimed author of The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills, possesses a bit of Merlinís power. Certainly there is magic in this inventive interpretation of Arthurian lore which flames with immediacy and vitality.î Copy specific: The name ìMusellî written in cursive in pen on the inside cover of the book. Also, in pencil ì18.00/1st edî on the first title page. Call Number: PR 6069 .T46L37
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
Not able to locate physical examples of a other editions by Morrow. The Last Enchantment [Book Club ed.], 439p. 1979 The Last Enchantment , 439p. 1979.
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
At least 5 printings as of Sept. 3, 1979.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
G.K. Hall, 1979, 1982-- 711p. Fawcett Crest 1979, 1980-- 480p. Book Club Associates 1979,1980 -- 412p. 1979 -- 448p. Ballentine Books 1979, 1983 -- 480p. Hodder and Stoughton 1979, 1980 -- 501p. Chivers 1979, 1990 -- 576p. Dove Books on Tape 1989, 1992 -- (abridged) 2cassettes (3hrs.) Cambridge University Press 1992 -- 383p. Dove Books on Tape 1992 -- (abridged) 6 sound cassettes (9hrs.) Chivers Audio Books 1993 -- 12 cassettes (16.hrs) Fawcett Columbine 1996 -- 538p.
6 Last date in print?
Still in print as of February, 2000. Fawcett, Sept. 1996 -- Trade Paperback
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
According to Tebbel's -- A History of American Publishing, her five best -sellers made her one of the best-selling women of the time. As of Sept. 3, 1979, there were 145,000 copies sold after five trips to the press. Bowker's indicates that best-selling novels of 1979 sold at a lower rate than best-sellers from previous years.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
According to Bowker's, and by deduction from the 6th and 8th bestsellers of the year, between 184,000 and 150,000.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
Advertisement found in the New York Times Book Review opposite the page listing the bestselling hardcovers for the week. Image of the book superimposed on a painting of the ruins of a castle surrounded by a reflective moat with lillypads. A very nostalgic and inviting air about the ad seems to "welcome reader's back" to escape to 5th-century Britain. Across the top are the words "Mary Stewart's best enchantment." At the bottom is a blurb that can be seen in the included image.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
A210191000221225023.jpg
11 Other promotion
Did not find any.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Did not find any.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
The only translation I located was in Chinese. Mei lin chung chë¸. Tëai-pei : Hao shih nien, 1980.
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
Did not find any.
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
The Crystal Cave. N.Y., Morrow, 1970 The Hollow Hills. N.Y., Morrow, 1973 The Wicked Day. N.Y. Morrow, 1983
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
Mary Florince Elinor Stewart was born on September 17th, 1916 in Sunderland, Durham, England to Frederick Albert (a church clergyman) and Mary Edith (Matthews) Rainbow. She attended the University of Durham where she received both her B.A. (with first class honors) in 1938 and her M.A. in 1941. In the years following her graduation she she married Frederick Henry Stewart and became a lecturer at the University of Durham until 1954 when she launched her career as a writer. In 1955, at the age of 39, she published her first book Madam, Will You Talk? It exemplifies the first part of her writing career (Gale Literary Database) during which she wrote ten more romantic suspense novels that were relatively popular at the time. They included: Wildfire at Midnight (1956), Thunder on the Right (1957), Nine Coaches Waiting (1958), My Brother Michael (1960), The Ivy tree (1961), The Moon-Spinners (1962), This Rough Magic (1964), Airs above the Ground (1965), The Gabriel Hounds (1966), and The Wind Of the Small Isles (1968). Beginning in the late 1960's with The Crystal Cave (published in 1970), Stewart entered into a new period of writing concerned more with history and the occult and less with the more formulaic plot patterns of her earlier works (British Women Writers, 649). Her Arthurian series, centered around the mythical character Merlin, benefits from her familiarity with the English countryside and its history. In addition to The Crystal Cave, the best-selling series includes The Hollow Hills (1973), The Last Enchantment (1979), and The Wicked Day (1983) and distinguishes itself from other accounts of Arthurian fiction in that it is set in historically accurate 5th-century England. Stewart describes her choice to move from writing suspense thrillers to historical fiction as the fulfillment of a long-standing intention whose realization occurred with the discovery of Merlin as a little-understood Arthurian character. The exploration of Merlin allowed Stewart to exercise her imagination in conjunction with her already well-developed ability to describe place (Gale Literary Database). Beginning in this period and extending into the present, Stewart began writing children's books. They include The Little Broomstick (1971) and Ludo and the Star Horse (1974). Additionally in the same period she wrote Touch Not The Cat (1976), A Walk in Wolf Wood (1980), Thornyhold (1988), Front on the Window and Other Poems (1990), The Stormy Petrel (1991), The Prince and the Pilgrim (1995), and Rose Cottage (1997). She currently resides in Somersby, Scotland where she continues to write. Her manuscripts are located in the National Library of Scotland and her agent continues to be c/o William Morrow & Co. Bibliography The Gale Literary Database Todd, Janet, ed. Dictionary of British Women Writers. London: Routledge, 1989.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Perhaps the most telling thing about Mary Stewart's The Last Enchantment is that it is the least regarded of the three books in her Arthurian trilogy. Indeed, critical reception seems to agree that this, the third installment in what became a trilogy-plus-one, did not measure up to the first two books The Hollow Hills and The Crystal Cave. Contemporary reception of the book seems to focus on Stewart's unconventional mix of historically accurate details with the necessary artistic interpretation that she employed to fill the gaps throughout the series: "The reader should not be put off because he thinks he knows how everything is going to turn out. There are as many versions of the Arthurian legend as there are books about it, and Stewart has added enough unexpected twists to keep the suspense running high." (Best Sell) Despite Stewart's attempt to bring a strong degree of historical accuracy to the classic Arthurian legend, critical reception tends to agree that the book (and the whole series by extension) is, like Stewart's earlier works, first of all a romance and should be read for pleasure (Best Sell). Joseph McClellan's review in The Washington Post is perhaps the most sympathetic and insightful in that he understands that the nature of The Last Enchantment necessarily derives from the fact that she has chosen Merlin as a main character whose story fades to an end once Arthur is on the throne.
