Tag Archives: maria edgeworth

Helen – Maria Edgeworth

As Austen was a bit of an Edgeworth fan, when I saw this in the book shop I decided I had to read it (although Austen died before this novel was published).

Here’s the stuff on the back …

She was the best-selling author of Regency England. Admired by Jane Austen, whose fame she eclipsed. John Ruskin declared her books ‘the most re-readable in existence’.

On the death of her guardian, honest, generous-spirited Helen Stanley is urged to share the home of her childhood friend Lady Cecilia. But this charming socialite is withholding secrets and Helen is drawn into a web of white lies and evasions that threaten not only her hopes for marriage but her very place in society.

A fascinating panorama of Britain’s political and intellectual elite in the early 1800s and a gripping romantic drama, Helen was the inspiration for Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters.

Edgeworth lacks the wit and light touch of Austen. I found this novel heavy going and I suspect it won’t appeal to a modern audience. It is about lying and liars. General Clarenden, Cecilia’s husband, declares he would not marry a woman who had been in love previously. Cecilia lied to him about a previous infatuation. Some letters, that Cecilia wrote to this man, come to light and Cecilia encourages Helen to say that the writing on the letters isn’t Cecilia’s (the implication being that it is Helen’s). Things then get worse – the letters might get published, Helen becomes the scandal of the moment.

I’ve picked a few bits out that remind me of Austen …

[…] and secondly, because every woman is willing to believe what she wishes.

and this is a bit like the part in Emma when the narrator talks about English verdure.

The road led them into the next village, one of the prettiest of that sort of scattered English villages, where each habitation seems to have been suited to the fancy as well as to the convenience of each proprietor; giving an idea at once of comfort and liberty, such as can be seen only in England. Happy England, how blest, would she but no her bliss!

It is beautifully written, romantic and full of suspense – will Cecilia ever confess to the General and what will happen to Helen? If you are a Jane Austen fan or enjoy regency romances, then you should try to read this one if only for the authentic period detail.

Here are some other reviews …



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The Absentee – Maria Edgeworth

I was pleasantly surprised by this novel – it’s very readable (unlike some of Fanny Burney’s work).

Here’s what’s on the back …

Maria Edgeworth’s sparkling satire about the Anglo-Irish family of an absentee landlord is also a landmark novel of morality and social realism.

The Absenteecentres around Lord and Lady Clonbrony, a couple more concerned with London society than their duties and responsibilities to those who live and work on their Irish estates. Recognising this negligence, their son Lord Colambre goes incognito to Ireland to observe the situation and trace the origins of his beloved cousin Grace. To put matters straight he finds a solution that will bring prosperity and contentment to every level of society, including his own family.

Although the time period and the phraseology is very similar to Austen, this novel lacks the sparkling wit and is very didactic – I occasionally felt I was being beaten over the head with the message.

But it is worth reading for the social history. Also I think it’s a good thing to read things Austen read and to realise how extraordinarliy talented she was (i.e in comparison with the predecessors).

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Filed under Contemporary Authors, Everything Austen Challenge

The Absentee – Maria Edgeworth

 I’ve had this book in my ‘to be read’ pile for quite some time. I thought the Everything Austen Challenge would be a good opportunity to force me to read it.

At the moment I’m about a third of the way through and I have to admit that I like it. Edgeworth has none of Austen’s wit, but her phraseology is eerily similar. I will write a proper review later.

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Filed under Contemporary Authors, Everything Austen Challenge

Everything Austen Challenge

Stephanie’s written word is offering an ‘Every Austen Challenge’. In this challenge you have to read or watch six Austen related items in six months (July to December 2009).

Now my six Austen things are…

Jane’s Fame by Claire Harman

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Lost in Austen by Emma Campbell Webster

The Absenteeby Maria Edgeworth – Possible influence on Austen (does that count?)

Lesley Castle by Jane Austen

Mansfield Park BBC (1983)


Filed under Everything Austen Challenge