Novel 082: Mrs. Alfred Sidgwick, Cynthia's Way

 
Sir Francis Grant, Portrait of a Lady

Sir Francis Grant, Portrait of a Lady

 

A rich Englishwoman, bored with offers of marriage, takes a job as a governess in Germany.


Mrs. Alfred Sidgwick (née Cecily Ullman) (1852-1934), born into a German-Jewish family, married an English philosophy professor and  wrote some 46 novels beginning in 1889.  This one finds humor in the cultural differences between the English protagonist and the German family for which she works.

“A pleasant story of modern life—a welcome story, for youth and happiness sparkle through its pages.” Academy, November 9, 1901

“Mrs. Sidgwick, with rare keenness of vision, has seen below the surface ugliness of German existence, and has understood many things which the prejudiced refuse to acknowledge." Bookman, December, 1901

“The charm of the book is to be found in the descriptions of German home life, and particularly in the doings and sayings of the children, who are real living youngsters.  This makes it wholesome, charming, and entertaining.” San Francisco Chronicle, February 15, 1902

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https://archive.org/details/cynthiasway00sidggoog

Novel 081: James Payn, The Canon's Ward (1884)

 
Marcus Stone, Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Marcus Stone, Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

 

A young lady's secret is used to her disadvantage by an unscrupulous young man.


Here is another novel by James Payn (see Post 11), with an excellent plot featuring some delightfully scoundrelly scoundrels.

“Mr. Payn has here made a capital and original study of a villain…. the construction is excellent, strong situations abounding, and ... nevertheless, the characters are developed with the utmost truthfulness.  The novel abounds with clever remark and sub-ironical reflection; but Mr. Payn, though sometimes he indulges in very smart sentences, is never really cynical or cruel:  there is a genial light shining over it all.” British Quarterly Review, April, 1884

“The actors in it are, for the most part, really pleasant and agreeable; the scenes are, with important exceptions, natural and homelike; there is a domestic tone about the book, and family affection has full play.” Spectator, April 12, 1884

It “does not amount to much as a story, although the interest does not flag; but it is full of the quiet wit which has been so enjoyable in all his other stories, and the terse characterization which gives us the man or the woman in a single sentence.” The Critic and Good Literature, May 10, 1884

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v.1 https://archive.org/details/canonsward01payn/

v. 2 https://archive.org/details/canonsward02payn/

v.3 https://archive.org/details/canonsward03payn/

Novel 080: Mrs. Henry Chetwynd, Three Hundred a Year (1866)

 
Sir Francis Grant, Mary Isabella Grant Knitting a Shawl

Sir Francis Grant, Mary Isabella Grant Knitting a Shawl

 

A young couple, raised in luxury, tries to live on a limited income; then other things happen.


Mrs. Henry Chetwynd (née Julie Bosville Davidson) (1828–1901) wrote over a dozen novels, of which this was the first.  The title applies only to the opening situation, after which the plot takes  some weirdly abrupt turns.   Several of the characters are striking creations.

“This is a well-sustained and pleasant story, and the latter part of it abounds in humorous scenes and sketches of character”; the author “has a natural way of relating her story, and she is clever in contriving those little complications which prevent a love-tale from sinking into maudlin sentimentality.” Athenaeum, May 26, 1866.

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v.1 https://archive.org/details/threehundredyear01chet

v.2 https://archive.org/details/threehundredyear02chet

Novel 079: Frances Milton Trollope, Petticoat Government (1850)

 
John Ballantyne, William Powell Frith Painting the Princess of Wales

John Ballantyne, William Powell Frith Painting the Princess of Wales

 

Two maiden aunts compete for the guardianship of their orphaned niece.


The title is misleading: the book has nothing to do with women’s political ambitions.  Rather, it’s another example (see Post 029), from rather late in her career, of the bright and vivid social comedy at which Frances Milton Trollope excelled.

