An Episode at Blackgang Chine concerns the meeting between Amory (a very stiff bachelor of independent means who is paranoid about being hit on by impoverished widows) and a lady from his past, Maida (an improverished widow), when Amory is staying at the Blackgang Chine Hotel to recover his health.
Tinsleys' Magazine was something of an advertising wing of the Tinsley Brothers publishing firm, showcasing works and authors to be published by the Tinsleys. Its general catchment and business practices were a little more off-the-wall than many of the literary magazines of that era, sensational stuff such as How They Lynched Me: A Tale of the Far West sitting next to major names and titles; Thomas Hardy's A Pair of Blue Eyes first appeared serialised in Tinsleys'.
So, the story first. Skip if you want; the following bibliography bit is about its authorship, and that of a couple of related works.
|Blackgang Chine Hotel, 1843|
(somewhat earlier than the story setting)
The Pleasure-Visitor's Companion to the Isle of Wight
Volume XXIII, August 1878, page 214
London: Tinsley Brothers
AN EPISODE AT BLACKGANG CHINE.
By The Author Of 'Marley Castle,' 'Corrafin,' Etc.
I am a bachelor, but be it distinctly understood by no means a very old one. I merely want to present myself as an individual of ripe judgment and large experience, contradistinguished from the raw material which we call a youth. Indeed it at first occurred to me to say that I was a man pure and simple; but on reflection I feared that my friends (?) might take exception to that brace of adjectives, and pronounce it a double-barrelled misstatement. So I have left it unsaid.
With regard to my outer man, I must confess that Nature dealt rather handsomely with me on the whole; for she not only accorded me my proper allotment of limbs and features, but finished them all off in such a careful and painstaking manner, that the result was eminently satisfactory, and gave no evidence whatever of being a piece of workmanship on which she had merely tried her ‘’prentice han'.'
As to my circumstances, they were always so very easy, that the only embarrassment I ever experienced was an embarrassment of riches; for in addition to succeeding to a large fortune on my father's death, there was also a great mortality amongst my other relatives, who, of course, would have lived for ever and a day if I had had a very fruitful vine on the walls of my house, and an extremely limited exchequer; but who, because I did not in the least want their money, all insisted on dying and leaving me handsome legacies and bequests.
It thus came to pass that at rather an early age I felt myself the natural prey of unscrupulous spins and designing widows; and the consciousness of being so, tinged and coloured and gave a peculiar bias to my whole life. For, owing to the extreme and morbid dread I felt of being run down and captured nolens volens, I was always more or less ill at ease and out of my element when with the other sex, and only thoroughly comfortable and at home when with my own.
I, however, ran the danger—yea, and I am proud to add escaped it too—for many years; and when I was at last delivered from it, it was by accident, and not design. For a party of friends who were going on an exploring expedition to equatorial regions asked me to join them; and I not only went, but became so interested in the work that I remained abroad until my health broke down utterly, and I was at length told that I must hasten back to England at once, unless I wished to leave my bones to bleach on the sands of the desert.
Now, as ill-luck would have it, I took fever whilst on my way home; and by the time I arrived in London I was so emaciated, and had got such a bad cough, that the doctor whom I consulted advised me to go to the Isle of Wight for change of air, particularly recommending Black
gang Chine, where, he assured me, I should find a climate exactly suited to my requirements in every respect.
To Blackgang Chine, therefore, I accordingly went; and having put up at the charming hotel there, before many days were over I had begun to feel decidedly better and stronger; for the gorse-scented atmosphere is not only singularly pure and fresh, but so soft and balmy as well, that every breath seems to come with health and healing on its wings.
But besides that, I revelled in the wild beauty of the surrounding scene, which, though bare and rugged certainly, and rather sombre as regards colouring, with its fantastic lights and shadows, its grand old green-sand cliffs rising layer upon layer and higher and higher until they culminate in the majestic escarpment of St. Catherine's Hill, and the ceaseless chime of the waves as they break in solemn music on the shore, is peculiarly striking and impressive, and has a wondrous charm for one who, like myself, prefers Nature under her sterner and sublimer aspects.