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Perhaps the most telling thing about Mary Stewart's The Last Enchantment is that it is the least regarded of the three books in her Arthurian trilogy. Indeed, critical reception seems to agree that this, the third installment in what became a trilogy-plus-one, did not measure up to the first two books The Hollow Hills and The Crystal Cave. Contemporary reception of the book seems to focus on Stewart's unconventional mix of historically accurate details with the necessary artistic interpretation that she employed to fill the gaps throughout the series: "The reader should not be put off because he thinks he knows how everything is going to turn out. There are as many versions of the Arthurian legend as there are books about it, and Stewart has added enough unexpected twists to keep the suspense running high." (Best Sell) Despite Stewart's attempt to bring a strong degree of historical accuracy to the classic Arthurian legend, critical reception tends to agree that the book (and the whole series by extension) is, like Stewart's earlier works, first of all a romance and should be read for pleasure (Best Sell). Joseph McClellan's review in The Washington Post is perhaps the most sympathetic and insightful in that he understands that the nature of The Last Enchantment necessarily derives from the fact that she has chosen Merlin as a main character whose story fades to an end once Arthur is on the throne.
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Although Mary Stewart's The Last Enchantment fits into a number of categories previously established by other bestsellers, it's rare combination of historicism, fantasy, unorthodox interpretation and expression, make it relatively unique. While the book can attribute much of its success to its position as the third novel in a popular trilogy, this is not the only reason that the book is still in print (paperback) twenty years after it was first published. Perhaps the most important of these is the fact that Stewart uses the classic and accessible storyline as a means of investigating a variety of contemporary and timeless issues that have relevance to a wide audience. Her adherence to well-researched historical aspects and decision to approach the classic story from a new point of view (Merlin's as opposed to King Arthur's) give her the opportunity to further reinterpret many aspects of the Arthurian legend as it has been written in the past. Despite these departures, The Last Enchantment is nearly as predictable as any other Arthurian novel. This predictability provides an accessible platform with which the first-time reader can easily identify and enjoy combined with enough twists and reinterpretations to interest Arthurian experts as well. While contemporary reviewers were mixed in reviewing "Enchantment", their praise centers almost exclusively around the book's status as the continuation of the popular series, the romantic nature of the novel, and its subtle twists relative to the traditional plot. "There are as many versions of the Arthurian legend as there are books about it, and Stewart has added enough unexpected twists to keep the suspense running high." (Middleton) It is not until after the initial reviews of the series that more in depth criticism begins to appear. The fact that The Last Enchantment was not as well received as the previous installments in the series yet nonetheless achieved the status of bestseller places it in the company of books such as J.R.R. Tolkien's The Simarillion. In an even more extreme case than with The Last Enchantment, Tolkien's successor to his Lord of the Rings series derived much, if not all, of its financial success to the popularity of its predecessors (Jordan). This can be attributed to the fact that the original series was so successful and had such an impact on a group of readers that they became almost religious in their devotion to the author (Jordan). This model is common throughout the world of bestsellers, albeit at different scales, with authors such as Stephen King and Danielle Steele whose names automatically bestow best-selling status on anything they write. Although this phenomena explains the status of The Last Enchantment, an explanation as to why the entire series was successful offers more insight into the realm of the bestseller. Perhaps the most important difference between Stewart's series and previous Arthurian novels was her departure "from standard versions of the legend: they are told from the viewpoint of Merlin the magician rather than from that of King Arthur, they are set in the fifth century, rather than the twelfth; and Stewart adheres to historical fact in describing places, customs, and costumes, unlike many chroniclers of the Arthurian legend."