Novel 036: Emily Eden, The Semi-Detached House (1858)

James Tissot, Autumn on the Thames

James Tissot, Autumn on the Thames


An aristocratic young lady, prevented by her pregnancy from accompanying her diplomat husband overseas, shares a “semi-detached house” with a middle class family.

Emily Eden (1787-1869), daughter of a baron and sister of an earl, wrote only two novels, of which this quiet, pleasant work of social comedy is the second, though the first to be published.

“A piece of real life, sketched by a spectator full of shrewd sense and a genial spirit of fun.”  Spectator, August 6, 1858

“The purpose of this book, in so far as it has a purpose, is to teach us to take life easily and frankly...that we should not be too much pleased at speaking to persons of superior rank, nor too anxious to avoid those who may be below us”; the story is slight, but has “sparkling dialogue...good subsidiary characters, and...cheerful and habitual good sense.”  Saturday Review, August 27, 1858

“Character painting so entirely unpretending in its manner, and so perfect of its sort, as that which gives to this novel its value as a work of art, is not often to be found.”  Examiner, August 27, 1858

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