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The Making of a Marchioness, Part I and II by Frances Hodgson Burnett
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's review
Feb 25, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction-mainstream
Read in February, 2010

Burnett, Frances Hodgson. THE MAKING OF A MARCHIONESS. (1901; this edition 2009). ****. A good friend of mine (Hi, Barb) from California and from Goodreads, reviewed this book and I got a copy of the review. I made a comment that I didn’t know that Burnett wrote anything else besides “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” and “The Secret Garden.” Apparently, however, she wrote many novels that enjoyed fairly wide popularity at the time. If they were all like this one, however, I’m afraid that this would be the only one I would have read. (That fourth star rating is a bit of a push.) The novel has been republished by Persephone Classics out of the U.K., along with a backlist of other novels – mostly by women writers – of neglected works. It’s hard to classify this novel. It’s kind of a romantic novel, but without any romance. In it, we meet Emily, a young woman from a genteel background who is, early on, forced to support herself by whatever means possible since she had no (or very little) independent income. She finds that she can be of use to various members of the moneyed class by performing small services for them in the manner of a private secretary and, often, dog’s body. She becomes employed by a Lady in the country who finds Emily to be a rare gift. She seems to be able to do anything, and with a grace that is not encountered normally from one of her class. Emily is constantly grateful to anyone and everyone for any kindness they show her or that she perceives she is being shown. Emily’s original character name could well have been Pollyanna, she is so treacly nice. While at the country estate of her latest Lady, she is put in charge of organizing the teas and a village party, where she meets Lord Walderhurst. Lord Walderhurst is quite the guy. He is about 55 or so, and had been married before. His former wife died in childbirth, along with the infant. Walderhurst is one of the richest men around, with a castle and at least three other residences. His money seems to come from a mine of one kind or another that he owns. He has some very odd ideas about what a wife should be and should not be, and ultimately proposes to Emily – as opposed to proposing to any one of many of the other young ladies who fling themselves at his moneyed flame. Emily is, of course, extremely grateful that he should do so because it takes all the worry out of her future. She knows now that she will not end up in the workhouse when she is old and no longer able to work. The relationship between Walderhurst and Emily after the marriage is still representative of their original class differences. There is no love – although the word slips out of Emily’s mouth once towards the end – only respect and awe by Emily towards her savior. On the Lord’s part, he realizes that he has a good thing because he married a woman who could take care of herself without bothering him a lot. He was left free to do his riding and hunting and fishing, etc. Although the second part of the novel takes a different turn, it is still concerned with class and money, although the author tried to inject some sort of suspense into the plot. Although well written, the characters are all black or white. They all, each and every one of them represent some aspect of society as it might have existed in late Victorian times – or as Mrs. Burnett believed them to be.

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