The New Views of Mr. Owen of Lanark Impartially Examined,

OWEN Robert.; MACNAB Henry Grey (1819.)

£2750.00  [First Edition]

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As Rational Means of Ultimately Promoting the Productive Industry, Comfort, Moral Improvement, and Happiness of the labouring Classes of Society, and of the Poor; And of Training up Children in the Way in which they should go; Also observations on the New Lanark School and on the Systems of Education of Mr. Owen, of the Rev. Dr. Bell, and that of the New British and Foreign System of mutual Instruction.

First edition. 8vo. iv, 234 pp. Some offsetting to outer margins of title page and terminal leaf from binding turn-ins, not effecting text, a few minor instances of spotting, otherwise internally clean. Contemporary sheep, flat spine ruled in gilt, lettered in gilt on black morocco label (extremities rather worn, spine rubbed at head and tail, small split to foot of front joint, hinges holding firmly). London, J. Hatchard and Son.

One of the earliest independent accounts of Robert Owen's educational and social reforms at New Lanark, a cotton mill and worker's community in Scotland, where Owen pioneered ideas that would become cornerstones of the socialist movement, such as the eight-hour working day, social housing, urban planning, and universal education.  

A hugely positive and widely cited report, with special reference to Owen's efforts towards the education of worker's children and described as "perhaps the fairest in spirit and fullest in detail of any work written concerning Robert Owen" (Lloyd Jones, The Life, Times & Labours of Robert Owen, p. 195).

The report was undertaken by Henry Grey Macnab (1760-1823), personal physician to Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767-1820). The Duke was one Owen’s more high-profile patrons, and their correspondence shows his interest to have been "genuine and not altogether motivated by the loans made to him by Owen" (Harvey, Robert Owen: Social Idealist, p. 47). The Duke had made plans to visit New Lanark, but the proposed trip never materialised, and he eventually sent Macnab in his place to write a report.

Macnab's visit came at a time of widespread antagonism against Owen for his outspoken denunciation of religion at a notorious meeting at the City of London tavern in August 1817 (ODNB). In contrast, however, Macnab offered a defence of Owen’s views on religion, stressing the fundamental religious freedom of workers at New Lanark, and stated the aim of his report is to demonstrate "that the New Views of Mr. Owen embrace morally and politically, the highest and dearest interests of society" (p. 11). The report is meticulously detailed, with a long account of the development of New Lanark, as well as a sustained analysis of its population, furnished with three statistical tables. Macnab also quotes extensively from Owen’s various publications, newspaper articles, and speeches, including A New View of Society (1813-1814), Owen’s first and most important published work.  

However, Macnab reserved his highest praise for Owen’s pioneering efforts at youth education at New Lanark. Owen had outlined his egalitarian educational doctrine in A New View of Society, calling for a universal state education system guided by the principle that the character of individuals is derived from their circumstances, rather than any natural predisposition. Owen worked towards the development of his educationalist doctrine with the establishment of the Institute for the Formation of Character at New Lanark in 1816, a school for the children of the worker's and the first such institution in Scotland. Macnab described in glowing terms the idyllic atmosphere of the school:

"The school for the children, of two or four years old, was our first object, and a more pleasing sight to the philanthropist is not to be found, from Johnny Groat’s house to the Land’s End. The glow of health, of innocent pleasure, and unabashed childish freedom, mantled on their pretty countenances. This melting sight gave me a pleasure which amply repaid the toils of the journey. We then went into the upper school – a school for cleanliness, utility, and neatness, I should suppose not surpassed in the kingdom" (p. 100).  

Macnab’s report would prove popular and was translated into French in 1821. His "enthusiastic account, and the Duke’s patronage no doubt did much to rehabilitate Owen’s reputation amongst many who had been alienated by his proceedings in 1817" (Podmore, Robert Owen: A Biography, pp. 258).

Provenance: near-contemporary ownership inscription of 'Sam'l C. Allen' in black ink to the front free endpaper, possibly that of Samuel Clesson Allen (1772-1842), Federalist politician of Massachusetts. With some occasional inked underlining, particularly to Part III, Chapter III, 'An impartial Examination of the practical and speculative Opinions of Mr. Owen', and throughout Part IV, 'On Systems of Education'. Loosely inserted is a small manuscript sales receipt, priced in dollars and dated 1826, from an unidentified (presumably American) bookseller made out to 'Mr. Allen' for four books ('White's Selections', 'Burns', 'Charles 2', and 'Allison'). An interesting example of North American readership of Robert Owen, who had established the short-lived commune New Harmony in Indiana in 1825.

Rare. Relatively well-held institutionally, but significantly scarce in the trade, with RareBookHub / ABPC listing only one copy to have sold at auction (Bonhams, 2008).

Goldsmiths', 22699; Kress, C.351. 

Stock Code: 239667

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