Mary, the Primrose Girl

Mary, the Primrose Girl: Or, the Heir of Stanmore. A Romance

Author: [Miss Wakefield]
Publisher: E. Lloyd
Publication Year: 1847
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 13.4cm x 21cm
Pages: 404
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .M355 1847

In this 1847 novel by Miss Wakefield, a wide cast of characters—featuring a brother and sister, a curious stranger, surprise family relations, and love triangles—culminates in happy marriages.

Material History

Title page for Mary, the Primrose Girl

Upon first examination of this novel, the cover is leather bound and in good condition with the title Mary, the Primrose Girl imprinted on the spine. The title page has the entire title, Mary, the Primrose Girl: Or, the Heir of Stanmore. A Romance, which also appears on the first page of chapter one. There is no explicitly mentioned author anywhere in the text; however, the preface indicates that the author was female and also gives some slight insight to the character and themes of the novel.

There is unidentifiable damage around the edges of the pages that looks like slight water or mold damage, but the center of the page where the text is has no damage at all. The paper is on the thicker side and has a brittle texture. The pages are very stiff and hard to open due to the lack of attention from readers. The outside edges of the pages that are seen from a side view are covered in tiny red dots. Randomly throughout the novel, there are sections of pages that do not have any of the water damage and mold around the edges of the text, which is intriguing and does not have any real explanation.

Also incorporated throughout the novel are pictures without color. They are placed throughout the novel and do not have any specific pattern as far as their placement. They appear to be images from wood art that are made and then transferred to the pages of the novel.

In this particular edition of the novel, the font is very small with extremely tiny spacing between lines. The margins are also relatively small and the title Mary, the Primrose Girl appears on the top of the left pages while Heir of Stanmore appears on the right pages. At the beginning of each chapter, the author includes an epigraph from various sources to set up the following chapter.

Textual History

The copy of Mary, the Primrose Girl held by the Sadleir-Black Collection does not list an author. Yet, the author of the novel is actually as Miss Wakefield. Miss Wakefield is not very prominent in the world of Gothic literature and only has this one novel published. There have also been no further editions of the novel and there is no current knowledge of any translated versions.

Preface to Mary, the Primrose Girl

There is a fairly large time gap between the novel’s known publications: 1837, 1847, and 1878. The first editions that were published in 1837 were produced in London by William Emans. Another edition was printed and published by E. Lloyd in 1847; a copy of this edition is held by the UVA Sadleir-Black Collection. The 1847 printing of the novel included a preface dating to that same year which may have been absent in earlier and later editions. E. Lloyd was one of many who sold “penny bloods” or “penny dreadfuls” starting in the mid-1800s, including Mary, the Primrose Girl. He was so influential in the publication industry of the time that Edward Lloyd is known as “the father of the cheap press” (Humpherys). The last edition, published in 1878, was printed in Wakefield, England by William Nicholson and Sons, as well as in London by Simpkin, Marshall and Co. Integral figures in the nineteenth-century book trade, Simpkin and Marshall capitalized on the production and release of quick and cheap literature to the masses of England (Wolfreys). These physical copies are very rare and are not all accounted for. However, there are electronic versions of the novel online through various digitizations of the pages.

The novel lacks much fame, which is evident through the very small amount of information available. The “penny dreadfuls” were very much come and go as far as production and quality of content due to their mass-produced commercialization. As a result, there is also an absence of scholarly research and analysis of this specific work. There have been no modern printings of the novel and the lack of old copies to document it is another contributor to the lack of knowledge on the Mary, the Primrose girl and Miss Wakefield.

Narrative Point of View

Mary, the Primrose Girl is narrated in third person omniscient by an outside narrator who is not a character in the novel. This omniscient narrator is able to acknowledge and explain the emotions of characters and some of their thoughts. The narrator also acts as an inside source for the plot by foreshadowing and offering some information to the reader that is not known or shared with the characters of the novel.

Sample Passage:

Arthur was not a little pleased, on receiving the letter, to discover the hand writing of his beloved sister; and though under an envelope to his friend he made no hesitation in at once breaking the seal, and found the letter itself directed to him. After making many kind inquiries relative to his friends in Naples, the person who was in haste to depart, could only wait while Arthur penned a few hasty lines to his deliverer, which he requested him to deliver on his return to Naples, and receiving a recompence from Lord Deerham he withdrew. (193)

This style of narration, as exhibited in the selected passage, gives insight to the characters’ minds, which is something that is not available in first-person narration. Third-person omniscient point of view operates in the text as a way to access all of the characters in the novel. This is also necessary in order to create the gothic-style tension that is present throughout Mary, the Primrose Girl, because the narrator knows more than the characters.The anonymity of the narrator in the novel not only gives freedom to shift between overlapping plot lines and thus creates the web of relations between the characters, but in some cases this also generates information that is only known by the readers and not the characters.While writing in this manner eliminates the specific focus on one character’s view, it also invites the reader to rely on the narrator’s all-knowing authority. 


