Boston and Gardiner, ME: Bela Marsh and the author, 1856. 12mo. 362 pages. Engraved portrait frontispiece of Clay by H. Wright Smith. Original embossed cloth. Prelims, including frontispiece, and last gathering, with dampstaining, ends of spine chipped, hinges cracked but binding firm. Item #405678
SCARCE FIRST EDITION of Clay's prison narrative, written during his six month's confinement in the Augusta, Maine jail. Clay was convicted in 1854 for "lewd and lascivious cohabitation with an unmarried woman, in my own house" on evidence that "we slept in the same bed." He was acquitted of an adultery charge after two doctors testified to the woman's virginity. Commitment to an insane asylum was then recommended. Clay was a dedicated anarchist communitarian, espousing liberty and equality, and he writes extensively about "free love" in his lengthy text. After he was released from prison in 1855, he left Maine and joined the Point Hope Community at Berlin Heights, Ohio where he accepted private enterprise while rejecting capitalism. 'With Oneida and Shaker communism he found much to agree, but he rejected celibacy and Biblical infallibility. Steeped in the Bible, he based his principles on natural reason and intuition. A perfectionist come-outer, he sought 'to join a community whose interests shall be united; where love shall take the place of gold, peace that of war, plenty of want, health that of sickness, life that of death, a model kingdom of heaven'" (T.D. Seymour Bassett, in 'Socialism and American Life,' volume 1, ed. Donald Drew Egbert, Princeton University Press, 1952, p.
No copies at auction since 1922 according to RBH.