Ravensdale: A Romance

Author: Ellen T.
Publisher: G. Purkess, Strange
Publication Year: 1847
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 13.2 cm x 21 cm
Pages: 116
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .T24 R 1847

Published in 1847 and written by the mysterious Ellen T., Ravensdale follows the intersecting love stories of characters across societal boundaries, while capturing love’s vivacity, disparity, and ultimate fatality.

Material History

The title page of Ravensdale.

Ravensdale: A Romance is a leather and sheep-skin bound book with a hard cover lined in navy cloth. The book’s binding is an orange hue and the cover is not comprised of distinct detail or decoration. The title of the book is engraved simplistically in the middle on the spine, and the cover is blank. The full title only appears on the title page, and the shortened title, Ravensdale, appears at the top left-hand side of each page and is the title engraved on the binding. As for the title page, the font remains simplistic and uniform to the rest of the book’s text. However, the title of the book is printed in a different, more formal font, and appears as though it was printed separately from the initial printing of the book. The rest of the title page is blank except for the bottom where the printing and publishing information is given: “1847 / London: Printed by E. Lloyd, Published by G. Purkess; Compton street, Soho; Strange Paternoster row.”

The illustrator is not acknowledged, and there are no illustrations in the introductory pages of the book. The first illustration appears on the beginning page of Chapter 1. Before Chapter 1, there is a page-long, anonymous preface unveiling to the reader the unattributed work of the author, Ellen T.

The book is decorated simply, with subtle decorative elements that add some embellishment to the book’s cheap production. There is a decorative letter at the beginning of Chapter 1, and each of the following chapters begin with a short poem. The edge of the novel is slightly rough and is speckled with burgundy paint for decorative distinction.

The illustration at the beginning of Chapter 1, which is the first illustration of Ravensdale.

The cover of the book is 13.2 cm wide and 21 cm long and filled with 116 pages. These pages are filled with small, closely-set text, which makes for relatively wide margins. Ravensdale’s text is faint-black due to weathering, use, and printing; however, on some pages the text appears to be inconsistently bolded.

The pages are yellowed with the edges slightly browning from aging and storage. On some pages, there are brown speckles that appear on the corners. The book’s pages are well intact and are firm and stiff when turning the page. Some pages have oil stains due to prior handling, but the stiffness of the pages suggests a strong binding and that the book was handled somewhat infrequently.

Visually, the book lacks uniqueness. There are subtle decorative elements that give Ravensdale individuality, however outside of these elements, the book was produced simplistically and cheaply. The book has black and white illustrations that appear relatively frequently and are uncaptioned. These illustrations represent significant scenes in the chapter, the Chapter 1-page illustration displaying the two main characters standing under their favorite tree, a willow. Black and white illustrations were less expensive than colored illustrations to produce: after printing the initial black and white image, color was placed by another printing or by hand. Thus, adding color and extra detail to these illustrations was too expensive for the production of this book.

Textual History

Ravensdale is a 116-page book printed and published by Edward Lloyd, George Purkess, and William Strange in London. The title page gives the printer and publisher information, revealing the novel’s publishing location of Compton Street and Paternoster-Row. The author is identified as Ellen T., withholding her last name. Ellen T. was a nineteenth-century writer who has written two other books titled Rose Sommerville: Or, A Husband’s Mystery and a Wife’s Devotion. A Romance and Eardley Hall. Rose Sommerville was published the same year as Ravensdale (1847),and Eardley Hall was published in 1850.

The anonymous preface at the beginning of Ravensdale.

Ravensdale was printed by Edward Lloyd, a nineteenth-century printer who has been called “the father of the cheap press” (Humphreys). He operated a publishing empire founded on “penny bloods” and optimized on this emerging mass market. He spearheaded printing, advertising, and distributing techniques that helped with mass production of these publications. His career began with printing volumes of cheap novels, and then he shifted to printing newspapers; one of his early publications was Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, which became widely successful. His original office was located on Curtain Road in Shoreditch, but then he relocated in 1843 to 12 Salisbury Square. He published, often unlawfully, the works of famous authors, however he also published the works of smaller, underappreciated authors like Harry Hazel, Faucit Saville, Mrs. M. L. Sweetser, and B. Barker. Lloyd was notorious for aggressive advertising and for undercutting competitor’s prices, often by plagiarizing. His most famous newspaper was Lloyd’s Penny Sunday Times and People’s Police Gazette. Ellen T. was one of the smaller authors that Lloyd printed, and multiple of her works were printed by him and her poems were published in his newspapers (Humphreys).