The opening of Chapter One

This story contains many characters introduced quickly, with interlocking storylines. The story opens with the exploration of a closed castle by brother and sister Arthur and Mary. Introduced soon after this is Sir Henry Mordaunt, who is very honorable but lacks emotions, and his wife Lady Mordaunt, who is the complete opposite. Lord Rushbrooke, son of one of the former lords of the estate, flees to France after his father dies and finds Caroline Fitzwilliam. Caroline and Gregory have a strong bond and when his own health fails him and must return to France, Caroline is heartbroken and hopes he does not die. The son of Lord and Lady Mordaunt, Annesley, comes of age and really wants to meet Mary and even begins to love her. Annesley has high hopes that they will be perfect together after seeing her at the Priory fair. The Mordaunts meet with Lord Chalmers, whose daughter Annesley’s parents have paired him up with despite his urges that he is in love with Mary. Lord Mordaunt finds out about Annesley’s romantic interest in Mary and becomes furious, deciding that no one will come near the castle and he will not allow the romance to develop. He insists that Annesley will marry Lady Amelia Chalmers, or at least someone with noble birth and reputation.

Fanny dies and the children are taken in by the Rushbrookes (Caroline Fitzwilliam and Lord Rushbrooke) and the children are left with the entire estate. While visiting different estates, Caroline is informed by her husband that both of their adopted children, who they left at home while they travelled, have died. Lady Rushbrooke returns home early from their travels because she is so heartbroken. Later, she turns to living with a friend on her estate where she bonds with the daughter of Mr. St. Omer, Emma, and Lord Rushbrooke decides to stay a majority of the year in London away from his wife.

Annesley goes to stay at the Chalmers’ estate where he meets Lady Amelia. Annesley exhibits an extreme lack of energy. To this negativity, Amelia allows for him to leave since he is not feeling well and Annesley does not waste any time to go to bed. Days after, Annesley struggles with feeling down after losing in cards. He hates being in debt and cannot convince anyone that he is well, especially his servant Robert and close friend Travers. While at the Chalmers estate, Annesley struggles with his orders to marry Lady Amelia and the possibility of him uniting with Mary. Later, Mary and her father come to the estate while passing through the nearby area. A man named Lord Deerham comes to St. Omer estate. Once there, he and Lady Rushbrooke get reacquainted, as they were once old friends.

Emma has grown older and wishes to explore the hall where no one has gone for many years because of Lady Rushbrooke’s fragility. Emma, her friend, Mr. St. Omer, and Lord Deerham venture to the eerie hall and Lady Rushbrooke has Emma look for the letters between her and her late brother. One of the servants, Susan, was very close with the former lord and lady of the hall so she gives them a tour and helps them settle in. She also warns them of the danger and mysteriousness of the building. The group stays at the hall and begins to feel on edge with the lack of attention the building has received. Then, mysterious events occur which leaves the entire group confused. Stumbling upon a room hidden behind a tapestry, Emma explores it for a way out because the main door is mysteriously locked.

In additions to illustrations throughout the novel, chapters frequently begin with epigraphs

Annesley lends Travers, a travelling companion, money so that he may be able to afford property near his residence. Mary and Annesley discuss how Lady Mordaunt has been so helpful to her, which increases Annesley’s confusion of which path to take. After showing Mary around London, Annesley has to say goodbye with the possibility of never seeing her again, but not until after spending the morning of her departure together.  

Meanwhile, Emma is still exploring the room and follows a staircase down to the entrance to the forest. She follows the bank of a river where she meets a young cottager who offers her help and whom she seems intrigued by on many levels. Emma then finds out that the boy’s name is Arthur (who happens to be the brother of Mary) and he lives with his sister and widowed mother in a cabin in the forest. Arthur uses the closed hall to study in the library and explore. Not aware of Susan and Barnard living there, Arthur often is noisy and less cautious, which explains the fear of ghosts haunting the hall. After meeting everyone in the hall, Lord Deerham works to get Arthur out of his current condition and to join them. Arthur’s mother, Hannah, who is extremely distressed and bruised, refuses to let her son go and will not tell Lord Deerham why.

Annesley continues to struggle with following his father’s desire for him to marry Amelia and his heart’s desire for him to be with Mary. Mary sends him a letter telling him that even though he wishes they could be together, she knows that there are too many obstacles and that they should just try and find happiness elsewhere.

Emma and Arthur bond in the abandoned hall and Miss Sommerville, Emma’s friend, and Henry, Lord Deerham’s nephew, hit it off. However, Lord Deerham insists that Emma and Henry get together. Emma refuses and declares that she will only marry someone of her choosing. Emma and Arthur share their feelings with each other and promise to stay in touch after Emma leaves the hall. Mary is happy for her brother but cannot help but feel down after everything between her and Annesley.

