Mr. Romford’s Hounds


Last fall, we walked through the double glass doors of what looked from the outside, quite honestly, like it might be a comic-book store. And yet, we found ourselves in a huge, long room with bookshelves — all stacked with used books — stretching along both walls, and back-to-back down the middle of the space.

After we’d browsed the length of the room and back again, I happened to pick up a nondescript little book. I’m always drawn to gorgeous bindings, covers, and spines … but this one had none of those; it’s clad in plain red cloth with nothing at all printed on the front cover.

But when I flipped through the pages of Mr. Romford’s Hounds, I found page after page of color plates … nearly 25 in all.

Ok, then, this was definitely worth taking home.

This book was one of several written by Robert Smith Surtees (May 17, 1805 – March 16, 1864), and it was first published the year after Surtees died. Another publishing house later took over the manuscript and published an edition in 1911. Our copy is from the sixth edition (1930), but it’s basically a facsimile reproduction of the original 1865 version.

I haven’t read this book yet, but according to, well, Wikipedia: “Surtees was not among the most popular novelists in the nineteenth century. His work lacked the self-conscious idealism, sentimentality, and moralism of the Victorian era; the historian Norman Gash asserted that ‘His leading male characters were coarse or shady; his leading ladies dashing and far from virtuous; his outlook on society satiric to the point of cynicism.’ ” Regardless, the color plates are delightful.