Novel 103: Charlotte Yonge, The Trial (1864)

 
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, A Family Group

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, A Family Group

 

A young man is falsely accused of murder.


This is the sequel to The Daisy Chain, of eight years before (Novel 053).  Here Yonge moves beyond the domestic, including not only a murder but also an American episode, in which a few of her characters seek prosperity in an Indiana swamp while the Civil War rages in the distance.

“With the old Pre-Raffaelite touch Miss Yonge paints her portraits, quietly, faithfully, and as completely as she can.” Reader, June 18, 1864

Yonge “understands how to work the machinery of a large family—to show how the different members act and react on each other—in a probable and calculable manner.” Saturday Review, August 20, 1864

“In these days of exciting fiction, it is difficult to sustain public interest without doing violence to the more refined tastes of educated readers.  Much insight into human nature is needed, and no small amount of artistic power.  These desiderata are well supplied by the authoress of this story, and those who remember and admired her elegant style of writing will not be disappointed in her new book.” Manchester Guardian, September 6, 1864

“No one can deny that this lady draws the inner and outer life of a certain limited class of characters with a truth and reality almost unrivalled, or that her pictures of struggling middle-class interiors are finished with the fidelity of a Dutch painting.” Westminster Review, October, 1864

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v.1  https://archive.org/details/trialmorelinksd03yonggoog

v.2 https://archive.org/details/trialmorelinksd01yonggoog

Novel 101: A.J. Barrowcliffe, Normanton (1862)

 
William Fraser Garden, Houghton Mill

William Fraser Garden, Houghton Mill

 

In a country village, two cousins both love the miller’s daughter.


Albert Julius Mott (?-1870) wrote three novels between 1856 and 1862 under the pseudonym A.J. Barrowcliffe.  This, the last, has an intricate plot which runs its course over five days in a small village.

“The author . . . is able to breathe life into the creatures of his imagination, so that they perform his bidding naturally, and do not require the visible presence of his guiding hand.  He has a thorough sympathy with nature. . . .  And he has a keen insight into the complex machinery of the human mind. . . .  Moreover, he possesses no small share of humour.” London Review, December 20, 1862

The author succeeds in “the production of a minutely finished and faithful picture of English country life. . . .  Mr. Barrowcliffe’s story is quite sufficiently interesting, and is developed with considerable skill; but certainly the most noticeable point in his book is the extreme polish and smoothness of his style.” Spectator, December 27, 1862

“An honest purpose, a graceful style, and a certain novelty in construction, make this a very good story.” Examiner, April 4, 1863.

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Novel 100: Mary Louisa Molesworth, Leona (1892)

 
James Sant, A Thorn Amidst the Roses

James Sant, A Thorn Amidst the Roses

 

Two cousins grow interested in the same man.


Here, to follow last week’s Mary Molesworth, is the Victorian period’s other Mary Molesworth, Mary Louisa Molesworth (1838-1921) a prolific author mainly of children’s books, though she also wrote novels for adults, like this one—a quiet story based on plausible, entertaining misunderstandings of character and purpose.

“It is a very enjoyable book. The characters of the young men and girls who are the principal persons in the little narrative drama are, in the main, admirably delineated; . . . and the conversation, which is an important element in a tale of this kind, is specially excellent.” Academy, October 15, 1892

“The characters are well drawn, the incidents probable and well led up to, and the story interesting.  But the strong point of the work, after all, lies in the character drawing, especially in the subtle delineation of shades of diversity in disposition, amongst a family where all the members are chiefly remarkable for their amiability and worth.” Westminster Review, July 1893

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Novel 098: Elizabeth Stone, Mr. Dalton's Legatee, a Very Nice Woman (1850)

 
William Powell Frith, The Toilet

William Powell Frith, The Toilet

 

A disobedient daughter's disinheritance leads to the enrichment of a socially ambitious woman.


In addition to historical works on such subjects as needlework, Elizabeth Stone (1803-1881) wrote five novels.  Here, the bad characters are excellent, especially the “very nice woman,” and the plot is amusing if you don’t mind a final pile of coincidence impressive even by contemporary standards.

“The apeing of fashion by vulgar people, the wretchedness it occasions to themselves, and the laughter it provokes in others, have ever been a favourite . . . theme with novelists . . .; but seldom have we seen it accomplished with more humour and truth than in the novel before us. . . .  Always vigorous, the writing is at times positively brilliant.  The descriptions are remarkably graphic, yet drawn without effort. . . .  The personages . . . are all . . . distinctly outlined, and most of them are manifestly sketches after nature.  Mrs. Stone has a keen observation, and a quick sense of the ludicrous.” Critic, August 1, 1850

“Although ‘Mr. Dalton’s Legatee’ properly belongs to a class of books for which we have no particular affection—the fashionable novels—yet it is one of the best of its kind. The plot is intricate and interesting, and the characters amusing and well sustained.” American Whig Review, October, 1850

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Novel 096: Will Payne, The Story of Eva (1901)

 
Alson Skinner Clark, The Coffee House

Alson Skinner Clark, The Coffee House

 

Having abandoned her adulterous husband, a young woman makes a life for herself in Chicago.


