Frances Hodgson Burnett published The Making of a Marchioness in 1901. She had written Little Lord Fauntleroy 15 years before and would write The Secret Garden in 10 years' time; it is these two books for which she is best known. Yet Marchioness was one of Nancy Mitford's favourite books, was considered 'the best novel Mrs Hodgson Burnett wrote' by Marghanita Laski, and is taught on a university course in America together with novels such as Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Daisy Miller.
Public Domain (P)2011 Persephone
This book certainly had its charms, and I can understand why it might have been a popular women's novel in its day (it was originally published in 1901). It tells the story of a refined but impoverished woman in her thirties, Miss Emily Fox-Seton, who scratches out a living by assisting her betters to shop wisely and plan parties while remaining obligingly in the background. Just as disaster seems about to befall (her kindly landlady and her daughter plan to give up the house where Emily rooms), wonder of wonders, she receives an unexpected marriage proposal that catapults her into the upper echelon of society. Lord Waldehurst has been won over by Emily's good taste and unprepossessing nature--undoubtedly the dream of many an aging spinster in 1901.
But, alas, it is at this point that the novel falls a bit short for the 21st-century reader. Emily's kindness and naiveté seem to know no bounds. She tries to befriend Alec Osbourne (who has been Lord Waldehurst's sole heir for the past 30 years or so) and his pregnant half-Indian wife, even coaxing her husband--who is about to leave for business in India--to allow her to furnish a house on the estate grounds for their use. It never enters her head that the Osbournes might see her as a potential threat to the property, money, and title that they hope to inherit, and she is hurt and confused by their often surly manners and Hortense's frequent angry outbursts. (When her trusty maid tells Emily that she fears that Amira, Hortense's ayah, is up to no good, Emily encourages her to read Uncle Tom's Cabin to improve her view of "the blacks.") Following several near-misses--accidents that would have been fatal--plus a confession from Hortense that she sometimes hates the now-pregnant Emily and that Alec wants to kill her, Emily feels that the best solution to her dilemma is to take Hortense's advice to "go away" to stay safe until her child is born. Emily's goodness is just too unbelievable; I started to agree with Alec's estimation that she was just "a big fool," and I wanted to smack her back into reality. And the Osbournes and Amira fall into caricatures of villains so evil that I expected even Hortense and Amira to be twirling long black moustachios.
I'm giving the book three stars as a period piece and an example of early 20th century women's novels, and perhaps with some bonus points for Persephone's quite lovely cover. Read it when you are in the mood for pure fluff.
This is a romance in the Victorian style. The characters are rather stylized and in the case of the protagonist, idealized.
Nevertheless it is a sweet tale that drew me in and made me care about the two main characters. The goodness of the heroine might put off some listeners, but if you allow yourself to be pulled in and love her, the rest of the story will keep you in suspense and entertain you.
Home school family with six children ages 7-21. We love listening to audible books together. We like Twaddle-free books.
I enjoyed this story. It is Horatio Algeristic (Is that a word?) in it's approach. A young woman, who is not petite and beautiful, always works hard for those that hire her to do their shopping and secretarial work. She gets to know some of the leading citizens of her era. She gets invited to a huge week + long party at a very wealthy lady's country place. She is there to work and she does so willingly. Her hard work makes her invulnerable to all the snide remarks that come her way and also makes her much loved by most. This is a fun story that takes place in England in the 1800s. I like the history and the story. You know everything comes out all right in the end, but it is still an enthralling listen. I will listen to this again with the children.
While Frances Hodgson-Burnett is best known for her children's books, such as A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, she also wrote books for adult readers. What a pleasure that Lucy Scott and the folks from Persephone Publishers have brought this book to life for modern readers/listeners. Lucy Scott's reading is a perfect compliment for this, perhaps the best of the "adult" novels by Burnett.
Humanitarian Aid Worker living in Central Asia.
I like Frances Hodgson-Burnett stories from my childhood, but her sentiments towards people of color can be viewed as racist in today's world. This book is quite obvious about the Englishman's fear and distrust of the Indian of dark skin. However, the author is most likely truthfully portraying what the British ladies were saying about Indians at that time.
The narrator did a great job reading the story except when it came to the voice of the main character. She made the character so silly sounding that it was hard to like the character much.
Overall, I am glad I listened to the story. It was not long and did not stress the grey matter while I washed dishes and cooked.
yes. But I think I have read the all.
The voice of the main character.
Read from February 17 to 24, 2014
Story: 3.5 stars
Narrator: 4 stars
Yes, I'll freely admit that, even though I had this book on my shelf for years, I didn't make the decision to read (well, listen to) it until after watching The Making of a Lady on PBS early in 2014. While the "gothic" elements of the story seemed odd in the movie, I have to admit, they're even odder in the book . . . because they're given so much less malice and true menace first by how they're written about (and in whose POV) and by how the circumstances are handled.
