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3.69  ·  Rating details ·  245 ratings  ·  32 reviews
She was the bestselling author of Regency England. Admired by Jane Austen whose fame she eclipsed and dubbed ‘Our Great Maria’ by Sir Walter Scott. John Ruskin declared her work, ‘The most re-readable in existence’. Isn’t it time we started reading Maria Edgeworth?

Written in 1834, Helen was the last and most psychologically powerful of Edgeworth’s novels.

Newly orphaned Hel
Paperback, 544 pages
Published 2010 by Sort of Books (first published 1834)
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Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can be downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg link to free copy .

“... I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom, so common with novel-writers, of degrading, by their contemptuous censure, the very performances to the number of which they are themselves adding; joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its ins
Helen is of the moralistic novel variety, and while it is more character driven than typical of the style IMO, the characters do serve (and suffer a little from) the overarching point of the story.

The length got a little tedious, I must admit, but it did serve to illustrate the value of truth and honesty, even when falsehood seems necessary for the happiness of the deceived party, in reality it only causes more pain and distrust.

Helen is one of those angelically virtuous heroines that are a litt
Free download available at Project Gutenberg. ...more
Jul 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Helen is the kind of novel where one should not focus on plot. In truth, the plot is very silly; but what redeems this novel is Edgeworth’s character studies—the social and emotional impact on deception and concealment. It is truly amazing how something so insignificant and trivial—school girl deceptions and concealment—can be blown out of proportion, on the brink of becoming a social nightmare for all involved. This is the most interesting part of the novel, and I can easily understand why auth ...more
Julie Wake
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really super book. Apparently she was Jane Austen's greatest rival at the time, but she is obviously nowhere near as popular these days.
The book has similarites to Austen but is slightly racier (!) and really does involve you in the lives of the characters.
Grace Harwood
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fairly hefty book but so worth it. I loved Maria Edgeworth's Belinda and this novel (no. 10 in the Kindle series of her complete works which are available FREE is equally brilliant). In the novel, Helen, the impoverished friend of the rich and newly married Cecilia, moves in with her friend as her companion. At first all is well, but then secrets start to be revealed and Cecilia asks Helen to cover for her so that she doesn't get into trouble with her stern husband. Helen is so obligin ...more
Jan 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Maria Edgeworth’s novel “Helen”. To me Helen seemed to be a novel about lying. The small, little lies we tell and how destructive even they can be. The heroine of the novel, Helen Stanley, is orphaned and goes to live with her dearest friend, Lady Cecelia Clarendon and her husband. Cecelia is a sweet, charming girl; but she has the habit of telling small seemingly harmless lies, that build up and destroy her relationships and her marriage.

Now I did enjoy the novel,
Virginia Papandrea
As others have noted, Maria Edgeworth was one of the most popular and esteemed authors of her time. Roughly a contemporary of Jane Austen, she wrote along simiar lines, i.e., novels of domestic affairs rather than of larger social movements or "great" events such as wars. Her strength is in her exploration and development of character and a style that remains quite readable nearly 200 years later. I would agree with others' observations, however, that the moralistic tone, drawn-out agonizing (wi ...more
Jul 22, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Miserable. I began this book because I read that Maria Edgeworth was a contemporary of Jane Austin and was exponentially more popular in her time. It is not poorly written but the humorless agony the characters experience goes on for far longer than I can stomach. Helen is the last book Edgeworth wrote and is alledgedly free of moralizing. Instead the characters stop every two pages to deliver long lectures about how to be really racist, or the proper place for women, or how to be horrid to pers ...more
Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
There is much to recommend this, including the invigorating common sense of Edgeworth's writing about women and marriage and honesty. But there is plenty of baggy histrionics to bulk out the paper thin plot over 500 pages and the ending is full on emotional excess.
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maria Edgeworth was, apparently, a role model of sorts for Jane Austen. It's very clear in "Helen," a story whose title character is a young woman of perfect integrity and maturing judgement. An enjoyable read for lovers of this literature, which I am.
Lisa Maxwell
Apr 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Written in an age during which females found themselves hostage to the whims, gossip and petty scandals of patriarchal Society, Maria Edgeworth's Helen is a morality tale that warns of the folly of naivety. Like Fanny Burney's Evelina, the titular Helen is an orphan, raised by a kindly clergyman and sent into an unfamiliar and dangerous world that preys upon the youthful and innocent. In her naivety, generous and kind Helen is soon ensnared in a web of lies that will leave her reputation in ta ...more
Nov 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
I wanted to love this book so much. I am really disappointed that I did not enjoy it more.

