Novel 094: Christiana Jane Douglas, The Heir of Ardennan (1852)

Sir Daniel McNee, A Lady in Grey Prints

Sir Daniel McNee, A Lady in Grey Prints


A poor but virtuous Scottish girl falls in love.

Christiana Jane Douglas (1822-1887) (later Mrs. Charles Greenall Davies) wrote some 10 novels between 1845 and 1885.  This one features excellent plotting and characterization—until both are sacrificed to eke out the last volume with a silly lovers’ misunderstanding.  (Such plot twists, in which well-meaning, intelligent characters jump to idiotic conclusions about each other that they never think to question or confirm, are the bane of Victorian fiction; no doubt they were useful in keeping hero and heroine apart for the requisite three volumes.)

“The chief merit, and a great one it is, of ‘The Heir of Ardennan,’ is that we find a genuine, a true thing; nothing is introduced for effect, which violates nature or probability. We find in this work, not only a singularly interesting story, but characters drawn with such a rare felicity, that it is hard to believe but that they are portraits from life.” Bentley’s Miscellany, January 1, 1852.

“A feminine perception of small points in appearance and manners, minute in themselves but conducive in the aggregate to great truth and naturalness, forms the distinguishing feature of this novel.” Spectator, January 31, 1852.

“Her delineation of character, her deep sense alike of the beautiful and of the ludicrous, and the skill with which she sketches the various peculiarities of her dramatis personae, are worthy of a high encomium.” New Quarterly Review, April 1852.

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