Emily Fox-Seton is a genteel woman of little means who hires herself out as an event planner, secretary, and personal shopper to women in high society London in early 1900/1901. At thirty-four years old, she has been on her own for quite some time and she has learned how to make a shilling stretch as far as possible. She lives in a rented room in a boarding house owned and run by Mrs. Cupp and her daughter, Jane, whose kindness she appreciates and who are quite fond of her in return.
One of Emily's employers, Lady Maria Bayne, who truly likes Emily (in addition to liking what Emily can do for her) invites Emily to come to a country house party---and to act as Lady Maria's companion, which means she gets to participate in the social activities for the most part. There are several random other characters here, but the most important guest is Lady Maria's cousin, the marquis James Walderhurst. Lady Maria lets Emily know that Lord Walderhurst (who is in his mid-50s) lost his first wife and son many, many years ago; and if he wants an heir to inherit his title/estates, he must remarry and have another son. Emily sees her role at the house party to make sure the other few young women there---a wealthy American girl and the poor Lady Agatha---are seen to their greatest advantage. At every opportunity, she speaks well of each of the other young women to Walderhurst.
On a day when Walderhurst and all of the other guests have gone out for a drive/site seeing, Lady Maria discovers that the fish monger who was supposed to supply them for dinner didn't have anything. The next closest one is in another town four miles away. But all of the carriages (and I suppose all the riding horses, too???) are out, so Emily, even though she's fatigued from the eventful day before, volunteers to walk the four miles to get fish for dinner. On this walk, Emily reads a letter delivered to her shortly before she left the estate and she discovers that the Cupps are selling their house and moving out to the country. What does she want them to do with all of her stuff? This, of course, comes as quite a blow to Emily. On her way back to the house, she breaks down and stops to have a good cry. When Walderhurst returns to the estate after the outing and learns about the errand Lady Maria sent Emily on, he immediately goes out with his phaeton to retrieve her. He finds Emily on the moors crying and, moved by . . . love (? he's not an overly sentimental man) he proposes to her.
This is the end of Part 1, which was a novella originally published as The Making of a Marchioness. And it's only about the first 20-25% of the book.
In Part 2, originally published as The Methods of Lady Walderhurst, Emily and Walderhurst marry. She meets his cousin, and heir, Alec Osborn and Alec's half-Indian wife, Hester. Having believed for years that he would inherit the estates and wealth that go along with the Walderhurst title, Alec is none-too-happy that James has remarried. At first, he and Hester (who is pregnant) tell themselves that at her age, Emily is unlikely to give Walderhurst a son/heir. But then, of course, the inevitable happens. After Walderhurst traipses off to India on a diplomatic mission (unlike in the movie, he isn't in the Army in the book), Emily discovers she, too, is with child. She invites the Osburns to live in a cottage on the estate, and that's when things start getting all pseudo-gothicy.
Because we're treated to Alec's and Hester's viewpoints in the story, we're at no time unaware that he wishes Emily harm. While most of the potential danger is laid off at Ameerah's feet (Hester's former ayah, now maid), Alec seethes with malice and hatred toward Emily most of the time. Hester isn't much better. She seems to hate Emily as much as Alec does . . . though when she realizes just how close to being off his rocker her husband is, she starts to realize how wrong it is to wish harm to another, much less to do harm to another.
In the movie version, Emily not only stays at Palstrey (one of Walderhurst's country estates where they take up residence after leaving London), she drinks the drugged milk, even after commenting that she doesn't trust the Osborns or Ameerah. In the book, Hester who has been treated better by Emily than by just about anyone else in her life, not only saves her from the drugging, but urges her to leave Palstrey to get away from Alec and Ameerah and what they might do to her. Emily does this and goes to London, first staying with Mrs. Cupp and Jane in the Cupps' old house, and then, after telling her doctor everything, at his advice she moves back into the Walderhurst townhouse in Berkeley Square.
Walderhurst, whose return from India was delayed by his own fever, finally returns home to learn that not only has Emily had a child (she never told him in her letters, many of which went astray, and at least one of which was intercepted by Alec), but she is also on death's door with doctors and nurses hovering over her.
In a scene worthy of any Disney movie or Jane Austen adaptation, Walderhurst kneels beside the bed calling to her---which brings her back from the "white sea" of death and back into the world of the living. Which is all very sweet and would have been a great way to end the story.
But then we're treated to a "four years later" type of scene in which Hester, now widowed, and her daughter have been living with Emily and Walderhurst ever since Alec "accidentally" shot himself with a shotgun he didn't know was loaded while he was drunk. So, instead of a romantic ending, we at least do learn that "justice" (or Just Desserts) has been served. But it was a rather lackluster ending.
The Making of a Marchioness and The Methods of Lady Walderhurst were published in 1901, the year Queen Victoria died. Several times in the book, Emily's stature and demeanor are commented upon as being "early Victorian" and "Mid-Victorian" (and once also as a "Thacheryian saint"). It's funny to me that, even less than a year after Queen Victoria's death, levels of Victorian attitudes and behaviors had already been defined.
