Novel 028: Lucas Malet, Colonel Enderby's Wife (1885)

 
 Hubert von Herkomer, Clematis

Hubert von Herkomer, Clematis

 

A quiet middle-aged man falls in love with a beautiful but strangely childlike young woman.


Mary St. Leger Harrison (1852-1931) was the daughter of novelist and reformer Charles Kingsley.  Under the pseudonym Lucas Malet, she wrote some 16 novels beginning in 1882; this one, amid more commentary on the human condition than might seem altogether necessary, presents vivid characters in helpless conflict.

“In these days of hurried workmanship it is a welcome contrast to encounter a story which combines imagination, observation and finish in such a high degree.  This is no sketch, but a whole gallery of portraits which have not suffered from the author’s elaborate method, but only gained in lifelikeness”; even if “the author, especially in her moralizing moods, is too uniformly, and perhaps consciously, clever.” Athenaeum, June 6, 1885

The novel's style has “a quiet self-confidence and reserved power”; the author is “vivid and effective in her descriptions, and telling in her portraitures”; but “there is a morbid strain running through it; one is tempted to ask whether the imagination which conceived and executed this book has not a touch of inflammation.” Literary World, July 11, 1885

“It is poignant, grievously pathetic, a fateful, disheartening book, but it is unquestionably clever.” “Everything in ‘Colonel Enderby's Wife’ is clever--the talk, the author’s pessimistic reflections, the arrangement of incident...and above all the delineation of character."  Westminster Review, October, 1885

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Novel 026: Elizabeth Darby Eiloart, The Love that Lived (1874)

 
 James Sant, The Bride

James Sant, The Bride

 

In a small town, a radical clerk is rescued from drowning by a rich young gentleman whom he resents; as it happens, the two men are connected by their parents' secret past.


Elizabeth Darby Eiloart (1827-1898) wrote some 18 novels for adults (and several more for children) between 1865 and 1883; she specialized in middle-class characters and concerns, which emerge sharply in this novel, despite a charmingly silly plot.

“All Mrs. Eiloart’s books are honest books, spiced with independence of thought, and sweetened with a pleasant humour.”  This novel “breathes the fresh air of the country"; “its characters are true to life.”  Academy, July 18, 1874

Eiloart's “books are original and fascinating; they contain good plots, plenty of incident, and well described and distinctive characters.”  This is “one of the best and most interesting novels of the season.”  Morning Post, August 25, 1874

“Apart from the plot...Mrs. Eiloart’s novel is refreshingly and unaffectedly real.  There is nothing high-flown, nothing morbid in its tone.”  It “is not only a love-story.  It is a political story.  Conservatives and Radicals, rich and poor, the old school and the new, are all faithfully represented....This is one of the most pleasing and interesting novels of the season.”  Examiner, August 29 1874

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vol. 2 http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_000000046A6A#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=4&xywh=-410%2C0%2C3265%2C200

vol. 3: http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_000000046A5E#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=4&xywh=-379%2C-1%2C3329%2C204

 

Novel 025: Margaret Paul, Martha Brown, the Heiress (1861)

 
 Richard Buckner, Margaret Laetitia, Lady Western, née Bushby

Richard Buckner, Margaret Laetitia, Lady Western, née Bushby

 

An heiress loves a poor but proud young surgeon.


Margaret Agnes Paul, née Colvile (1829–1905) wrote a dozen novels between 1856 and 1886, of which this was the fifth.  Just one volume, like many of her works, this has a good plot drawn from ordinary life, and a few vivid characters.

“A very pleasant evening’s reading--clever, sensible, brief, lively, and refined....  It is sometimes a relief to read a novel which is good enough to admire, and not powerful enough for even a pretence to immortality.” Spectator, November 9, 1861

“interesting and original...related in a sharp, concise manner, which renders it very pleasant reading.” Athenaeum, November 9, 1861

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Novel 024: Mary Cholmondeley, Red Pottage (1899)

 
 James Jebusa Shannon, Lady Marjorie Manners

James Jebusa Shannon, Lady Marjorie Manners

 

A young novelist lives with her clerical brother, while her friend grows to love a man with a dubious past and a secret problem.


Mary Cholmondeley (1859-1925) wrote ten novels between 1887 and 1913; according to some reviewers, this one outsold all the other novels of 1899.  Its self-satisfied clergyman is a unique creation, not to be missed.

