Rose Sommerville: Or, a Husband’s Mystery and a Wife’s Devotion. A Romance
Author: Ellen T.
Publisher: Edward Lloyd
Publication Year: 1846
Book Dimensions: 21.5 cm x 14 cm
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.T24 Ro 1847
A tale of love, murder, and regret, this 1846 novel by Ellen T. revolves around an innocent, beautiful girl marrying a man who has a very dark past.
The exterior of Rose Sommerville is very simple yet classic, with a dark brown leather binding and a light brown cloth cover. There are no decorations or words on the cover—the title and author can be found on the binding, indented into the leather and painted over with gold. On the edges of the pages of the book, there are speckled red flecks of paint as an added decorative element. This novel is 21.5 cm by 14 cm and 172 pages long. The pages themselves are fairly thin and frail, showing a large amount of yellowing and wear. The book reveals its true age through the pages themselves, as the binding and cover does not show much wear.
Upon opening the novel, there are two blank pages and then a title page, which features the full title of the book, Rose Sommerville; or A Husband’s Mystery and A Wife’s Devotion, the author, and some additional information about the novel. The author’s name is not fully spelled out, but instead has an abbreviated last name, written as “Ellen T.” Underneath her name in smaller font it says, “Authoress of …” with a list of her other prominent works. On the bottom of the title page is the publishing information: this novel was printed and published in London by E. Lloyd: 12, Salisbury Square, Fleet-street in 1847. The novel begins with a brief preface written by someone other than the author, which reveals that this text was released weekly in separate parts and is now being bound together. This is evident because at the bottom of the first page there is a “No. 1” written, revealing that this begins the first part. At the bottom of the 9th page there is a No. 2, showing that this begins the second part. The novel has 22 parts in total. In pencil on the first page of the preface, “1847” is written, and these pencil notes are also found on the last page of the novel.
The first chapter begins with an illustration in all black ink that looks like a line drawing. This illustration shows a very beautiful woman kissing a man, and another man behind the couple looking upset and holding a dagger. After this illustration, the novel begins. These black ink illustrations are dispersed throughout the novel, either in the middle of text or on their own page. No captions accompany the illustrations, however the illustrations typically depict the event that is occurring on the page. The artist of these illustrations is not named anywhere in the novel. The text in this novel is written in a very small font and closely set together; there is very little white space per page. The wear of the novel can be seen in the text, as many sections are difficult to read due to fading of the ink or stains on the page.
On the last page of the novel, there is writing in pencil that looks like a signature. Upon close examination, the signature seems to say “Mr. Morlen.” Also on this page there is a “10” written in pencil after the last line and at the top of this page the numbers “9876” and “1/2 64” are written. These markings were most likely left by a former owner of this novel.
Rose Sommerville was published in sections in the newspaper The People’s Periodical and Family Library from October 10, 1846 to October 2, 1847. It was published by Edward Lloyd in London, England. Edward Lloyd had a myriad of periodicals that he published during this time such as The Daily Chronicle and Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper—he was one of the nineteenth century’s leading newspaper proprietors of cheap fiction available to the masses (“Léger-St-Jean). The cheap works of fiction that he published were often called “penny bloods.” Lloyd brought literature to the masses, catering to the new market of people who were now literate but not wealthy.
Rose Sommerville begins with a “Preface” written by an unknown author who speaks on behalf of Ellen T., thanking the readers for reading her publications week after week and formally saying goodbye to them, for now. The preface also gives a small summary of what the book is going to entail, describing briefly the main character, Rose, and the fact that she will go through many struggles. The first chapter begins with a statement in the first person which functions as a narratorial interjection, using “I,” but the storytelling voice is primarily in the third-person omniscient throughout the novel. After the end of the plot, there is a horizontal black line and then a paragraph in which the speaker, using the first-person plural pronoun “we,” thanks the readers again for reading, and announces that this is the end of the novel.
There is a notice for Rose Somerville found in the July 23, 1853, issue of Reynold’s Miscellany of Romance, General Literature, Science, and Art written by George W. M. Reynolds that states that the New York booksellers Stringer and Townsend have printed and published Rose Sommerville; Or, A Husband’s Mystery and credited Reynolds to be the author. Reynolds claims that he never wrote this text and would like to take all legal action against these publishers to punish them for this claim (416). He does not, however, attribute the work to its rightful author, Ellen T., for it seems as though he does not know the true author.
There are many different titles of Rose Sommerville: some copies are simply titled Rose Sommerville, while others are titled Rose Sommerville; Or, A Husband’s Mystery, Rose Sommerville: or, A Husband’s Mystery and A Wife’s Devotion: A Romance, and Rose Sommerville: or, the Double Crime (Summers 488). Ellen T. also authored Ravensdale: A Romance, which was published in 1847 by G. Purkess, but printed by Edward Lloyd. Her other known works of fiction are Eardley Hall: A Tale, which was published in 1850 by Edward Lloyd, and Emily Percy: or, The Heiress of Sackville: A Romance, which was published by G. Purkess in 1845. She also published two poems in The People’s Periodical and Family Library: “Lines on a Birthday” and “To Christmas.” The abbreviation of her last name most likely made it difficult to keep a good documentation of her works.
