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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