“This is a novel rich in all the attractions” that novels provide:  “First, character skilfully painted and boldly relieved... Next...abundance of incident, much varied, and always catching attention.  In the third place, a story progressively engaging our sympathies...and at last wound up in to a very ingeniously complicated plot.” Standard, August 9, 1850

 “Mrs. Trollope appears in this novel to have recalled the most vigorous days of her genius.” Critic, August 15, 1850.

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v.1 https://archive.org/details/petticoatgovernm01trolrich

v. 2 https://archive.org/details/petticoatgovernm02trolrich

v.3 https://archive.org/details/petticoatgovernm03trolrich

Novel 075: Percy White, The Grip of the Bookmaker (1901)

 
John William Waterhouse, The Flowerpicker

John William Waterhouse, The Flowerpicker

 

A retired bookie feuds with an aristocratic colonel whose daughter attracts his genteelly educated son.


Percy White (1852-1938) wrote some 30 novels between 1893 and 1914, many, like this one, clever social comedies set in London.

White’s muse “is at her best when inspiring her author with lively scenes about social London, and providing him with scalpel and knife to dissect the heart of some worldly old sinner.” This is “a very clever study of a retired racing man...both amusing and brightly written.  Perhaps on the whole the adjective ‘sparkling’ is the one that fits best.” Spectator, July 27, 1901

“Frivolous, amusing, and well written.” Academy, August 24, 1901

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https://archive.org/details/gripbookmakerCorrected

Novel 073: Bithia Mary Croker, Pretty Miss Neville (1883)

 
George Elgar Hicks, Home From School

George Elgar Hicks, Home From School

 

An Irish girl grows up and goes to India.


This is the second of Croker’s fifty-some novels (the other of her novels I’ve recommended, 013, was approximately her thirtieth).  Its first volume, describing its narrator’s Irish childhood, is especially engaging.

“Altogether this is an attractive and brightly written story, above the average of its class not only by its conception and execution, but also, and particularly, by the graceful manner of its narration.” Athenaeum, May 12, 1883

“On the whole, we prefer the Irish scenes, to the Indian; but both are described with much liveliness, and make sufficiently good reading…. Some of her characters ... are very pleasantly drawn.” Spectator, July 23, 1883

“The story embraces a considerable range of incident; ... there is not a dull page ... from the beginning to the end.” Saturday Review, September 29, 1883

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v.1 https://archive.org/details/prettymissnevil02crokgoog

v.2 https://archive.org/details/prettymissnevil01crokgoog

v.3 https://archive.org/details/prettymissnevil00crokgoog

Novel 072: Catherine Gore, Stokeshill Place; or, The Man of Business (1837)

 
Thomas Phillips, George O'Brien Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont, and His Daughter Mary Wyndham, Later Countess of Munster

Thomas Phillips, George O'Brien Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont, and His Daughter Mary Wyndham, Later Countess of Munster

 

A virtuous young lady is trapped in the  conflict between her striving middle-class father and the aristocrats who envy his wealth as he does their status.


Here is another great novel by Gore (see 012), one of the most popular novelists of the early Victorian period, one of the best of any period.  The titular “man of business” and the social setting in which he struggles are memorably delineated.

“No one possesses greater skill in taking up the thread, and unwinding it, till daylight breaks into the social labyrinth, than Mrs. Gore....  She has also the power of making her discoveries very amusing to her readers....  Years hence, we believe [her works] will be taken up as the most curious and accurate pictures ever drawn by a living writer of an actual time.” Literary Gazette, August 12, 1837

“In the case of a writer so long and deservedly popular as Mrs. Gore, our recommendation is scarcely needed, but yet we will recommend, candidly and without stint, these volumes to an attentive perusal....  Considering the author’s sex, her keen perceptions of the real and rough business of life occasionally excites our surprise.  She has evidently studied mankind in other places and among other subjects than drawing-rooms and London coteries.” Metropolitan Magazine, October, 1837