One can purchase a paperback copy of Rose Sommerville online through Amazon and Barnes and Noble—these copies were published by Gale and The British Library. There are also numerous digital copies found on the internet of this novel, which are all images of paperbacks digitized into a PDF form. There are also dozens of libraries worldwide that own this novel with varying years of publication.
Narrative Point of View
Rose Sommerville is narrated by a third-person, omniscient narrator who never appears in the text. The narrator gives insight into the thoughts and feelings of the characters in the story, and often jumps back and forth between settings to show what multiple characters are doing at once. The narrator also occasionally interrupts the text and uses the pronouns “I” and “we,” either to make a comment or act as though the narrator personally knows these characters. So even though the narrator is not a character in the story, they are able to use the “I” pronoun to insert their own opinions. The narrator focuses on both plot and feelings of the characters, often taking breaks from long sections of dialogue to discuss the characters’ inner thoughts and feelings about the subject.
Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:
Albert meant to be, and judged he was, acting kindly towards Rose; but, with all his knowledge, he knew little of a woman’s heart, and her fond devotion to one she loves. His lot deemed a dull and gloomy one; his thoughts and feelings were all tinged by a sombre hue, and unfit, he thought, to be shared by such a young and light-hearted girl as Rose. (26)
Sample Passage of a Narratorial Interjection:
Rose Sommerville, sweet, fairy, bright-eyed Rose Sommerville—I think I see her still tripping across the lawn with the light buoyant step of early youth—earth surely never held a fairer creature than Rose; the sweet smile that played around her dimpled mouth possessed all the soft beauty of infancy, her light auburn tresses waved luxuriantly around her fait and sunny brow, and for figure never did I see a more sweet and graceful form. (1)
Through the use of the third-person omniscient narration, the narrator is able to bring more depth and personality into each character—the reader is able not only to see their actions, but also to witness their thoughts behind those actions. Through this, the reader is able to fully understand many characters in the novel, because so many aspects of their interiority and motivations are revealed through their thoughts. The fact that this narration gives the narrator the ability to switch quickly from setting to setting gives the reader a breadth of knowledge about what each character is doing at once, instead of being confined to one character and their surroundings. The added use of the first-person interjections dispersed throughout the novel also brings more insight into what the narrator thinks about specific characters, especially Rose, as shown through the passage above. The insertion of the narrator’s opinions tells the reader how to feel about some characters and situations, and the reader can either agree or disagree. For example, the narrator thinks very highly of Rose, whether or not the reader feels accordingly.
Rose Sommerville is breathtakingly beautiful. She is of humble birth, and she possesses such gentleness and innocence that it is as if she has never known sorrow in her life. In the summer, her family would take people into their house to live with them temporarily. This year, their visitor is Albert Moreland: a very solemn, tall, and melancholy man. Rose, contrary to the fact that he is her exact opposite in demeanor, immediately fell in love with him. At the end of the summer, Albert asks her father for her hand in marriage and he obliges. Even though they are both deeply in love with each other, Albert looks extremely nervous at the wedding.
Rose soon meets Albert’s sister, Marian, and they form a deep friendship. In the weeks after their marriage, Rose notices that Albert is acting increasingly strange—even repeatedly shouting the name “Florence” in his sleep. Rose decides to ask Marian who Florence is, for she worries that Albert is cheating on her. Marian begrudgingly relays the story to soothe Rose’s worries. Albert and Marian had a stepbrother who they both had a very close relationship with and loved deeply. Albert and Charles decided one summer that they wanted to travel through Europe together. While they were in Italy, they both fell in love with the same woman, who was in a relationship with both of them, unbeknownst to the other. According to Marian, Charles walked in on Albert and Florence together and, in a fit of rage, stabbed Florence. Marian received the details of this story through a letter. However, upon asking Edward, Marian’s husband, about the event, Edward claims that he read the same letter and it was actually Albert who stabbed Florence, not Charles. Rose is extremely distressed and does not know what to believe.
Edward and Rose start forming a stronger and stronger friendship as the next few days go by—it seems as though Edward has feelings for Rose. Rose accompanies Marian, Edward, and Edward’s best friend, Henry Melville, to the opera. Henry immediately tells Edward how beautiful he finds Rose, and that angers Edward because he claims it is disrespectful to his brother-in-law to say such things about his wife. Rose likes Henry very much, and they form a friendship, amicably conversing for most of the ball the following night. Edward decides that Rose must know Henry’s true intentions, from Edward’s point of view, so he tells Rose that Henry told Edward he was in love with Rose and wanted to be with her. This surprises Rose but causes her to cooly distance herself from Henry. Henry immediately notices this and confronts Edward about it—Edward defends his actions and tells him to stay away from Rose. This interaction causes Henry and Edward to have a rivalry.
