The English Governess at the Siamese Court: Being Recollections of Six Years in the Royal Palace at Bangkok - Anna Harriette Leonowens 1870 - Fields, Boston - First Edition A lovely bright first edition of Leonowens’ remarkable memoirs, rare in the original gilt decorated cloth.

The basis for Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1951 hit musical ‘
The King and I’, starring Gertrude Lawrence as Leonowens and Yul Brynner as the King.

Illustrated with sixteen black and white engraved illustrations from photographs presented to the author by the new King of Siam, who owed his education to ‘
that tiresome, naughty and meddlesome, Mem Leonowens . . . a good and true lady’.
  Anna Harriette Leonowens (1831-1915), was a Welsh travel writer, educator and social activist, who grew up with her parents in India. In 1862, Leonowens accepted an offer made by the Siamese consul in Singapore, Tan Kim Ching, to teach the wives and children of Mongkut, king of Siam. The king wished to give his 39 wives and concubines and 82 children a modern Western education on scientific secular lines, which earlier missionaries' wives had not provided.

Leonowens sent her daughter Avis to school in England, and took her son Louis with her to Bangkok. She served at court until 1867, a period of nearly six years, first as a teacher and later as language secretary for the king. Although her position carried great respect and even a degree of political influence, she did not find the terms and conditions of her employment to her satisfaction, and came to be regarded by the king himself as a 'difficult woman and more difficult than generality'.

In 1868, Leonowens was on leave for her health in England and had been negotiating a return to the court on better terms when Mongkut fell ill and died. The king mentioned Leonowens and her son in his will, though they did not receive the legacy. The new monarch, fifteen-year-old Chulalongkorn, who succeeded his father, wrote Leonowens a warm letter of thanks for her services. He did not invite her to resume her post but they corresponded amicably for many years.

Provenance: Edward B. Taylor with his signature dated December 25, 1872, and also initials MAH.

Reference: Robinson,
Wayward Women 138.

Octavo (book size 20.8 x 14.5 cm) pp. [4] x [4 (facsimile of letter)] 321 [5]. Publisher’s brown pictorial cloth, bevelled boards, spine and front board lettered and decorated in gilt and black, gilt vignettes to front boards, brown coated endpapers, all edges trimmed.
  Condition: Near fine, some darkening to spine, wear to corners, slightly heavier with some loss to spine ends, several small patches of abrasion to front panel, internally fine.   Ref: 110360   Price: HK$ 8,000