Ravensdale was also printed and published by George Purkess and William Strange. Both companies were operated in London; George Purkess worked out of his Compton Street office, and William Strange’s office was located on 21 Paternoster-Row (Lill). Purkess was known for his dealing of cheap fiction in the 1840s, and Strange was known as a significant publisher of cheap literature for working classes, specifically in more urban areas (Anglo 81). Yet, Strange was also involved in more satirical publishing: his most famous publication was a comic journal titled Figaro in London. Strange involved himself in various activities of rebellion, like the resistance of newspaper stamps and other “taxes of knowledge,” while also linking himself to various libel and infringement of copyright cases (Bently 238). Strange and Purkess were regarded as popular figures in radical publishing movements of the 1830s. Throughout their careers, both Strange and Purkess were regarded as publishers who moved between “radical politics, literary populism and popular enlightenment” (Haywood 133). These two men exploited savvy strategies often used by prolific publishers at the time, combining both the publishing of popular, cheap penny bloods and short publications to fund new and rousing periodicals; two of their most popular being the Monthly Theatrical Review and the Girl’s and Boy’s Penny Magazine (Lill).

Ravensdale has two editions. One is the edition published in 1847 held in the University of Virginia’s Sadleir-Black Collection and in the libraries of Yale, Notre Dame, and the British Library, both digitally and physically. Another version of Ravensdale was published in The Ladies’ Journal: A Newspaper of Fashion, Literature, Music, and Variety which can be found in the British Library (Léger-St-Jean). The Ladies’ Journal was an extension of Lloyd’s newspaper that ran from April 3 to September 18, 1847. Ravensdale was one of four texts published in the extension: the other texts were Widow Mortimer. A Romance, The Pirate Queen,and The Creole. This newspaper was one of Lloyd’s unsuccessful publications and ran for a shorter period of time (Léger-St-Jean). Ellen T.’s other works were featured in Lloyd’s publications; specifically, her poems “To Christmas”and “Lines on a Birthday” were featured in The People’s Periodical and Family Library. In the 1847 edition of Ravensdale, there is an anonymous preface detailing the unappreciated nature of the author. It ends with “London, November 1847,” and expresses the talent of the author. In Ellen T.’s other novel, Rose Sommerville, another anonymous preface exists, and it portrays the methods and wants of the “Authoress.”

Narrative Point of View

Ravensdale, is narrated in third person through an anonymous character who is not interwoven within the novel’s plot. This narrator frequently uses differentiating descriptors in order to convey certain character’s dispositions. When describing the two Clavering sisters, Grace and Edith, the narrator juxtaposes each description: Edith is often described with a sense of earnestness and fragility, whereas Grace is described with sublime diction. The narrator primarily uses dialogue for plot progression, and thus does not apply large amounts of narrative authority over the description of events. However, the narrator interrupts dialogue for eloquent character description, often detailing the characters’ temperaments flamboyantly. She deploys flowery diction when choosing to describe characters, often theatrically illustrating their emotions. Yet, she sometimes decides to include generalized comments on the plot progression, which occasionally reveal a narrative presence. Additionally, in order to dramatize certain moments of emotional uncertainty, the narrator adds exclamations and rhetorical questions as if attempting to converse with the reader. On some occasions, the narrator directly engages with the reader, demanding that he regard a character’s actions in a certain way.