This is “like all Mrs. Gore’s novels, skilfully constructed in point of plot, and cleverly as well as naturally detailed.  She is a smart writer as well as a shrewd observer; and along with these requisites for one who would show up the frailties and follies of mankind or lash them effectively, she can, whenever she chooses, strike a deeper note and appeal to strong and tender affection.” Monthly Review, November 1837

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v.1 https://archive.org/details/stokeshillplaceo01gore

v.2 https://archive.org/details/stokeshillplaceo02gore

v.3 https://archive.org/details/stokeshillplaceo03gore

Novel 071: Esther Bakewell, Glenwood Manor-House (1857)

 
Thomas Benjamin Kennington, The Letter

Thomas Benjamin Kennington, The Letter

 

A virtuous young lady living in poverty is employed as the companion of a rich woman on a Yorkshire estate.


Esther Bakewell (1798-1873), who also wrote a novel for children consisting entirely of one-syllable words (available on Gutenberg.org) seems to have written only one novel for adults—this one.  It offers an odd but amusing mixture of quiet domestic life with unlikely criminal scheming.

“This novel possesses merit far above the average.... There is a certain amount of character in the book, there are plenty of incidents, and some of the situations are excellent, the more so from the fact that they are situations which really belong to the novel and not to the drama.” Illustrated Times, July 25, 1857

 “The action of this volume never flags; some of the persons introduced are of classes perfectly well known, yet presenting points of idiosyncrasy that single them out from the mass, and impart a strong individual character.” Morning Post, September 5, 1857

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Novel 070: Elizabeth Daniel, Esther Dudley's Wooers (1874)

 
George Bernard O'Neill, The Reproof

George Bernard O'Neill, The Reproof

 

A proud young lady, newly orphaned, goes to live with an elderly cousin in a northern backwater and adapts with difficulty to local society.


Elizabeth Daniel (1823-1878), was the wife of promising Scottish novelist Robert Mackenzie Daniel until, in 1846, he went mad, dying the following year.  Thereafter she wrote some thirty novels of her own; this, appearing late in her career, is a quiet character study.

“Mrs. Mackenzie Daniel has proved in a satisfactory manner that a story may be interesting without being sensational, religious without beind morbid, moral without being dull, a study of character without being a marvel of psychological surgery.  While capable of taking a bright view of individuals, she does not yearn and gush about the divinity of the human race; and in exhibiting the occasional infirmities to which flesh is subject, she does not think it necessary to discover in the mass of mankind the existence of crude lumps of moral nastiness.” Athenaeum, May 2, 1874

“A very readable novel.  The story is  well told; the characters are drawn with considerable cleverness.” London Daily News, May 23, 1874

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v.1 http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_00000004B9B4#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=0&xywh=-936%2C-124%2C3300%2C2471

v.2 http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_00000004B9BA#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=8&xywh=-89%2C0%2C2661%2C1992

v.3 http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_00000004B9C0#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=8&xywh=-115%2C0%2C2644%2C1979

Novel 069: Anne Marsh-Caldwell, Emilia Wyndham (1846)

 
Edmund Blair Leighton, Till Death Do Us Part

Edmund Blair Leighton, Till Death Do Us Part

 

A virtuous young lady, left in poverty, marries a stiff old lawyer.


Anne Marsh-Caldwell (1791-1874) published some 26 works of fiction between 1834 and 1867; her high moral tone exemplifies what most people associate with the word “Victorian.”  Here, however, she successfully portrays complex characters in interestingly difficult situations.