Albert has been keeping to himself as Rose goes on all of these social events, even though Rose would much rather him with her. He has been acting more melancholy and paranoid than usual, and it is affecting Rose negatively. Albert notices this and suggests that Rose visit her family in the country for a few weeks. Around this time, Rose realizes she is pregnant with Albert’s child. Rose obliges to Albert’s wishes and returns to her home in the country. When she arrives, she learns that her brother, Henry, is to marry her childhood friend, Agnes.
Meanwhile, Marian has been conspiring to figure out where Charles is, and she has found out: he is still in Italy. She also notices Albert sending a mystery letter to Italy but says nothing of it. While Rose is gone, Marian speaks to Lucy, Henry Melville’s sweet sister, about how she suspects that Rose is in love with Edward. Lucy denies the idea, but Marian is very mad and wants to expose her. Rose writes to Edward, sending him back the document detailing Florence and her death because she did not want to read it. Her letter arrives when Marian and Lucy are in the house, and it solidifies Marian’s beliefs.
While everyone is at a ball, Albert is alone in his office and very distraught, speaking out loud about regret and death. He feels horrible about something he has done in his past, and regrets marrying Rose because he cannot make her as happy as she deserves. At the ball, Lucy confronts Edward about the contents of the letter and he tells her he cannot reveal any information concerning the letter, which makes her mad. The next day, Henry overhears Fairford, Mortimer, and Edward talking about Rose—specifically the conversation entails Edward boasting about how he is going to win her over and seduce her. Henry is furious and bursts through the door, scolding and threatening Edward.
Miles away in the country, Rose receives two letters: one from Albert and one from Lucy. The letter from Lucy asks her the contents of the letter she sent Edward which she knows she cannot reveal and the letter from Albert is distanced and slightly cold which makes her very upset. Henry and Agnes get married in a beautiful ceremony, but Mrs. Sommerville is increasingly worried for Rose. Rose returns home and receives a warm welcome from Albert which makes her very happy. Very shortly after she returns, Edward comes over to visit. As they are having a conversation, Edward is overcome with passion and kisses Rose, who is shocked and pulls away, but not before Henry and Marian come through the door and see them. Marian immediately runs and tells Albert, who is extremely sad and angered. Rose comes in to talk to Albert and explain her innocence but no one believes her. Albert says that Rose must leave at once and if she refuses to leave then he will leave and never come back—she has one day to come to her decision. Albert and Marian retreat to a different room and weep together. Rose becomes hysterical, screaming that she is innocent and weeping. She soon becomes extremely ill, and they fear that she is in danger of dying. Lucy stays by her bed the whole night and Rose gives birth to a stillborn son.
Henry is very angry at Edward’s actions and proposes a duel which he accepts. The duel takes place in a secluded valley, where the two men who were once best friends fires guns at each other. Edward receives a fatal wound and Henry receives only a gunshot to the arm. Marian receives news that Edward has been shot and immediately rushes to him. On his death bed, Edward tells Marian the true story of what happened between him and Rose, proving her innocence. Marian then tells everyone of Rose’s innocence. Soon Rose awakens in a much better state, and Albert comes in to express his apologies—he stays by her side for the next few days, vowing never to separate from her again.
Three years have now passed, and Marian has married Fairford, Agnes and Henry have two children, and Lucy has married Mortimer. Rose is a changed woman, having taken on many of Albert’s somber traits—her cheerful demeanor and endearing innocence are gone. Rose and Albert decide to travel to Naples, where they stay in the house of Donna Rosalina, an old friend of Albert’s. Her young nephew, Charles, is very sweet and forms a strong friendship with Rose throughout their time in Naples. Very quickly, Albert’s health begins declining. As he is about to die, Albert tells Charles that he is his father and Florence is his mother; they both weep and embrace. Soon after, Albert says his tearful goodbye to Rose and dies. Donna Rosalina then tells the true story of Albert and Florence to Rose and Charles: Albert was the one who walked in on Florence and Charles together and tried to kill Florence, but Charles dove to protect her and Albert accidentally killed Charles. This event changed Albert forever, as he has just killed his kin and his best friend. After Albert’s death, Rose’s health begins to decline more and more, and she soon peacefully dies with her one wish: to be reunited with Albert. Everyone at home is deeply upset at the news of Rose and Albert’s death, but they soon move on and all lived very happy lives.
Ellen T. “Lines on a Birthday.” The People’s Periodical and Family Library, vol. I, no. 13, 1847, p. 205. Nineteenth Century Collections Online.
Ellen T.. Rose Sommerville: or, A husband’s Mystery and a Wife’s Devotion: A Romance. London, Edward Lloyd, 1847.
Ellen T. “To Christmas.” The People’s Periodical and Family Library, vol. I, no. 13, 1847, p. 205. Nineteenth Century Collections Online.
Léger-St-Jean, Marie. Price One Penny: A Database of Cheap Literature, 1837–1860. [29 June 2019]. Faculty of English, Cambridge.
Reynold’s Miscellany of Romance, General Literature, Science, and Art [London], Vol. 10, Iss. 263, (Jul 23, 1853): 416.
Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. The Fortune Press, 1941.
Researcher: Madeleine Berrigan