Of course each day when the coach came over from Ventnor, and disgorged itself of its occupants at the hotel, the solitude of the place was invaded, and I might almost say desecrated. For that the name of the visitors to Blackgang Chine is legion is abundantly shown by the testimony of the rocks, which are literally engraved from base to summit in all directions with the autographs of Brown, Jones, Robinson, Smith, &c. But during the forenoon I generally had the shore all to myself, and every day regularly I used to take my lonely matutinal stroll there until the following incident occurred:
One morning, when I went down as usual, although it had only been breezy up at the hotel, I found that on the beach it was blowing half a gale of wind. Indeed so strong was the blast, that it was as much as I could do, in my then weak state, to keep on my feet; while as to walking steadily, it was out of the question. However, the breeze was so refreshing and exhilarating that I mightily rejoiced in it for some time, and would no doubt have continued to enjoy it too—for the sensations it produced were indescribably pleasant—had not a sudden gust come and blown off, not only my hat, but also my wig; for during the fever my head had been shaved.
Now it is admitted that no man, however grand or imposing he may be, can possibly look stately or dignified when running after his own hat; but when an unfortunate wight has to give chase to his wig as well, the case is of course additionally ignominious. Still such things must be done sometimes; and as I knew I should have to return to the hotel—which was very full at the time—in a crestfallen condition, and with my diminished head looking as smooth and as bare as a billiard-ball, unless I could catch the fugitive articles, I pursued them for a time, and with as much celerity as I could exercise. But I was so unequal to running fast just then that I was soon obliged to slacken my speed; and, in a state almost bordering on despair, I was each instant expecting to see my head-gear blown into the water, when to my unbounded surprise some one else joined in the pursuit—namely a lady, who had been sitting behind a ledge of rock which had hidden her from my view, and whose lungs and limbs were evidently in good working order; for she soon succeeded where I had failed, and in a few moments more came running up to me with my hat in one hand and my wig in the other.
As she approached, I noticed that she was small and slight, that her figure was beautiful, and that she was dressed in black, with that pretty little coquettish white border under her bonnet which denotes widowhood, but does not disfigure the widow, as those heavy monumental-looking piles of white muslin which our grandmothers wore used to do. However, all desire to make further notes and commentaries on her was merged in astonishment when she drew near and raised her head; for directly she did so, she started and I started; and, with an exclamation which was almost a cry of surprise, she said,
'Amory Smythe!—Amory! Is it, can it really be you, or am I only dreaming?'
Now after having been called 'old fellow' and 'old man' for so many years that I had nearly forgotten the sound of my own Christian name, to hear it thus uttered by a very sweet woman's voice almost electrified me; but as soon as speech became a possibility I answered,
'Yes, Maida; it is indeed I myself. But where have you fallen from ?—the clouds I should think; for I heard that you were in India.'
'Oh, I have been home for two years. But do tell me why you have taken to wearing wigs already! Why not go bald? Men do not look any worse for being bald; in fact I rather like it.'
I could not help laughing at this; but I said,
'There is baldness and baldness, you must remember; but when a man hasn't got a single hair on any part of his head, I quite agree with the old proverb, that he may lawfully wear a wig. I've had a fever, and my hair has not grown yet.'
'Then 1 suppose you are here for your health?' she added.
'Yes; and you?
'Oh, every one comes to this place for health, and finds it too, for the climate is wonderful. But I am with aunt Jane, who still fancies she has every disorder under the sun, and her last craze is that she has lung-disease. We only arrived very late last night, so that is why you did not see us before.'
My eyes then rested on her border with an inquiring look, and perceiving the direction of my glance, she answered the mute query cheerfully and said,
'Yes, I am a widow—have been for four years; and now I should be quite alone in the world only for aunt Jane, for when I came home I found all my people dead and gone. But then it's no wonder, after such a time. Would you believe it, it's eighteen long years since I saw you last!'
'God bless me, so it is!' I replied. 'What a gap in one's life!'