“A masterpiece….a most beautiful tale, with a charming, tender moral…. The characters are real, the incidents unforced, and the whole story a delightful combination of the natural, the passionate, and the wise.” Examiner, April 11, 1846

It “goes far, in our opinion, towards realizing the idea of a perfect novel.  Its conception is new and striking, its characters are strongly marked and consistently sustained, and they are developed in conversation and action rather than in description.  The book is full of amusing pictures of life and manners, while it lays open the deepest feelings of the mind and heart.  The interest never flags, and yet the narrative is always simple, natural, and vraisemblable.Christian Remebrancer, October, 1847

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v.1 https://archive.org/details/emiliawyndham01mars

v.2 https://archive.org/details/emiliawyndham02mars

v.3 https://archive.org/details/emiliawyndham03mars

Novel 068: David Christie Murray, Joseph's Coat (1881)

 
George Paul Chalmers, Old Letters

George Paul Chalmers, Old Letters

 

A young man, heir to a fortune, offends his mother and flees his country with the connivance of his greedy uncle, leaving his secret wife behind.


I return to David Christie Murray (see 009).  This, his second novel, was a great critical and popular success; its villains are particularly enjoyable.

“It is excellent alike as writing and as invention.  The style is one of uncommon vivacity and intelligence....  About his work, too, there is a happy and attractive flavour of novelty.  His characters and incidents are for the most part new and fresh.” Academy, November 5, 1881

“‘Joseph’s Coat’ is one of the best novels we have met with for a long time.  It shows not only a rare power of understanding and drawing character, but the perhaps rarer power of constructing a plot of first-rate interest… The character of young George is...a masterly study.” Athenaeum, November 19, 1881

It provides “a psychological inquiry into the nature of the class variously called knaves, scamps, or scoundrels.  It is a study in the various shades of roguery.  The author...evidently enjoys the work of delineation, of tracing ill-doing to its source, and detecting the scamp while he is still in favour with honest but less discerning people.” Saturday Review, June 10, 1882

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v.1 https://archive.org/details/josephscoat01murr/

v.2 https://archive.org/details/josephscoat02murr/

v.3 https://archive.org/details/josephscoat03murr/

Novel 067: Frances Cashel Hoey, Out of Court (1874)

 
James Jacques Joseph Tissot, Woman in an Interior

James Jacques Joseph Tissot, Woman in an Interior

 

A good man marries unwisely.


Frances Cashel Hoey (née Frances Sarah Johnston) (1830-1908) published some 13 works of fiction between 1868 and 1886 and collaborated with Edmund Yates on several others.  She was a Catholic convert, and one of her purposes here is to condemn divorce; several contemporary reviewers agree that this does not impair the novel’s literary quality.   

“This novel, remarkable in many ways, is especially so for its skilful delineation of character.  All the principal personages and many of the subordinate ones stand out so distinctly before us that we have their images in our minds and are able to picture them to ourselves in the various attitudes they are made to assume, and to understand perfectly the motives which underlie their actions… On the whole we must say of this novel that it is as powerful as it is well written and well imagined.  It is original in its tone and its modes of thought, and to all who can enjoy a good study of human nature, and who love to see follies, weaknesses, and sins unflinchingly exposed and as scornfully denounced, must afford a treat but seldom offered to them in these days of weak, washy novelties and meaningless love stories.” Morning Post, April 16, 1874

“So well kept up is the interest from the first page to the last, that her readers forgive her the three volumes...and the story is not at all too long for its requirements…. The peculiar charm of the book is its liveliness, the go and movement on every page; yet the workmanship is careful and correct all through, and the characters possess a distinct individuality of their own which is seldom met with now-a-days.” Times, August 21, 1874

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v.1 http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_000000042C66#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=4&xywh=-181%2C-171%2C2942%2C2173

v.2 http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_000000042C6C#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=4&xywh=-110%2C0%2C2668%2C1970

v.3 http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_000000042C78#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=4&xywh=-158%2C-176%2C2992%2C2209

Novel 066: Lucy B. Walford, The Baby's Grandmother (1884)

 
Archibald J. Stuart Wortley, Lilian Eldée

Archibald J. Stuart Wortley, Lilian Eldée

 

A well-intentioned middle-aged man, in love with a middle-aged woman, finds himself in a painful moral dilemma.