Will Payne (1865-1954) wrote nine novels between 1896 and 1929.  The description in the first half of the novel of a woman’s working life in turn-of-the-century Chicago is especially interesting.

“It has been said that Chicago is fatal to any imaginative gifts, and that no novel of that city has ever risen above mediocrity.  An exception must be made in favor of a new novel of strong realism which pictures several phases of Chicago life with remarkable vividness and yet contains much of the spiritual quality that relieves its materialism. . . . The story as a whole is admirably constructed and true to life. . . .  In all the passages that bear on the working girls of Chicago the author shows singular closeness of observation, mingled with much sympathy.” San Francisco Chronicle, June 30, 1901

“The book is readable, and interesting to any one who wishes to hear about the way of life of the middle classes of Chicago.” Spectator, August 10, 1901

“Mr. Payne’s writing is not of the kind which arrests or startles.  Rather it compels attention to detail, to a word here, a phrase there; but the portrait which is left at the end is whole and in proportion, while the background is filled in with due regard to the high lights which the painter wishes to emphasise.” Saturday Review, September 14, 1901

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Novel 095: Mrs. A.B. Church, Measure for Measure (1862)

 
Edward John Poynter, A Day Dream

Edward John Poynter, A Day Dream

 

A young lady is tormented by a secret sorrow.


About Mrs. A.B. Church nothing is known except that she wrote four novels between 1860 and 1881, of which this is the second.  The arbitrary mystification at the beginning is a bit annoying, but the novel improves greatly as it goes on; the portrait of the villain who appears in the latter half is especially good.

“Without being a striking story, ‘Measure for Measure’ is pleasing and interesting, and there is a refinement about the author’s style which might recommend an even less remarkable production.” Morning Post, September 3, 1862

“This is a novel with a clever plot, skilfully and lightly telling its tale through the sort of conversation that a woman finds and makes . . . when she forms part of society in an English village near a small country town.” Examiner, September 6, 1862

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v.1 https://archive.org/details/measureformeasur01chur

v.2 https://archive.org/details/Measureformeasur02churBwFIXED

v.3 https://archive.org/details/measureformeasur03chur

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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Novel 093: G.M. Robins, The Ides of March (1892)

 
Edith Hayllar, A Summer Shower

Edith Hayllar, A Summer Shower

 

An upright man unjustly judges the woman who jilted his friend.


Gertrude Minnie Robins (1861-1939) wrote some fifty novels, beginning in 1886.  This one cleverly handles a plausible series of misperceptions and misplaced loyalties. 

“Miss Robins has achieved a real success in The Ides of March. . . . The two principal personages . . . are drawn with unusual skill and vigour. . . .   There is not one weakly-drawn character in the whole story. . . . Society in a sleepy cathedral city is happily hit off, and there are many wise as well as witty things in the course  of the three volumes.” Academy, January 16, 1892

“This is a curious and, we must say, ingeniously constructed story. . . . The social sketches are good, and on the whole The Ides of March . . . is a novel that may be recommended.” Spectator, February 6, 1892

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v.1 http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_000000050FB8#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=0&xywh=-995%2C-123%2C3439%2C2454

v.2 http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_000000050FBE#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=8&xywh=-96%2C0%2C2603%2C1857

v.3 http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_000000050FC4#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=0&xywh=-1003%2C-124%2C3448%2C2461

Novel 092: Sarah MacNaughtan, The Fortune of Christina McNab (1901)

 
John Lavery, Portrait of a Lady in a Green Coat

John Lavery, Portrait of a Lady in a Green Coat

 

A newly rich young middle-class Scotswoman pays a friend’s aristocratic cousin to introduce her into society


Sarah MacNaughtan (1864-1916) wrote about a dozen novels, beginning in 1898, mostly clever social comedies like this one.

“This is a quite admirable story”; the author “relieves his [sic] fun with a delicate touch of pathos.” Spectator, November 16, 1901.

“The story has both shrewdness and humour”; it is based on “direct observation. . . .. Some of the character sketches . . . are excellent.” Academy, November 23, 1901

“A really readable and lively story.” Detroit Free Press, November 30, 1901

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https://archive.org/details/fortuneofchristi00macnuoft/

Novel 090: Mrs. S.C. Hall, Marian (1840)

 
George Frederick Watts, Charity

George Frederick Watts, Charity

 

A girl of gentle birth is raised as a foundling in London by a selfish lady and a loving nurse.