'A tremendous one,' she assented. 'But do tell me all about yourself. I hope you haven't married and grown stupid. I always remark men are never worth much once they marry. Women, of course, are quite different'
'Oh, I am perfectly unmarried,' I answered; 'but for the rest you must judge for yourself.'
'Well,' she said, 'I remember I used to think you one of the pleasantest men I ever met—that is when you would venture to talk to me, which wasn't often, for you were terribly afraid of me in those days, don't you remember? But now, since I've grown old and ugly, I am not in the least dangerous, so I hope you won't be afraid of me any longer. I assure you I'm warranted harmless now, perfectly harmless.'
When she said this I could not help laughing again; and as her pleasant voice, so long unheard, echoed in my ear, the tide of time appeared to flow back to the day when I heard that she was going to be married, and I seemed to feel once more the keen pang of regret I experienced when I found she was actually lost to me for ever. For it was the narrowest possible shave that I had not fallen in love with her myself, as I always tacitly admitted that she was the prettiest, pleasantest, and most original girl of my acquaintance, and, compared to all others, she invariably seemed to me like a diamond amongst common stones. But my wretched pride, tenacity, and over-sensitiveness held me back, because, as she was poor and I was rich, I feared she might possibly marry me for my fortune and not for myself, and that I could not stand the notion of. So I let old Colonel Freyne carry off the prize and take her to India, where I lost sight of her so completely that, with the exception of a vague rumour that she was not happy in her married life, I had heard nothing of her from the day we parted, eighteen years before, up to the time then present.
Meanwhile we had got up to aunt Jane, to whom I had to be reintroduced. And then Maida and I sat down together, and began to compare notes and exchange confidences. That is to say, she gave me a sketch of her life, and I gave her one of mine. And whilst thus employed the time passed so pleasantly and imperceptibly away that we were both somewhat surprised when the arrival of the coach-people tacitly reminded us that it was time to go back to the hotel for lunch.
Of course I dined with my old friends in the public room that evening, and after dinner we went out for a walk, during which I fancied the scene seemed much brighter and fairer than it used to do when I was lonely and companionless. And then for many succeeding days we were so constantly together that we were hardly ever apart; and to me the change was so delightful, and the existing state of things so satisfactory, that in looking back at that September now it appears to me the pleasantest month I ever spent in my life—a veritable green spot in the waste of memory.
Nor, so far as I could judge, was Maida's enjoyment less great than my own either. But then why should it be? For though it is true she was not young, though her morning song was hushed, and the early dew no longer glistened on the world around her, spring and summer have not an entire monopoly of bloom and blossom; autumn has its flowers as well, and though their fragrance is peculiar it is very sweet; all the sweeter, perhaps, because we know that winter is so near at hand.
Thus time glided by smoothly, uneventfully, and delightfully, until one evening towards the end of the month—I shall never forget that night as long as I live—a large party having started from the hotel for a moonlight walk on the shore, Maida and I, who soon found ourselves a little in the rear of the others, sat down on the second seat to enjoy the charming view spread out before us. (Fair and friendly reader, should you ever go to Blackgang Chine, pray linger at that particular seat for a moment— remember it is the second as you descend from the hotel—and cast a sympathetic thought on me; for I assure you I suffered horribly whilst sitting there on the occasion in question.)
But to return to the night—I must admit that it was not only warm, but exceedingly bright and fine as well, and with such an affluence of light that even the most minute objects were distinctly visible, while as for the full moon, it looked—as usual. Of course, I could say that it was 'cold' and 'round,' like 'a silver shield,' and an ' isle of the blest,' &c., as well as others, if I chose; but the old man who lives in it has so often had his residence described that I fancy he will esteem my reticence of imagery rather as a compliment than otherwise, so I forbear.
Now from the moment we started I noticed that Maida was not in her usual good spirits this evening. In fact she seemed so absent and distraite that I at last began to fancy that she must have something to tell me which she was reluctant to communicate. But, then, what the deuce could it be? I asked myself; for she had no relatives to trouble her, and her position in the world was almost as isolated as my own. However, before I had time to answer this question satisfactorily she opened fire herself by informing me that she had just received a foreign letter, and asking me to guess from whom it came.
