Novel 042: Anonymous, My Lady (1858)

Richard Buckner, Emily, 1st Viscountess Hambleden, and her Daughter

Richard Buckner, Emily, 1st Viscountess Hambleden, and her Daughter

A woman and her children are left in trouble after the husband and father absconds with another woman.

The anonymous author is known to have written two novels, of which this was the first.  Some sources (I don’t know the origin of the claim) identify her with Emma Willsher Atkinson, the author of last week’s novel; Troy Bassett finds no basis for this, and the novel seems to me by another hand entirely.  Read both and make up your own mind.  Whoever she (or he) may be, she (it seems the likelier choice) provides an involving, sophisticated analysis of the consequences of Victorian marital failure.

It is “told...with great strength of feeling, is well written, and has a plot that is by no means commonplace.” Examiner, September 16, 1858

It has “the freshness of inexperience.”  Though the plot “verges upon melodrama,” the characters are “distinctly drawn, and often wear an appearance of individuality.” Spectator, October 2, 1858

“The subject and structure of the story are well chosen and well planned, the conversations are natural, and the characters neither hackneyed nor untrue.”  Literary Gazette, October 23, 1858

“It is not in every novel we can light upon a style so vigorously graceful—upon an intelligence so refined without littleness, so tenderly truthful, which has sensibility rather than poetry; but which is also most subtly and searchingly powerful.”  Dublin University Magazine, April. 1859

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