Anna Maria Fielding (1800-1881), born and raised in Dublin, moved to London as a teenager and in 1824 married journalist and editor S.C. Hall.  She wrote stories, plays, and half a dozen novels.  The Irish nurse here, though something of an ethnic caricature, is justly praised by the critics .

“Her sketches of character are lifelike; her events probable; and the dramatis personae, necessary to the progress and dénoûement of the plot, brought together with perfect ease.” Literary Gazette, January 18, 1840

“The Irish Nurse, who may be said to be the real heroine” has “a depth both of humour and of sentiment, a richness of colouring, a truth and purity of design, which will command for it a place among the very highest conceptions of this kind that our literature boasts.” New Monthly Magazine, February, 1840

“This is a simple story, yet it affords room for amusing, touching, and striking incidents; and among the persons of the drama there are several characters drawn with a firm and powerful hand. . . .   The gem of the novel is Katty Macane, the poor Irish nurse,—a character than which, whether considered in its conception or execution, we know nothing more admirable of its kind in Scott or Edgeworth.  We cannot praise it too highly, for we have hardly ever received greater delight from a creation of fancy.” Spectator, February 1, 1840

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v.1 https://books.google.com/books?id=vNMsAAAAYAAJ&dq=editions%3A-vwPV-2TIx0C&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false

v.2 https://books.google.com/books?id=SnM1AQAAMAAJ&dq=editions%3A-vwPV-2TIx0C&pg=PA3#v=onepage&q&f=false

Novel 089: Albany de Grenier de Fonblanque, A Tangled Skein (1862)

 
James Sant, Enigma

James Sant, Enigma

 

An officer returning from India is involved in a murder mystery.


Albany de Grenier de Fonblanque (1830-1924) wrote a dozen novels between 1859 and 1892. This one has a clever, lively narrator (not averse to straining for a joke now and then), a suspenseful (if absurd) plot that lives up to the title, and several amusingly annoying characters.

“The ‘Tangled Skein’ is no unfitting title for a story which even the author himself is at a loss to unravel.  It is a sensation novel of the most approved type.  There is a murder, of which a baronet, a peer, and a tinker are suspected in turn.  There are secret marriages and illegitimate children, and hidden papers, and haunted rooms, and intelligent detectives, and all the regular apparatus of excitement and horror.  However, the novel is well written and sparkling, and those who like this class of literature might spend their time worse than in exercising their wits over Mr. Fonblanque’s puzzle.” Reader, January 10, 1863

“A modern tale of mystery, with detective police, telegraphic messages and express trains. Withal, it is well written, and there is nothing forced in the descriptions or in the manner in which the incidents are related. . . .  There are no highly-wrought passages, wherein any appeal is made to the reader’s feelings, but the interest is so well sustained, and the various incidents so ingeniously and mysteriously interwoven, that ‘A Tangled Skein’ bids fair to become a popular work.” Athenaeum, February 21, 1863

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http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=oxfaleph014269397&context=L&vid=SOLO&search_scope=LSCOP_ALL&tab=local&lang=en_US

Novel 088: Jessie Fothergill, Made or Marred (1881)

 
Edmund Blair Leighton, Our Next-Door Neighbor

Edmund Blair Leighton, Our Next-Door Neighbor

 

A promising young civil engineer falls in love with his suburban next-door neighbor.


Jessie Fothergill (1851-1891) wrote over a dozen novels, many set, like this one, in the the suburbs of an industrial city (she herself lived outside Manchester).  The villainess here is particularly entertaining.

“Those who are acquainted with Miss Fothergill’s previous novels will know that they possess considerable charm both of style and incident.  Made or Marred . . . exhibits the same characteristics.  It is a pleasant book with which to while away an afternoon. . . .  Some of the characters in this little volume are very attractive.” Academy, August 20, 1881

It shows “the author’s power of observation and description and her genuine, right-minded, and delicate sentiment”; “It is not a very common pleasure to read a love story in which the sentiment is  fresh and not insipid. . . . The studies of the town life and aspects as well as those of the landscape are made with Miss Fothergill’s well-known quickness of perception.  The essentials are seized upon with the skill of the accomplished sketcher.” Athenaeum, August 27, 1881

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https://archive.org/details/madeormarred00fothgoog

Novel 086: Florence Marryat, Love's Conflict (1865)

 
Charles West Cope, Hope Deferred, and Hopes and Fears that Kindle Hope

Charles West Cope, Hope Deferred, and Hopes and Fears that Kindle Hope

 

An heiress is discovered among fisherfolk; meanwhile, a virtuous young lady is entrapped by a bad man.


