Rare Autograph Letter Signed by the Author of “Looking Backward” Sending Its Sequel, “Equality” to the American Writer and Urban Planner Sylvester Baxter

Signed by Edward Bellamy

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BELLAMY, EDWARD. (1850-1898). American author and socialist best known for his influential utopian novel Looking Backward, which inspired the establishment of Nationalist Clubs across the United States. ALS. (“Edward Bellamy”). 3pp. 12mo. Chicopee Falls, N.d. (Circa 1897-98).  To American writer, urban planner and First Nationalist Club of Boston founder SYLVESTER BAXTER (1850-1927).

“I read your article on Equality in the Reviews of Revues as soon as it came out but general debility has persecuted me till now from telling you how much delighted I and my friends have been with it. Nothing could have been… more effective as an introduction to my public or more delicate in taste. I appreciate especially the note of personal regard for myself which I take very kindly. I hope that your health has been better than mine since we met last and your views of life less autumnal.

“This mystery of use without consumption, of warmth without combustion, seems like magic, but was merely an ingenious application of the art now happily lost but carried to great perfection by your ancestors, of shifting the burden of one’s support on the shoulders of others.” ― Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward: 2000-1887

Still I think I am gaining a little and if the present slant of the wind holds hope to claw off the lee shore on which I have come near going aground. How is that for a nautical figure? I fear you are not enough of a yachtsman to appreciate it. One does not learn those points on a “Land Yacht.” Affectionately yrs… P.S. I send you an autograph copy of Equality the novel [?]”

Although he published a number of books, including the 1880 science fiction novel Dr. Heidenhoff’s Process, it was for his wildly popular Utopian novel Looking Backward, 2000-1887, that Bellamy is best known. Looking Backward was the third most popular American book of the 19th century, trailing Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Ben Hur.

Its publication captivated the American public and led to the founding, throughout the country, of Nationalist Clubs, which sought to realize the socialist society described in the book. The 165 clubs founded by “Bellamyites,” included a Boston club founded by Baxter, an urban planner instrumental in the development of the Metropolitan Park System of Greater Boston. In addition to his civic involvement, Baxter was an author and columnist, whose works were published in the Boston Herald and Boston Evening Transcript.

Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy

Our letter refers to Bellamy’s 1897 novel, Equality, which, though it elaborated on the same ideas, was less popular than Looking Backward. Bellamy died from tuberculosis at his Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts home at the age of 48 on May 22, 1898.

Written on a folded sheet, with some separation along the center vertical fold; otherwise in very good condition. Rare. Much of Bellamy’s correspondence, including letters to Baxter, is at Harvard.


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