Of course the solution of such a puzzling question quite transcended my powers; so she then told me that it was from her uncle, who was on his way home from Jamaica, and who, being a childless widower, had written to say that she must come and live with him, and keep house for him for the future.
'Well?' I said; and very thankful I felt that I had thought of so short a word with which to fill up the hiatus; for I was so utterly stultified and astonished by this most unexpected news that 1 knew I should have floundered hopelessly if I had ventured on anything lengthy or dissyllabic .
'Oh, of course I shall have to do it,' she answered.
'And do you like the idea of it?' I asked.
'Not at all; for uncle Will was always extremely cross and sour,' she said; 'and it's not likely that his temper has grown any better.'
'Then why do you intend complying with his request?' I inquired.
'For very cogent reasons,' she replied somewhat sadly; 'I am not in a position to refuse so good an offer.'
Not in a position! Here was a revelation indeed. Then she was still poor; and what a chance it was for me! For surely under existing circumstances nothing could be pleasanter than to devote my useless wealth to making her comfortable for the rest of her life. You see, since I had grown older and wiser my views on the subject of matrimony had been modified a good deal; and often latterly, especially since I had come to Blackgang, I had not only called myself an ass for not having gone in for her in the days of my youth, but also felt that I had thus cheated myself out of many happy years by my own folly. Now, however, an opportunity was afforded me, by her own chance admission, of making a tardy amende; but how to set about making it was the question; and one, too, involving a difficulty out of which I could not in the least see my way. Yes, reader, strange as it may seem, I swear it is nevertheless perfectly true that I, a gold-medal man, who was supposed to know all about quaternions and transcendental mathematics, who had the reputation at Oxford of being an acute dialectician, a profound thinker, and all the rest of it, and who really was a very tolerable linguist, had no more idea of how I ought to convey my wishes and feelings to the little woman by my side (and she was not by any means a formidable little woman either) than I had of how to make the wig on my head.
Meanwhile, I was so long silent, pondering over and speculating about this puzzling matter, that Maida, thinking I had fallen asleep, at length roused me from my reverie by bidding me 'Good-night.' Whereupon I said that I was not asleep, and that I had only been thinking.
'Of what?' she asked.
'About you,' I answered.
'Well,' she said, 'of course, I think you couldn't have a better subject. .But what was the nature of your thoughts?'
'I was just thinking how little use my fortune was to me, and wishing you would let me share it with you.'
There, the words were said at last; and surely a more abrupt and uneloquent proposal never was made! Furthermore, it left her in the dark as to my real meaning, too; for she exclaimed,
'What! endow me like a charitable institution ? My dear Amory, you are very kind to think of such a thing; but I'm afraid it wouldn't quite do.'
'I didn't mean that,' I said hurriedly; 'I meant—that is—I—but —only—'
'Why, Amory, you are growing positively incoherent!' she cried. ‘Has the moon anything to do with it? What can you mean, or want to say?'
'That I shall be so lonely when you are gone, and that I wish you would stay with me always—'
But when I had got thus far, the real state of the case having dawned upon her, instead of answering she burst into such a hearty laugh that I felt quite nettled, and, if the truth must be told, rather hurt too.
'Good Heavens! you surely don't mean that!' she exclaimed, as soon as she was able to speak once more. 'Excuse me for laughing; but the idea is so ludicrous that I cannot help it.'
'Oh, I know, of course, I was presumptuous,' I was beginning— for by this time I was really angry as well as hurt—when she interrupted me by saying,
'Now, Amory, you mustn't be sarcastic; and you know very well it's not a case of presumption, but merely of unsuitability.'
'In what way?' I asked, in a tone which was rather below freezing point; for I had felt so perfectly certain that my offer would be accepted with joy and gladness that the fact of its being laughed to scorn in such a manner mortified me extremely.
'I hardly know how to describe it to you,' she returned; 'but you would not satisfy me at all, because you have got such a cold heart. The mild preference, which is all you are capable of feeling, wouldn't content me the least in the world.'
'How do you know what I am capable of feeling?' I then said; 'and it seems to me you have been thinking a good deal about marrying again.'