This is a book of two halves. I can see what Maria Edgeworth was trying to do with the first three hundred pages, as she sets the scene for the lies that Cecilia tells and how the situation builds up and gets out of control, but I found it dull and tedious to read. However, there was something in the characters that made me continue. I did like the remaining two hundred or so pages alot more. When the plot
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this a while ago, for one of my book groups. It was picked by a big Jane Austen fan, as Edgeworth was a contemporary not hers. It made me realise why Jane Austen is still read and enjoyed today yet I had never heard of Maria Edgeworth. But the detail of his guests in big houses had to pay for things themselves was fascinating.
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great fun! Jane Austen-ish but more author intrusion and instruction on morality. Malre characters a bit cardboard, but females good and she build tension very well in second part! It was a good light read while ploughing through Capital!
Fiona McCall
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a fantastic story! Begins slowly, then suddenly comes alight. Maria Edgworth should be better known.
Jan 09, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2020
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics-2020
To sum up Helen: it is a novel about lies. The 1st half was more a study of manners. The 2nd focuses on the drama caused by the lies as they become more and more complex. The characters, in particular the side characters, were brilliantly written. You could easily like them or easily hate them.
Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
If you've never read any Edgeworth but are keen to give her a go (maybe you read that she was Jane Austen's greatest competitor?) - then Helen is a good place to start! It's a fairly late book in the author's career, which means that she is less didactic, and more concerned with nuanced characterization, than in earlier books like 'Patronage' and 'Belinda'. 'Helen' also contains an extraordinary portrait of an unrepentant (for the most part) career woman, who chose political influence over mothe ...more
Alison Evans
This book tells the story of the virtuous, beautiful Helen whose devoted uncle guardian dies, leaving her nothing but debts. She then goes to live with Cecilia, now happily married to a rather strait laced husband. Before she married him, she told him a white lie about her previous boyfriend, and after some incriminating letters appear, she persuades Helen to take the blame for the letters. Although Cecilia promises to tell her husband the truth, she always finds some reason not to do so just th ...more
Sep 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think I went through every agonising emotion that the author intended for the reader. I went through the second half of the book very quickly as I was so unsure how it all would end.
I found the characters portrayed very well and I believe that they are very relevant to the present day. I thought that the publishing of the love letters is a very similar thing to leaked photos and the malicious use of images in our modern day way of slandering.
All in all a good book despite the frustration thr
Aug 04, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, fiction
This book was very dramatic and annoying in parts, and it has all the 19th century stereotypical characters that can get on my nerves after a while (particularly the perfect girl who never does anything wrong and almost loses her chance at happiness because of her loyalty to somebody who doesn't deserve it), but there was still something compelling about it. Just when I would start to get bored with all the over-emoting, something interesting would happen. Edgeworth is writing about a society th ...more
Alba Türme
Aug 16, 2010 marked it as to-read
I was really looking forward to read it but now that I got it from the post office I have to say that the cover is really off-putting and nothing to do with the image I have of Maria Edgeworth (I'm writing my dissertation about her) so, even though I don't like to judge a book by its cover, this time I have to say that this cover gives a wrong impression of this novelist... I'm disappointed with this sentimentalistic image at the front! It has nothing to do with the hidden polemist and proto-fem ...more
Aug 15, 2016 rated it liked it
One which I will probably come back to. I was very much enjoying this - and in my opinion, it is better than Austen - but it is so incredibly long. I think it will be a good idea to read one of Edgeworth's smaller books first to see if I continue to enjoy her style and plot. If I am satisfied, I will embark upon the good ship Helen once more.
A few nice tidbits supremely weighed down by almost unbearable tedium. Made it through 63% and just can't take it anymore.

I'm sorry Miss Maria, if you had stuck to the story rather than the social commentary I may have continued on. Lady Davenant ad nauseum.
Aug 20, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
*sigh* much ado over nothing.
seemed like a lot of madonna vs whore undertones as well. might be my new millennium sensibilities tho. hard to believe this was the titillating book back in the day. nothing happened. it was all gossip. the scarlet letter had ACTUAL adultery, you know?
Dec 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
2.5 stars
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Edgeworth was an Anglo-Irish gentry-woman, born in Oxfordshire and later resettling in County Longford. She eventually took over the management of her father's estate in Ireland and dedicated herself to writing novels that encouraged the kind treatment of Irish tenants and the poor by their landlords.

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There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
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“When people are warm, they cannot stand picking terms.” 2 likes
“Women are now so highly cultivated, and political subjects are at present of so much importance, of such high interest, to all human creatures who live together in society, you can hardly expect, Helen, that you, as a rational being, can go through the world as it is now, without forming any opinion on points of public importance. You cannot, I conceive, satisfy yourself with the common namby-pamby little missy phrase, “ladies have nothing to do with politics.” 1 likes
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