(CLC 35,388) This had the primary effect of opening up the novel to literary interpretation because of the inconsistencies inherent in the original version. It further enriched the novel by allowing it to be read both as a (marginal) account of 5th century Britain and as an escapist fantasy. While not a piece of historical fiction, the mere inclusion of historic accuracy, especially in combination with the fictional legend, may be enough to draw the readership of people who are interested in history. The degree of interpretation to which Stewart has availed herself provides for the many subtle yet significant twists which occur throughout the series: "The reader should not be put off because he thinks he knows how everything is going to turn out." (Middleton) Stewart's choice to cast Merlin as the protagonist -- in addition to her other digressions from the established storyline -- gave her further literary license and shed new light on the otherwise well-known legend thus making the book attractive to Arthurian experts as well as first-time readers. The combination of a well-established literary genre (in this case the Arthurian legend) with contemporary issues from outside of the novel is similar to Anne Rice's "Vampire Chronicles." This strategy is useful because it allows the author to capitalize on the popularity and accessibility inherent in the already established plot. Freedom from designing the plot further allows the author to interpret the other aspects of the novel in order to investigate certain themes. In the case of Anne Rice's "Vampire Chronicles" these included social issues such as homosexuality and the appearance of alternative lifestyles (Lewis). Like Rice, Stewart used the framework of the Arthurian legend as a platform from which to explore contemporary issues -- in this case reinterpreting the role of women in a literary genre where they were almost invisible (Herman,370). In sharp contrast to women found in the traditional Arthurian legend, Stewart's women "frequently dominate the men around them, for they are stronger and cleverer than most men, and they are ambitious, demanding more out of life than marriages and children(Herman,370)." Although the examination of this phenomenon by Harold J. Herman focuses mainly on documenting the phenomenon, it requires no great amount of deduction to make the observation that in the changing social climate of the 1970s, issues such as this one may have had resonance with contemporary readers. Closely related to Stewart's application of historical fact to the original versions of the legend is her treatment of the supernatural. In keeping with the predominant trends of contemporary fiction, Mary Stewart chooses to reinterpret the role and expression of supernatural events to correspond with more realistic explanations (Dean, 384). Unlike contemporary fantasy science fiction, Stewart does not ask the reader to accept the nonchalant use of magic but instead interprets Merlin's powers as a combination of a gift of vision bestowed upon him by God combined with the use of scientific knowledge accumulated through the study of Antiquity. In effect, Merlin becomes a fictional reconciliation of the eternally conflicting forces of religion and science at a time when (in the real world) recent scientific speculation (mainly about the origins of the universe) is again forcing them into conflict. Again the inclusion and interpretation of issues that are pertinent contemporary culture adds another facet to what had at first appeared to be a simple book. Indeed, in this sense The Last Enchantment surprisingly finds coincidence with books such as Carl Sagan's Contact. Sagan uses scientific fact in order to extrapolate a fictional scenario in the future whereas Stewart uses historic fact to make projections into the past. Although these processes present the two books as complete inversions, the method remains almost perfectly consistent. By combining aspects of reality with fictional ones in such as way that both can coexist without one subverting the other, the product is something that has more relevance to a greater audience. While Stewart's Arthurian Series (The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment) were bestsellers almost immediately after they became availalbe, it is perhaps because of their subtler features that they are still in print 20 and 30 years after their initial publication. One of the main reasons that the books have remained in print because Stewart has bestowed them with a number of attributes that can be appreciated by both distinct and general audiences. As demonstrated by the other novels mentioned here, it is exactly an author's ability to combine vastly contrasting aspects such as the timeless and contemporary, formulaic and unorthodox, historical fact and high fiction, escapism and realism-- ultimately the universal and specific, that allows the book to be appreciated by a wide audience across time. Selected Bibliography The following articles were taken from Sources ? having already extensively researched the topic, I was able to choose sources that were all fairly useful Con Davis, Robert; Schleifer, Rondald editors. Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 117 New York : Longman Dean, Christopher. "The Metamorphosis of Merlin: An Examination of the Protagonist of The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills," in Comparative Studies in Merlin from the Vedas to C.G. Jung, edited by James Gollnick, 1991, pp. 63-75. Herman, Harold J. "The Women in Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy," in Interpretations: A Journal of Idea, Analysis, and Criticism, Vol.15, No. 2, Spring, 1984, pp. 101-14. Jordan, Cory. Assignments 4 and 5 on J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion for ENTC 312 University of Virginia. http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/ Lewis, Deirdre. Assignments 4 and 5 on Anne Rice's Tale of A Body Thief for ENTC 312 University of Virginia. http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/ Middleton, K.P. Best Sell 39:241 O 1979 -- from Book Review Digest 1979 Spencer, Jennifer. Assignments 4 and 5 on Carl Sagan's Contact for ENTC 312 University of Virginia. http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/
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