'On the contrary, I don't think I ever shall marry,' she rejoined. 'For me to marry again would be really the triumph of hope over experience; and I assure you I never will do so until I meet a man who loves me with the most exclusive and rapturous devotion, and who firmly believes there is only one nice woman in the world, and he has got her—meaning myself. No, Amory, I am very fond of you as a friend, but you wouldn't at all suit my taste as a lover; besides, it would be a thousand pities for you to spoil yourself by marrying; you are much nicer as you are. And now I hear the others coming towards us, so I think we had better go and meet them.'
Saying which, she rose and I rose, and as in a few moments more the rest of the party had joined us, our moonlight tête-à-tête thus came to an abrupt conclusion.
When we met at breakfast the next morning I noticed that Maida coloured as we shook hands, and I certainly felt rather awkward also. But though I started with being silent and glum, and really did feel both out of humour and out of spirits, there was no resisting the effect of her sparkling gaiety; and owing to the efforts she made to dissipate my gloom I certainly did brighten up after a time; though she could not succeed in banishing care from my heart, or in making me forget either the summary way in which she had rejected me, or that I was so soon to lose her society, which had become so necessary to me that what I should do without it when she was gone I could not imagine. However, no time had been fixed for her departure, which was still comparatively in the distance, and of course something might yet happen to prevent her going at all; for instance, the vessel in which the ogre was coming over might go down. So I accordingly resolved to think only of, and live only in, the present; and I did so—enjoying those last days with that superadded zest which we always feel in reference to any precious possession which we know we are about to lose. But I was at last rudely awakened from my dream; for one day about the middle of October a telegram came from Maida's terrible relative informing her that he had arrived in London, and begging that she would join him there without delay, as he wanted her to help him in selecting a house.
This was indeed a blow to me; but I was too proud to let her see how I suffered; and, as if by mutual consent, both she and I avoided the subject of her departure all through the day. That evening, however, when I went in to talk to her in aunt Jane's little sitting-room—the old lady had gone to bed with a headache—she told me she was obliged to leave so early in the morning that she would have started before I was up, I being still so much of an invalid that I never rose before nine o'clock.
'Then I suppose I had better leave you,' I said, 'as of course you have a great deal of packing to do?'
'Oh, no; pray don't go yet!' she cried. 'I have ever so much to say to you; and you know we are not likely to meet again for a long time, as of course you will be too lazy to come so far to see me.'
This was an imputation on my activity certainly; but I had not energy or spirit enough to rebut it; and as I sat down once more in compliance with her request I asked myself could those be my pulses which were moving so fast? could this be my heart which was beating so violently against my waistcoat? and was this really my usual calm unexcitable self, or had I undergone my metempsychosis before my time? Yes, all my wonted imperturbability was gone, and instead of being any longer the perfectly cool hand which I had always hitherto prided myself on appearing, I was now as nervous and discomposed as the veriest schoolboy as I waited for her to speak again. Indeed I must admit that I by no means distinguished myself as a conversationalist that evening either; and my replies were so very brief and inapposite that Maida at last said,
'Well, Amo'—this was her old name for me—' I certainly can't congratulate you on the brilliancy and variety of your remarks tonight. Four times in succession you've said, "That's very pleasant;" and on one occasion it was when I was telling you how wretched I should be when living with my uncle.'
'Oh, it's very easy for you to make jokes and talk coherently,' I rejoined, somewhat savagely, 'for you don't mind; but though you do not feel for me I cannot help feeling for myself, when I think of what I shall be to-morrow, and indeed for the rest of my life—'
But before I had time to finish my sentence she came over to me, and placing her hand on my shoulder, she said,
'Dear old friend, you wrong me; if you were in need, sickness, or any other adversity, there is no one who would feel more or do more for you than I would; but I know you better than you know yourself; and though to-morrow may seem rather blank, after that you'll begin to say, "Well, it is very pleasant to be quiet once more, and I'm rather glad that that plaguy little woman has gone."'