Sample Passage:

The reader must conceive with what transport this billet was perused, and how rapturously the young man carried it to his lips–how fondly each little word was treasured in his memory. Oh! ‘tis sweet to trace, in the letters of those we love, the soft breathings of a spirit that yearns for our return, to whom all things are as nothing while we are not. Thus felt Edward Villiers, as he read with a throbbing bosom the letter that was penned by Grace, her whom he was seeking to forget; and though her true sentiments towards him were concealed beneath the veil of feminine modesty and true of feeling, he saw sufficient to convince him that he was loved–that he had inspired her with no transitory or evanescent passion for himself, but a love that bade defiance to all obstacles that was no more easy to be extinguished than the flame that was likewise kindled in his own breast. (26­–27)

This passage both demonstrates the narrator’s engagement with the reader while also exemplifying the narrator’s descriptive style. Instead of mere depiction of progressing events, this anonymous narrator interrupts pivotal moments of plot progression and connects directly with the reader. When summoning the reader’s attention, the narrator desires him to internalize the sentiments described and prompt internal reflection. She calls on the reader to look within himself and think back to a past memory where he felt the same emotion. She shifts from third-person perspective and employs first person narrative with her use of “we” and “our.” The narrator asks the reader to join her in telling this story, suggesting that personal attachment provides advantageous insight that grasps the complexity of characters and their accompanied emotions. In the latter half of this passage, the narration resumes its ordinary form, providing ornate description of the character’s state of mind and observations. She describes the emotions felt by Edward when receiving the letter from Grace, utilizing physical elements of Edward’s body to personify the extent of his love. Instead of describing intense emotion, the narrator often uses physical elements in hope of capturing the authenticity of the character’s emotions. She deploys phrases like “a throbbing bosom,” and “the flame that was likewise kindled in his own breast,” which depict the physicality of Edwards love for Grace, and this allows for a deeper clarity on the extent to which the two love each other. Ultimately, the narrator wants the reader to intensely connect with the emotions described.


The decorative letter that begins Chapter 1, which is one of the few decorative elements of Ravensdale.

Ravensdale opens with the introduction of the Clavering family, centering around the two amiable cousins of Grace and Edith, who differ in disposition, but hold the utmost strength of family companionship. Edith embodies the essence of gentility and loving nature, her soft countenance and sweetness extending through all of her relationships. Juxtaposing this nature, Grace contains wild exuberance, and carries a powerful vivacity. Arthur and Grace are both children of Ms. Manning, the sister of the countess of Clavering, and Edith the daughter of the countess. After the birth of Grace, an incurable illness imposes itself upon Ms. Manning, and she bestows a wish of the marriage between the two cousins: Arthur and Edith. Upon the death of Ms. Manning, the countess intends for her wish to come true. Edith then reaches the maturity that shows she is fit for marriage. Upon Arthur’s maturity, he travels around Europe and Edith anticipates his return. Fully aware of his destiny to marry Edith, Arthur is instantly enchanted by her sweetness and beauty, and the Claverings prepare for the highly anticipated ceremony. One of the guests at this beloved ceremony is Edward Villers, a former acquaintance of Arthur’s. Grace is given the task of properly entertaining this unknown visitor, and the two become pleasantly acquainted. In their time together, Edward suggests that Arthur’s heart contains not just Edith but another—a former lover from his travels. Yet, Grace is assured by Edward that this connection is indeed former. Edward and Grace acquire a mutual appreciation for each other and promise to see each other again.

After Edward’s return to London, we are introduced to Catherine Montravers, a governess to a wealthy woman, Mrs. Porters, and a teacher of her children, while rushing along the streets of Paris. Simply dressed, Catherine is a dark and intricate beauty with magnificent raven features. She is introduced in a state of anguish as she is stopped on the street by an admirer, Ernest Moreton, who shows a deep concern in her mental fragility and ill health. When she returns to her school room, the reader learns of her despairing solitude and afflictions with a former lover.

In London, Edward is struck by ennui, and expresses to his family and a close friend, Helen, his love for Grace and his wishes to marry her. Mrs. Villers suggests the disparity in their social standings and proposes Helen to be a better pairing for him: a dutiful, devoted, and helpful woman. Edward refuses, and exclaims his determination to marry Grace.

Edith and Arthur are married, yet Edith is struck by an apparent uneasiness about Arthur’s devotion to her. Grace’s fondness for Edward grows, and she becomes aware of her love for him and wishes to see him again. She expresses her sentiments to Edith, who appears uneasy with Grace’s decision to marry outside her class. While the two sisters converse, a letter appears by a servant addressed to Arthur, and Edith attempts to retrieve it. Instead, Grace possesses the letter and throws it into the fire.