Florence Marryat (1833-1899), daughter of Frederick Marryat (the most successful 19th-century novelist of nautical adventures), wrote some eighty works of fiction, beginning with this one, which vividly represents various kinds of emotional torment.

“Without the aid of any very ingenious plot, Miss Marryat has succeeded in producing an exceedingly good novel.  We give no slight praise when we say that it possesses the rare combination of unflagging interest . . . great descriptive power, and an influence . . . altogether good. . . . The very simple secret of the interest that pervades ‘Love’s Conflict’ consists in a very difficult achievement—in the delineation of men and women who really are men and women, and do not pretend to be angels or devils.”  Athenaeum, February 11, 1865

Marryat’s “forte is a hard, almost coarse, realism both of style and topic. . . . She can paint and paint strangely well the ways and attitudes, and sometimes even the emotions, of thoroughly low natures.” Spectator, February 25, 1865

The novel “has considerable merit.  Miss Marryat paints the successive emotional phases through which her chief characters pass with subtlety and force.” Saturday Review, May 6, 1865

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http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=oxfaleph014599964&context=L&vid=SOLO&search_scope=LSCOP_ALL&tab=local&lang=en_US

Novel 085: Leslie Keith, Cynthia's Brother (1901)

 
Sir Francis Grant, Portrait of Miss Grant, the Artist’s Daughter

Sir Francis Grant, Portrait of Miss Grant, the Artist’s Daughter

 

A motherless girl adores her demanding older brother.


Grace L. Keith Johnston (1843-1929) wrote over forty works of fiction between 1878 and 1907 under the name Leslie Keith.  This novel, published by the Religious Tract Society after serialization in The Girls’ Own Paper, and therefore, one assumes, morally  and spiritually unobjectionable, is also quite good on the purely literary grounds of style, plot, and characterization.

“‘Leslie Keith’ give us some really good and subtle studies of character in this story.…  The last chapter, in particular, is an excellent bit of work.” Referring to didactic novels for the youth market, the reviewer continues, “There is a great amount of literary ability expended in the production of these books.  The good ones among them—and these are far more numerous than most people would think—are really more pleasant to read than any but the very best of the novels of the day.  They are more wholesome; they do not worry us with the insoluble problems of life; they are not bound by the convention that a good end is bad art.  But they must often fail to find their fitting audience.  We hope that Cynthia’s Brother—a title which somehow smacks of the nursery—may be more fortunate.” Spectator, November 2, 1901

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https://archive.org/details/LeslieKeithCynthiasBrother1901Large

(I found no online version of this work, so I made one, using my own copy and my own inexpensive scanner.  It’s not as pretty as it might be, but it’s readable.)

Novel 084: Cynthia, Daughter of the Philistines (1896)

 
Sir Francis Grant, Portrait of a Young Lady

Sir Francis Grant, Portrait of a Young Lady

 

An aspiring novelist marries the daughter of a stock-jobber.


Leonard Merrick (1864-1939) wrote some twenty novels between 1891 and 1921.  This one has complex characters whose marital troubles arise in part from their differing backgrounds; it implies also a strong protest against the publishing industry’s poor treatment of brilliant novelists.

“There is a difficulty in writing about the ways of literature and literary men without a slight touch of cynicism.  But Mr. Merrick blends it so well with humour that no sting remains.” Morning Post, December 14, 1896

“In spite of flaws there is vigour and freshness in much of it.  The atmosphere is distinctly middle-class and is well sustained” and the characters “form an amusing gallery of portraits.” Athenaeum, January 23, 1897

“The happy phrases and brilliant ideas scattered about ought to make a name for the author... He has humour, a sense of style, and, while brimming over with things to say, he is neither diffuse nor ponderous.” Saturday Review, March 20, 1897

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v.1 https://archive.org/details/cynthiadaughtero01merr

v.2 https://archive.org/details/cynthiadaughtero02merr

Novel 083: Emma Robinson, Cynthia Thorold (1862)

 
Sir Francis Grant, Lady Katherine Isabella Manners, Countess Jermyn

Sir Francis Grant, Lady Katherine Isabella Manners, Countess Jermyn

 

A young lady is displaced at her father’s death by a vulgar ship-chandler.


Emma Robinson (1814-1890) wrote fifteen novels between 1843 and 1867, most of them historical; this, however, is contemporary, an odd combination of farce and ghost story, written in a sometimes tortured but always lively style.

“The plot is dramatic enough, and would make an excellent farce.  As a story it is very entertaining.” Caledonian Mercury, July 26, 1862

“Unlikely scenes...described with dash and spirit.” Athenaeum, September 13, 1862

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