And as the 'plaguy little woman' said this she bent down her face, which was still fair and pleasant with the reflection of former beauty, and looked into mine as searchingly as though she expected to be able to read it like a book. But I interrupted her employment by saying that I was much disappointed in her, as I expected that she would at least have been sincere, 'for,' I added, 'you know perfectly that I shall never feel glad that you are gone. But your sex are always the same; you have made me like you too well, and now you laugh at me for doing so.'
'Self-convicted !' she exclaimed, in an entirely different tone. 'You like me too well! How right I was all the time! Well, Amory, I see it is growing late now, so I must dismiss you at last. I shall certainly write and tell you of my safe arrival; and now good-night and good-bye.'
I took the hand which she extended to me, but instead of relinquishing it I said,
'Is this the correct way for old friends to part?'
'I think so,' she answered. 'I cannot say about young people, for I had no tender partings in my own youth. You know I never was "in Arcadia;" but I am sure that the correct thing for old people like you and me is just to shake hands and say good-bye.'
'Well,' I said, 'to me there seems to be a certain amount of incompleteness about it; but of course I am not a very good judge of such matters either, for the only woman I ever remember kissing is my aunt Skinner, who—'
'Then I'm not surprised you never tried it again, for she was the ugliest woman I ever saw in my life!' interpolated Maida, laughing. 'But I can assure you,' she added, 'it's not at all according to the latest authority to hold an aged and decrepit hand so tight that the rings hurt the withered fingers. You really are hurting my hand, Amory!'
'Forgive me,' I cried, 'but I hardly know what I am doing. You haven't one spark of feeling, Maida; if you had you would feel some pity, some little tenderness for me now, for I swear to you I never felt so wretched in my life but once before, and that was the day I heard you were going to be married. Talk of my heart being cold, yours must be as cold as ice!'
'Take comfort, Amo,' she replied, in a low and almost inaudible tone; 'if the truth were known, I feel a great deal more at parting with you than you do at my leaving you. And now I really must go. Good-night and farewell!'
And as she said this she wrenched her hand from my grasp, and the next moment, before I had time to add another word, she darted from the room.
The next day, spent without Maida, was fully forty-eight hours long, while the succeeding one was even of longer duration. Indeed, instead of her prediction being fulfilled, my sense of loss and feeling of utter loneliness increased instead of diminishing, and at that juncture it appeared to me that Time must be moulting very hard, for there was not as much as a single feather in his wing. However, I did not reach the comble of my misfortune until, my brother-in-law having thought proper to die, as well as every one else belonging to me, I was summoned over to Ireland to attend his funeral Now at the time of his death he and my sister were living in a God-forsaken little place called Courtmacksherry. I remember quite well when I first heard that they were going there, as he was in the service and I knew of Pondicherry, I looked on the map of India for it; and in addition to its remoteness and other drawbacks, as I had to go over in November, it was so perpetually enshrouded in gloom, mists, and fogs, that though I spent five weeks in the green isle I can truly say I never actually saw it, and the conclusion I came to was that Ireland was a very pleasant country indeed to live out of. But then I owed the climate a deep grudge, for it played Old Harry with my lungs, and made me so ill that when I got back to London I was ordered off at once to the south of France.
This was startling and by no means pleasant. But though I at first felt that it would be better to die at home than live abroad, on second thoughts I decided that, after all, life was sweet, and as I had by no means exhausted it yet, I would not only do as I was bidden, but start as soon as possible too. I, however, had to return to Blackgang for my effects, where I found aunt Jane still in the enjoyment of her bad health, and having got her to furnish me with Maida's address—she was out of town when I was passing through—I telegraphed to her to come down, even if it were but for a day, adding that I was very ill, and about to leave England for a long and indefinite period.
This summons she obeyed at once; and when she came into the room where I was lying—it was one of those charming little sitting-rooms at the back of the hotel which look right down on the sea—and saw how worn and wasted I had become, the colour fled from her cheek and the light faded from her eye; and though she knelt down beside the couch and took my hand, she seemed quite unable to utter a word.
'It was very good of you to come, Maida,' I said, 'but I felt sure that you would; and you know I could not go without seeing you once more, for in all probability we shall never meet again in this world.'