Here is another excellent novel by the prolific and talented Walford (see Post 18), with an unconventional heroine and several other complex characters.

“The heroine is a charming creation, and as original as she is charming... The characters are drawn with Mrs. Walford’s well-known skill, and there is many a touch in her delineation of the heroine that could only have been given by an accomplished novelist who has...the sympathetic imagination of a true artist.” Athenaeum, August 23, 1884

“There must be something deficient in the mind of any person who does not find it full of humour and vivacity varied by true pathos, and also by distinct traces of tragic power.” Spectator, August 23, 1884

“This is one of the most fresh and delightful stories recently published in English literature.... The book has humor and vivacity, with pathos and enough tragedy to relieve its lighter portions.  The narrative is quiet and not very eventful, but it has the charm of flowing logically out of the clash and collision of character.” Eclectic Magazine, October, 1884

“To buoyant spirits and a fresh imagination the author unites a piquancy of style which is fairly irresistible.  Her characters are life-like yet unhackneyed, she has an artistic grasp of plot, and excels in her conversations, which are thoroughly natural, spontaneous, and flowing.” Dublin Review, April 1885.

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v.1 https://archive.org/details/babysgrandmother01walf

v.2 https://archive.org/details/babysgrandmother02walf

v.3 https://archive.org/details/babysgrandmother03walf

Novel 065: Charlotte Riddell, Too Much Alone (1860)

 
Sir William Quiller Orchardson, The Chinese Cabinet

Sir William Quiller Orchardson, The Chinese Cabinet

 

An orphaned gentlewoman is married and then neglected by her hard-working chemist husband.


Charlotte Elizabeth Riddell (1832-1906) wrote over fifty works of fiction between 1856 and 1900, often set, like this one, among middle-class denizens of London.

“A well-conceived, well-wrought-out story, which has an air of human truth and reality about it which novels do not often possess.” Athenaeum, March 17, 1860.

“A thoroughly good novel” distinguished by “its downright reality”; practical scientists in charge of factories are brought “living before us, in very flesh and blood, not a blotch or stain overlooked.” Spectator, March 31, 1860

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v.1 http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_000000049DA6#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=4&xywh=2%2C374%2C2173%2C1604

v.2 http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_000000049DAC#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=4&xywh=-263%2C-171%2C3050%2C2252

v.3 http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_000000049DB2#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=4&xywh=-143%2C0%2C2779%2C2051

Novel 064: Anna Harriet Drury, Friends and Fortune (1849)

 
George Frederic Watts, Miss May Prinsep

George Frederic Watts, Miss May Prinsep

 

To test her relatives, an heiress switches identities with her companion.


Anna Harriet Drury (1824-1912) wrote some 16 novels between 1849 and 1891.  This one, despite intermittent downpours of religiosity, provides some excellent social comedy.

“It is at once amusing and instructive, genial and healthful…. Miss Drury’s style is peculiarly correct and elegant.  She writes, indeed, simple, honest, unaffected English, quite refreshing after the artificial semi-barbarous Teutonic gibberish of the day….  Miss Drury...has a natural dramatic faculty—the power of entering into the feelings of others, and speaking in their persons.” English Review, March 1849

“Her perceptions are lively and keen, and her powers of delineating manners and character might well be compared with those of authors ‘of mark and likelihood.’  Her style is racy, animated, and easy, often pointed and epigrammatic…. The story is told in a pleasant and genial spirit; and although pervaded...by an earnest religious tone, it is so far from being bilious or melancholic that many a hearty laugh is to be enjoyed at the strokes of humour scattered through its lively pages.  If Miss Drury is a serious thinker, ... she has also a relish for a joke, and a keen perception of the ludicrous.” Morning Chronicle, April 14, 1849

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https://archive.org/details/friendsandfortu00drurgoog