The plot is “ingenious, original, and abounding in strong dramatic situations”; Cholmondeley “understands the art of making her characters not merely thrill us at crises, but interest us in the normal intervening spaces of their lives”; despite some blemishes, “criticism is disarmed by the freshness, the strength, and the pathos of this brilliant and exhilarating novel, by far the most exciting and original of the present season.”  Spectator, October 28, 1899

"A clever, well-told story.  The emotional feeling is not of a common sort, and the outlook on modern life and manners is touched with vivacity, with something of subtlety even.” Cholmondeley provides “close and, at times, humorous observation of character....produced with a light touch and an admirable absence of the descriptive manner.”  “Never aggressively witty nor epigrammatic, she yet often says a good thing in a way that makes one wonder why it has not been said before, or not in the same fresh or whimsical fashion.”  Athenaeum, November 11, 1899

The “central incident” is “improbable,” “but the insight into character, the vivid interpretation of a woman’s mind, and the happy gift of satire displayed by Miss Cholmondeley raise her book at once to a very high level.  She has a marvelous knack of portraying an unconscious fool, male or female, and one or two of her characters will live in her readers’ memories.  She has an admirable sense of style, and she knows the world of which she writes.”  Saturday Review, November 11, 1899

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Novel 021: Alice Price, Who Is Sylvia? (1883)

 
 Augustus Leopold Egg, Unknown Woman 

Augustus Leopold Egg, Unknown Woman 

 

A virtuous young lady endures various improbable accidents and misunderstandings.


Alice Price (1840-1891) wrote seven novels between 1883 and 1892, of which this is the first.  Its plot is full of exciting surprises; its characters are well delineated.

“Few recent novels can boast of so excellent a plot, of such remarkably well-drawn characters, and of the variety of incidents that is to be found in Who is Sylvia?.”  Morning Post, February 1, 1883

“This novel may be read with genuine pleasure; it is agreeably written, and the interest is sustained to the close.”  Academy, February 3, 1883
 
“The story is not overcharged with incident, but it has more than enough to relieve it from monotony, and the execution is much above the average.  There are indications of quiet power in this novel which give ample promise for the future work of its author, and it is in itself an achievement with which its readers are more than likely to be content.”  Athenaeum, February 3, 1883

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Novel 020: Sir Henry Stewart Cunningham, Wheat and Tares (1860)

 
 William Powell Frith, Portrait of Two Girls 

William Powell Frith, Portrait of Two Girls 

 

A brother and sister, staying at a seaside town with their uncle the archdeacon, are involved in various romantic conflicts.


Sir Henry Stewart Cunningham (1832-1920), a prominent barrister and judge, found time to write six novels between 1860 and 1894.  Here, maybe he ran out of time, for, after three hundred pages of excellent social comedy, he concludes abruptly with a hundred more of badly plotted melodrama.  The beginning and middle, however, are good enough to make up for the end.

“A capital story.  Fresh, sparkling, and cheerful as a summer’s morning”; it provides “a very faithful daguerrotype of the life in an English sea-side town.”  Christian Examiner, November, 1860

"This is a natural work.  It will please all readers, whose tastes and human feelings have not been utterly obliterated by the blood-and-thunder 'sensation' romances of the time….  His book 'has the atmosphere of truth and the vigor of sincerity, and is executed with uncommon freedom, delicacy, and skill.'"  Knickerbocker, (quoting the New York Saturday Press), November, 1860

“The dialogue is unusually brilliant, natural, and easy.  The fun is quiet, subtle, and continuous; and the illustrations of hidden thoughts and the shading off of finer traits of character are at once ingenious and truthful.  But above all, it has throughout the unmistakable impress of a refined and delicate taste.  The people in it who are represented as talking in drawing-rooms talk as if they really were in drawing rooms, and not in the gilded saloons that haunt the fancy of Bohemia.  The ladies are ladies, and the gentlemen are about as wise and foolish, as well-behaved and as ill-behaved, as gentlemen usually are.”  Saturday Review, November 16, 1861

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Novel 019: Lady Georgiana Fullerton, Grantley Manor (1847)

 
 William Dyce, Christabel

William Dyce, Christabel

 

A young woman is perplexed by a man who seems and does not seem to court her, and by a half-sister who may be very good or very bad.


Lady Georgiana Fullerton (1812-1885), daughter of an earl and convert to Catholicism, wrote roughly a dozen novels between 1844 and 1883.  Though the plot here is not always plausible, it enables her to place fully realized, sympathetic characters in interesting dilemmas.

“The skill with which the plot … is constructed, the exquisite truth of delineation which the characters exhibit, and the intensity of passion which warms and dignifies the subject, are alike admirable…. The depth of passion which surrounds the story of Ginevra is the result of unquestioned genius.”  Times, August 24, 1847

“If sentimentalism is sometimes carried to a rather extravagant height, and tenderness and pathos are occasionally over-wrought, still it is impossible to deny to the work, striking and passionate scenes, exquisite and truthful delineations of English society and character, vigour and grace of language, and high intellectual power.” Ainsworth's Magazine, July 1847

Fullerton “takes a high place among writers of modern fiction.  We have not for many a day read so charming a story….  Though there is nothing violent in the nature of the interest, and weakness, not wickedness, induces the suffering, the suffering is deep enough for profoundest sympathy, and the feelings are moved and agitated to the last.  And neighbouring the pathos...we have occasional archness, simplicity, and quiet humour, the effect of which is most graceful and lovely.” Examiner, July 3, 1847

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v.1  https://archive.org/details/grantleymanortal01full

v.2  https://archive.org/details/grantleymanortal02full

v.3  https://archive.org/details/grantleymanortal03full

Novel 016: Mary E. Mann, Moonlight (1898)

 
 James Tissot, The Shop Girl

James Tissot, The Shop Girl

 

A young woman, daughter of a once-prosperous farmer, is forced by his bankruptcy to seek work in a shop, where she is courted by the local veterinarian.