We return to the story of Catherine, who while sitting in her school room, receives two letters from her former lover. She is afflicted by their contents and continues her melancholic suffering when Mr. Porter expresses an interest in returning to London.

Arthur, known as the Earl of Clavering, Edith, and Grace attend the Opera where they are met by Edward. Grace and Edward express their love and mutual wishes to marry, which Arthur rejects. Yet, this does not stop their dedication, and Grace conveys her intentions of disobeying Arthur’s marital wishes for her.

Meanwhile, Helen expresses her love for Edward, and Edward fabricates his ignorance towards her affections and explains that if aware, he would have asked for her hand if not already promised to Grace. He requests that she leave the Villers household with a promise to return to her if rejected by Grace. Meanwhile, Edith happens upon a letter left behind by Arthur, and believing it is intended for his mother, reads it. The letter is actually addressed to Catherine, and Edith is awakened by the bitter reality of her husband’s love for another.

An example of the poems that begin each chapter of Ravensdale.

In the midst of this contention, the reader is introduced to three men: Edward Moreton, Christopher Warden, and John Lawton. The three are discussing Morten’s love for Catherine, when Marie, the former lover of Christopher, enters and is described as a soft and changing beauty. She professes her love and destitution to Christopher, and he agrees to support her, but orders her and their unborn child to distance themselves from his deteriorating illness. Marie resists, insisting her devotion and desire to care for Christopher, but Lawton insists on this separation. After observing the conversation between Christopher, Lawton, and the neglected Marie, Moreton tends an emerging dislike for these two men and a restless desire to investigate their character.

When returning to the household of the Villers, Catherine hears of the disappearance of her sister, Helen, and comes to immediate aid. Convinced that Helen’s disappearance is inextricably linked to Edward, she writes him a letter impersonating Helen and asks him to meet in the middle of the night.

Consistent with the promises of Lawton, Marie is brought to the establishment of Madame Chevasse, an elderly woman with sharp eyes and cunning disposition. In evaluating and feeling assured of her cruelty, Marie refuses to stay with Madame and allow her to care for her unborn child. Lawton again insists that Christopher’s support only reaches so far, and her refusal of Madame’s care will cause a further disunion between them. Marie then agrees to Madame’s hospitality.

In anticipation of her nightly rendezvous, Catherine appears at the meeting place before its expected time, when she sees a dark figure approaching her. Arthur, her former lover, emerges from the darkness and professes his love and undying desire to provide for her every need. She is sickened by his advances and exclaims that although his status allows the exemption of punishment, his complete neglect of her warrants her reprehensibility and hatred. Arthur pushes back on her claims until Edward approaches the meeting place. Arthur hides, and Edward begins to explain, to whom he perceives as Helen, his supposed marriage to Grace. Then, Arthur jumps out from the bushes and yells that this marriage will no longer be held. Arthur describes Edward’s unworthiness of marrying his sister, and that the only way that he can redeem his character is through a duel.

Catherine finds Helen’s place of habitation, and the two again reconcile their inseparable sisterhood. Catherine councils Helen never to see Edward again, as his devotion still lies with Grace. Yet, Helen refuses and attempts to convince Catherine of his love. Catherine rejoices in their rekindled sisterhood, but she still shows apprehension for her sister’s dedication to Edward.

The reader returns to the residence of Madame Chevasse, where Lawton specifies the intended role of her caretaking, which is one of ultimately killing Marie’s unborn child. Lawton expresses that with Christopher’s life-threatening illness, he will be unable to provide a righteous life for their child. Madame Chevasse agrees to Lawton’s request, yet demands an expensive reward. She then begins this process by poisoning Marie, which leads to her ultimate death.

In response to the events of his rendezvous with Catherine and Arthur, Edward writes a letter to Grace explaining the misunderstanding. Grace receives this letter while confronted by Arthur about Edward’s character and unworthiness of her hand. Grace assures Arthur that his allegations are false. Grace and Edward meet again and reconfirm their mutual love for one another, and Edwards professes his intention to convince Arthur of his love. Meanwhile, Helen writes a letter to Edward, demonstrating her relentless devotion.

