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.

Download this week’s novel:

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=oxfaleph014412298&context=L&vid=SOLO&search_scope=LSCOP_ALL&tab=local&lang=en_US

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

Download this week’s novel:

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

Download this week’s novel:

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

Download this week’s novel:

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

Download this week’s novel:

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

Download this week’s novel:

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

Download this week’s novel:

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

Download this week’s novel:

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

Download this week’s novel:

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

Download this week’s novel:

https://books.google.com/books?id=okBWAAAAcAAJ&dq

Novel 082: Mrs. Alfred Sidgwick, Cynthia's Way

 
Sir Francis Grant, Portrait of a Lady

Sir Francis Grant, Portrait of a Lady

 

A rich Englishwoman, bored with offers of marriage, takes a job as a governess in Germany.


Mrs. Alfred Sidgwick (née Cecily Ullman) (1852-1934), born into a German-Jewish family, married an English philosophy professor and  wrote some 46 novels beginning in 1889.  This one finds humor in the cultural differences between the English protagonist and the German family for which she works.

“A pleasant story of modern life—a welcome story, for youth and happiness sparkle through its pages.” Academy, November 9, 1901

“Mrs. Sidgwick, with rare keenness of vision, has seen below the surface ugliness of German existence, and has understood many things which the prejudiced refuse to acknowledge." Bookman, December, 1901

“The charm of the book is to be found in the descriptions of German home life, and particularly in the doings and sayings of the children, who are real living youngsters.  This makes it wholesome, charming, and entertaining.” San Francisco Chronicle, February 15, 1902

Download this week’s book:

https://archive.org/details/cynthiasway00sidggoog

Novel 081: James Payn, The Canon's Ward (1884)

 
Marcus Stone, Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Marcus Stone, Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

 

A young lady's secret is used to her disadvantage by an unscrupulous young man.


Here is another novel by James Payn (see Post 11), with an excellent plot featuring some delightfully scoundrelly scoundrels.

“Mr. Payn has here made a capital and original study of a villain…. the construction is excellent, strong situations abounding, and ... nevertheless, the characters are developed with the utmost truthfulness.  The novel abounds with clever remark and sub-ironical reflection; but Mr. Payn, though sometimes he indulges in very smart sentences, is never really cynical or cruel:  there is a genial light shining over it all.” British Quarterly Review, April, 1884

“The actors in it are, for the most part, really pleasant and agreeable; the scenes are, with important exceptions, natural and homelike; there is a domestic tone about the book, and family affection has full play.” Spectator, April 12, 1884

It “does not amount to much as a story, although the interest does not flag; but it is full of the quiet wit which has been so enjoyable in all his other stories, and the terse characterization which gives us the man or the woman in a single sentence.” The Critic and Good Literature, May 10, 1884

Download this week’s novel:

v.1 https://archive.org/details/canonsward01payn/

v. 2 https://archive.org/details/canonsward02payn/

v.3 https://archive.org/details/canonsward03payn/

Novel 080: Mrs. Henry Chetwynd, Three Hundred a Year (1866)

 
Sir Francis Grant, Mary Isabella Grant Knitting a Shawl

Sir Francis Grant, Mary Isabella Grant Knitting a Shawl

 

A young couple, raised in luxury, tries to live on a limited income; then other things happen.


Mrs. Henry Chetwynd (née Julie Bosville Davidson) (1828–1901) wrote over a dozen novels, of which this was the first.  The title applies only to the opening situation, after which the plot takes  some weirdly abrupt turns.   Several of the characters are striking creations.

“This is a well-sustained and pleasant story, and the latter part of it abounds in humorous scenes and sketches of character”; the author “has a natural way of relating her story, and she is clever in contriving those little complications which prevent a love-tale from sinking into maudlin sentimentality.” Athenaeum, May 26, 1866.

Download this week’s novel:

v.1 https://archive.org/details/threehundredyear01chet

v.2 https://archive.org/details/threehundredyear02chet

Novel 079: Frances Milton Trollope, Petticoat Government (1850)

 
John Ballantyne, William Powell Frith Painting the Princess of Wales

John Ballantyne, William Powell Frith Painting the Princess of Wales

 

Two maiden aunts compete for the guardianship of their orphaned niece.


The title is misleading: the book has nothing to do with women’s political ambitions.  Rather, it’s another example (see Post 029), from rather late in her career, of the bright and vivid social comedy at which Frances Milton Trollope excelled.

“This is a novel rich in all the attractions” that novels provide:  “First, character skilfully painted and boldly relieved... Next...abundance of incident, much varied, and always catching attention.  In the third place, a story progressively engaging our sympathies...and at last wound up in to a very ingeniously complicated plot.” Standard, August 9, 1850

 “Mrs. Trollope appears in this novel to have recalled the most vigorous days of her genius.” Critic, August 15, 1850.

Download this week’s novel:

v.1 https://archive.org/details/petticoatgovernm01trolrich

v. 2 https://archive.org/details/petticoatgovernm02trolrich

v.3 https://archive.org/details/petticoatgovernm03trolrich