Mary E. Mann (1848-1929) wrote nearly forty novels between 1883 and 1918. Here she provides (in just one volume)  memorable characters, an unusual setting, a bright style, and an engaging plot.

“Written in a brief, simple, unemphatic style, with never a note forced anywhere, this story yet produces a wonderfully strong effect.... Commonplace persons, with average standards of conduct and quite unideal, even vulgar instincts...are neither rated nor made fun of; merely observed with a wise tolerance and with a tender sympathy for the joys, and the sorrows, and the weariness they share with the more gifted tithe of humanity.  This altogether uncritical yet observant atitude gives us a sense of novelty, and convinces us of the writer’s uncommon power.”  Bookman, January 1999

“An excellent style, a command of natural, crisp, and vivacious dialogue, a firm grasp of character, and a dramatic imagination.”  Speaker, February 25, 1899

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Novel 015: Theo Gift, Lil Lorimer (1885)

 
 John Bagnold Burgess,  The Church Door

John Bagnold Burgess,  The Church Door

 

A young lady, neglectfully raised by her disreputable English father in Montevideo, finds herself in trying social circumstances.


Dorothy Boulger, née Havers (1847-1923) published some 17 works of fiction under the pen-name Theo Gift between 1874 and 1901.  She spent her late teens and early twenties (1861-70) in Uruguay, a setting carefully realized, along with some convincingly conflicted characters, in Lil Lorimer

“A charming and romantic novel....The ... characters are invariably lifelife.... The author has painted South America with a realistic fidelity.”  Morning Post, April 16, 1885

The “descriptions of Urugayan town and country life...have all the appearance of being reproduced from original experiences”; The plot is true “to the complex realities of life.” Graphic, May 16, 1885

“The descriptions of life in that part of South America are both instructive and entertaining....  The character-drawing...is also good, and the plot...is simple and natural.  But the story depends for its interest less on dramatic episodes and startling surprises than on portrayal of character and analysis of motive.” Spectator, July 25, 1885

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v.1 http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_0000000421B0#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=6&xywh=-493%2C-1%2C3557%2C2104

v.2 http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_00000003C53A#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=6&xywh=-396%2C0%2C3383%2C2000

v.3 http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_00000003AEA2#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=6&xywh=-390%2C-1%2C3356%2C1985

Novel 014: Julia Rattray Waddington, Janet; or, Glances at Human Nature (1839)

 
 Frank Stone, Friendship Endangered

Frank Stone, Friendship Endangered

 

An unassuming, affectionate young lady is envied by her older sister


Julia Rattray Waddington (1801-1862) wrote only four novels, all between 1838 and 1842.  This one, illustrating the passion of envy, is notable for its vivid and original characters; one of the best, a middle-aged unmarried woman living in a small town, seems possibly autobiographical

It "contains passages of feeling and sparkles of humour, subdued in tone, but still true to life.” Athenaeum, January 26, 1839

"The result of watchful observation in collecting the materials, and of much care, thought, and pains, in working them up...Its merits are--a nice and miniature delineation of those persons and of that life with which the mass of novel-readers are familiar; much truthfuless of dialogue; a keen but never malicious satire...the whole being embodied in a story which sometimes runs and never drags.” Spectator, January 26, 1839

“The story is made up of such incidents and feelings as characterize every-day life....There are abundant proofs that the writer is a close observer of mankind and manners, habitually reflective, and a good natured satirist.  The dialogue is often particularly clever and effective.”Monthly Review, February, 1830

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http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/OXVU1:LSCOP_OX:oxfaleph013983847

Novel 013: B.M. Croker, Katherine the Arrogant (1909)

 
 James Tissot, Without a Dowry 

James Tissot, Without a Dowry 

 

A young lady, raised in aristocratic wealth but left penniless by her heedless father, persuades an aged friend to hire her as servant and companion.


Bithia Mary Croker (1848?-1921) wrote nearly 50 novels between 1882 and 1920.  This charming post-Victorian social comedy has motorcars and electric lights.

“A good story on a theme which always attracts, the woman who has to conquer the world.” Spectator, March 27, 1909

“An excellent story; crisply and vivaciously written, and thoroughly interesting from start to finish.” Bookman, April 1909

“It is written with an appearance of ease and competency of touch tending to disarm criticism.” Athenaeum, April 17. 1909

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