Annesley learns that Mary, her brother, and Henry (whom Annesley does not know), have moved to London and he returns home to his Lord and Lady Mordaunt still frowning upon the couple’s strengthening bond. Even though Lady Mordaunt is rather fond of Mary, she could never allow Annesley to marry her. Annesley goes to London to represent his father after Parliament is dismissed which gives him hope of seeing Mary. He also stops by to see the property that Travers bought with the money Annesley lent him, but no such place exists.

After the group returns back to London from the hall, Emma gives Lady Rushbrooke the letters she had requested for her to find in the hall. Lady Rushbrooke also learns that Lord Rushbrooke will return in two days to visit her after not being together for many months. When he returns, he goes straight to Lady Rushbrooke’s room and is there for awhile. Emma walks in with Lady Rushbrooke pale and motionless with Lord Rushbrooke urging Emma to get help. The doctor comes and cannot find anything to wake her up. Emma and her mother stay by Lady Rushbrooke’s side to help nurse her back to health.

While in London, Annesley meets a stranger who he convinces to let him stay with. Here, he reads a brief summary of her life. Through the story and the landlady, Annesley learns of Travers’ whereabouts and that he should not be trusted. He also learns that Mary is to be married to Sir William Greaves of Audley Park. He misreads the newspaper and thinks that the ceremony is over when it is still in the future. Lord Rushbrooke’s health is declining and must go to surgery. Annesley comes and learns that his father has lied to him about Mary in the newspaper article and that he told her mother to take her to London where he would send money as long as they stayed away.

Arthur travels to London in search of his mother and sister because he has not heard from either of them in quite some time. He meets Sir Annesley and the latter informs Arthur of his love for Mary. Arthur leaves Annesley and returns to the old hall on the way to Devonshire. He learns that Barnard has died and Lady Rushbrooke is the heir to the hall. The St. Omer and Sommerville parties were acquainted by Emma and Henry while Arthur travelled to the village where his mother and sister were said to be. The village is devastated but he finds a woman who has some insight as to where the two are. The woman isn’t of much help so Arthur is on his way again.

An illustration in which Emma, harboring her secret love for Arthur, feels ill

Arthur meets an old friend of Lord Deerham, Count Romont, who happens to be the brother of the late Lord Mordaunt and uncle of Sir Annesley. The count sets off to visit his nephew. Lord Deerham sends Henry a letter announcing their return and the joining of Count Romont, or Lord Stanmore. Arthur informs Annesley that he will be returning, which brings joy to Annesley. There is also a stranger that is seen around town and has asked a lot of people where to find Arthur, which concerns Annesley. After arriving, Arthur and Emma visit Lady Rushbrooke, who continues to deteriorate after her husband’s death. The stranger had visited her, questioning her about her late husband.

The stranger now arrives to speak with Sir Annesley and informs him and his mother that the Stanmore estate is not owned by a Stanmore. He reveals himself to be Lord Mordaunt’s older brother, Lord Stanmore, and Annesley and Lady Rushbrooke welcome him happily.

Arthur’s mother surprises him and warns him of someone that was looking to bring destruction upon their family. Mary was left in France because their mother felt it best, but his mother promises that Arthur and Mary will be reunited soon. Later, Arthur’s mother informs him that he and Mary were the infant relatives that the Rushbrookes took in. Lord Rushbrooke ordered her to take them and raise them while he lied to his wife saying that the babies had died. So, this actually makes Mary and Arthur a part of the Fitzwilliam family. Lady Rushbrooke learns of the truth behind the supposed death of the infant relatives from a letter from Lord Rushbrooke, who is now dead. Arthur reunites with Mary in France and he hears of the news, returns to the hall. Arthur and Emma marry, and Mary and Annesley, the new Lord Stanmore, are finally united in wedlock. They, and the rest of the remaining people, lived happily at Stanmore.


Humpherys, Anne. “Edward Lloyd.” British Literary Publishing Houses, 1820-1880, edited by Patricia Anderson and Jonathan Rose, Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 106. Detroit, Michigan, Gale, 1991. Literature Resource Center.

Wakefield, Miss. Mary, the Primrose Girl: Or, the Heir of Stanmore. A Romance. London, E. Lloyd, 1847.

Wolfreys, Julian. “Simpkin and Marshall; Simpkin, Marshall and Company; Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent and Company Ltd.; Simpkin, Marshall (1941) Ltd.” The British Literary Book Trade, 1700–1820, edited by James K. Bracken and Joel Silver. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 154. Detroit, Michigan, Gale, 1995. Literature Resource Center.

Researcher: Matthew Lowry