New York: The Manuscript Company / F. Tennyson Neely, (1902). Vice novel, brimming with Zolaesque naturalism, set in the Tenderloin District of mid-town Manhattan. The action centers around a notorious east-side gathering place called "The Knockabout Club" and the scenes described are lurid and detailed enough to give an accurate picture of Manhattan low-life at the turn of the twentieth century -- as well as to account for the book's apparent unpopularity at the height of the Comstock era. One contemporary reviewer in the Detroit Free Press wrote: "A Serpent's Feast...belongs to the kind of books which one takes pleasure in depositing behind the back-log with the aid of the tongs." Includes a suitably hyperbolic introduction by Joseph Tyler Butts, a regular contributor of florid fore-matter for the firm of F. Tennyson Neely. Whether due to content, or to Neely's financial woes at the time of publication, the book has remained unheralded and scarce. Just one physical location in OCLC (Columbia); missed by both Smith and Hanna.
NOTE: Publisher's imprint at base of spine is that of F. Tennyson Neely; title page bears imprint of The Manuscript Company. We find nearly contemporaneous ads for this title (April & June, 1902) in contemporary trade publications, one advertising the book as published by Neely, the other advertising it under the Manuscript Co. imprint. A prolific publisher of popular fiction, F. Tennyson Neely filed for bakruptcy in late 1899, and the firm's publishing assets were distributed to satisfy the debt, likely explaining the dual imprint, possibly also contributing to the book's scarcity. Edition not stated. 12mo (19cm). Burgundy cloth boards, stamped in yellow and black on spine and front cover; xiv,185pp. Trace of rubbing to board corners and spine ends; faint smoke aura to text block and a brief (1") thin split to paper at base of rear gutter. Still a tight, straight and handsome copy, Very Good. With an introduction by Joseph Tyler Butts.