It is then that Lieutenant Marston, an acquaintance to Arthur, presents himself to Edward and conveys a message. The Lieutenant reveals Arthur’s wishes to duel Edward in his sister’s honor, with the man who prevails deciding Grace’s marital fate. The Lieutenant explains that he will be a third-party preparing Edward for this scheduled duel, and the two become acquainted.

An illustration showing Christopher’s reaction to the corpse of his dead lover, Marie.

Meanwhile, Ernest Moreton confronts Lawton and Christopher about Marie’s death, and insists that Lawton is guilty of this monstrous crime. He then announces his quest for revenge, and the conversation ends with Christopher’s desire to look upon his deceased lover.

The final rejection of Helen’s devotion by Edward sufficiently extinguishes her passion and hope towards their elopement. Coupled with Catherine’s dismissal from governess of Mrs. Porter, the two decide to live together.

As Lieutenant Marston prepares Edward for the upcoming duel, the two obtain a mutual like for each other, and the good nature of the Lieutenant’s character is acknowledged. The day of the duel comes, and it results in the life-threatening injury of Edward. Edward is rushed to the nearby cottage of Helen and Catherine, where Helen tends to him with undying devotion.

Meanwhile, Lawton and Christopher visit Marie’s corpse. Christopher is alarmed by the haunting spectacle that has taken Marie’s place and repeatedly exclaims the foolishness of his visit. Madame Chevasse and Lawton continue to hide their responsibility for her death, however Morten observes them with a skeptical eye and believes that he has caught their criminality. After this fateful visit, Christopher is never the same and the intensity of his illness brings him to his mortal ending.

Helen’s suppressed devotion towards Edward resurfaces in full force after his injury, but her relentless care is not enough, and Edward dies from his honorable duel. When notified of her lover’s death by Arthur, Grace falls into a deep sadness, an illness that removes all of her recent memories and convinces her that her marriage to Edward will still occur. In hope for this bliss to remain, the Claverings decide to entertain Grace’s absence from reality. On her imagined wedding day, Grace drowns in the river where she attempts to meet Edward, and the Claverings mourn their spirited daughter’s loss.

Meanwhile, the Lieutenant provides Catherine and Helen their first group of pupils at their shared cottage, while also developing a great appreciation and love for Helen. After frequent visits to the cottage, the good-natured Lieutenant asks for Helen’s hand in marriage, which she accepts. Finally, Catherine is visited by Ernest Moreton and his mother, who demonstrate a great respect for her character, and Ernest asks for her hand in marriage. 


Anglo, Michael. Penny Dreadfuls and Other Victorian Horrors. London, Jupiter, 1977.

Bently, Lionel. “Prince Albert v Strange.” Landmark Cases in Equity, edited by Charles Mitchell and Paul Mitchell. Hart Publishing, 2012.

Haywood, Ian. The Revolution in Popular Literature. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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

Léger-St-Jean, Marie. Price One Penny: A Database of Cheap Literature, 1837-1860. 29 June 2019. Faculty of English, Cambridge. http://priceonepenny.info.

Lill, Sara Louise. “In for a Penny: The Business of Mass-Market Publishing 1832–90.” Edward Lloyd and His World Popular Fiction, Politics and the Press In Victorian Britain. New York, Routledge, 2019.

T., Ellen. Eardley Hall: a tale: by Ellen T? Edward Lloyd, 1850. Nineteenth Century Collections Online.

T., Ellen. “Lines on a Birthday.” The People’s Periodical and Family Library, vol. I, no. 13. Edward Lloyd, 1847, pp. 205. Nineteenth Century Collections Online.

T., Ellen. Ravensdale: A Romance. London, Edward Lloyd, 1847.

T., Ellen. Rose Sommerville: or, A husband’s mystery and a wife’s devotion: a romance. Edward Lloyd, 1847. Nineteenth Century Collections Online.

T., Ellen. “To Christmas.” The People’s Periodical and Family Library, vol. I, no. 13. Edward Lloyd, 1847, pp. 205. Nineteenth Century Collections Online.

Researcher: Neila Connaughton

Mary, the Primrose Girl

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