One major issue I had with the book is Burnett's overuse of the word ingenuous. It's apparently her favorite adjective/adverb. Everything about Emily is ingenuous and she does everything ingenuously. This is one of those things that is likely more noticeable in the audio version than the print version.
Where the script writers and filmmaker got it right was keeping the danger to Emily present, rather than removing her from it and having her hiding from the fear rather than living with it, as happens in the book. They also got (very, very) right the development of the relationship between Walderhurst and Emily. I loved the slow-burn between them in the film version. Here, there's almost no emotional or intellectual connection between them, except for the fact that she moons over his letters when he's gone, and he comes to have "tender" thoughts about her upon reading her letters while he's convalescing. Though, in the end, his outburst that he would rather have Emily than the son she bore him, is very sweet. What the movie got wrong: Jane Cupp. Never in the book is Jane anything but completely loyal to Emily. It is Jane who saves Emily from disaster more than once, and it is she who loses sleep to watch over Emily when she realizes the threat to her mistress's life.
It was quite interesting seeing the original depiction of these characters and the story as the author imagined it instead of just the 21st century adaptation's take on them. Gothic romances were quite popular in the late-Victorian/early Edwardian era; but, unfortunately, this doesn't work as one of those, even though it does have some of the elements. We also see clearly depicted the attitude of that era toward those of Indian birth/descent, though much of this is ameliorated by Emily's attitude---and her suggestion that Jane read Uncle Tom's Cabin (apparently Burnett's favorite novel as a young girl) to understand the plight of "the blacks" (which, apparently, Indians were called in England at this time).
Had I not seen the movie and fallen so deeply in love with Emily and Walderhurst, I might not have stuck this one out. But I'm glad I did. It will never be a favorite, but I'm glad I read it.
Reading is one of my great loves, but as a busy mum to 4, I seldom have the time to sit down with a good book. Audible changed that for me.
I really enjoyed this story. You are drawn into it almost instantly. It is a sweet romance with the merest hint of thriller in it. While it is rather predictable, it can be forgiven if you remember that you are reading it for light entertainment and not for the pursuit of intellect. It is very wholesome and sweet, and I liked the characters.
Outstanding narrator. Curious story with a very well-drawn heroine. Interest in the heroine kept me reading.
Lucy Scott has a wonderful voice and uses it to full effect.
You will enjoy this book. A cautionary Age of Enlightenment tale of the privileged and not so privileged, those with manners and proper upbringing and those without. A lovely and engaging tale well narrated.
A gem as are all her books. Her writing and genuine naïveté is a privilege to read. Her strong and lovable female characters make their trials and tribulations even on an inconsequential level something that keeps you engaged
"A demonstration of Edwardian Manners"
Oh how nicely observed is the amazing story of the Marchioness. Frances Hodgson-Burnett casts a wry and good humoured eye over the establishment and dig\s out a gem of a woman. This dear lady ( and wouldn't we all take her as a wife) problems begin when she first dons her coronet and her husband goes to India leaving her to be the target of the jealousy and even homicidal ambitions of others. Though the end is a little abrupt this is a gem well worth while and sensitively read by the estimable Lucy Scott
I got this after having falling in love with Lucy Scott's narration of Jane Eyre and I wasn't disappointed. Hugely enjoyable and pure Sunday afternoon comfort. I love, love, love her rendition of Mrs Walderhurst's maid Jane Cupp.
"Beautiful to hear the old English"
Doesn't really matter if you like the story or not the language is lovely and poetic. Shows how words have changed in their meaning.
Gentle story and rather adictive
"No wonder Nancy Mitfords favourite novel!"
Very different take on period novel
The tension is taught at all times and you feel immersed in the harrowing story.
I found the narrator's performance excellent only complaint I am suffering from lack of sleep, addicted to the story.
In the world we live in today this book is compulsively beautiful in the heroine's love for others.
"Touching story of unexpected love and fortune"
I very much enjoyed this having not come across it previously but having read FHB's other books as a child. It had the same delicate touch and empathy with the characters protagonist and antagonists. Whilst drawing the reader into the story with unexpected twists and turns, it focuses on the very gentle love and life of a very kind and sweet lady, and you root for her all the way.
"A tale of two halves *PLOT SPOILER*"
The first part of this book is delicious, sumptuous, exactly what historical fiction (that written a while ago) should be. Beautiful writing, lovely description and lush use of words. I wanted to eat it. But then after she gets married, the tone changes entirely. I had read/listened to almost half the book before realising I had watched an adaptation on TV a couple of years ago, called the Making of a Lady, which I hadn't enjoyed. However the TV was not loyal to the book; the book is actually much better. But the 2nd half where Emily's life is being threatened by her newly acquired relatives, has a menacing overtone which is not really in keeping with the first part, you were not really expecting this outcome to what starts as a very gentle piece of fiction. Then it ends with her nearly dying, another curve ball. However well written, and gripping to the end. Lucy Scott is always a fantastic narrator, and puts on different voices perfectly, making some people extremely humorous. 10/10 for Lucy
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