'O Amory, it's unkind, it's cruel of you to say that; and I think, if you knew what pain it gives me, you wouldn't. I know of course that I have had to live all my life without you—that was your fault, though, and not mine—but now I feel that the world would not have the least charm for me if you were not in it.'
'Do you indeed feel that, Maida?' I asked, starting up, and hardly able to believe the evidence of my senses as I listened to this acknowledgment.
'I do indeed,' she said. 'It's not likely that I would say what I didn't mean at such a time.'
'Then, in Heaven's name, why did you not tell me before?' I said. 'Think of all you might have spared me; for I know that a great deal of my illness has been caused by what I have suffered since you rejected me. Now, of course, it's too late; my doom is sealed, and I must die as I have lived, alone; but it is you who have been cruel, Maida, and not I.'
Instead of replying to this, however, she bent her head until her face rested on the hand she still held in her own; and as she did so I felt something very like a tear trickling through my fingers. After that it was all over with me, for no man can withstand the irresistible logic of a tear, provided it be shed by the woman he loves. And at that moment I was conquered—fully and entirely conquered. Gone were all the coldness and impenetrable reserve of years, vanished the stubborn pride which had spoilt my whole life, and even up to the present had held such a sway over me; and drawing the kneeling figure still closer to me, I whispered, in a tone which faltered in spite of my most strenuous efforts to keep calm and composed,
'Maida, I love you! "Like" was not the word I ought to have used that night; but I was too proud even then to reveal the whole truth, and acknowledge that you have crept into my cold heart—cold no longer, but now, when it's too late and my life is nearly over, filled with a love for you as deep and ardent as even you could desire.'
'Why should it be too late, dear Amo?' she cried, raising her head and fixing her eyes inquiringly on my face as she spoke. 'If you indeed love me you shall not go abroad alone. I will bear you company, not only in your journey, but for the journey of life, if you like; and in the care that I shall take of you I do not despair of your getting better too. May I go ?—will you let me?'
Might she?—would I let her? Would I accept my heart's desire when it was offered me? Yes, I should rather think I would. But I need not tell you what I said in reply. I will only say that my answer was spoken on her lips—the feat, though difficult, is by no means impossible—and then, as we sat together that day, talking of the past and the curious chain of circumstances which had brought us together at Blackgang after so many years of separation, although the retrospect was saddening and the future cloudy and uncertain, hope triumphed over despair; and in the fullness of our present joy we both came to the conclusion that autumnal love is, after all, much stronger and deeper, and more of a reality, than the evanescent dream which comes in spring.
Several weeks have gone by since that happy day; and I must add a line to say that, though still ailing and still under sentence of expatriation, my new-found happiness has already had a most favourable effect on my health; and banishment no longer has any terrors for me, as, before I enter on it, I am to exchange single for double blessedness.
Out-of-copyright text transcribed from Google Books scan of Tinsleys' Magazine, Volume XXIII, January-October 1878.
And as the allegorically-named Amory and Maida disappear into the luminous future (luminous apart from his ominous recurring health breakdowns), on to the bibliographics ...
|then Lieut.-Colonel GJ Wolseley|
frontispiece from his 1862 memoir
Narrative of the War with China in 1860
Internet Archive narrativeofwarwi00wols
Sir Garnet Wolseley is Field Marshal Garnet Joseph Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley KP, GCB, OM, GCMG, VD, PC, who is historically notable as leader of the 1882 Nile Expedition to relieve General Gordon at Khartoum. Either this much-decorated Anglo-Irish military veteran was a closet romance writer, or he was fronting for a friend or relative. While continuing suspicion attached to Sir Garnet himself, the strongest candidate for authorship is his sister Matilda.
A novel edited by Sir Garnet Wolseley, entitled 'Marley Castle,' willl shortly be published by Messrs. Remington and Co. Various conjectures have been made as to its authorship. One seems to be the most likely and the most obvious.
- Variorum Notes, The Examiner (London, England), Saturday, July 14, 1877.
Week after week passes away, and "Marley Castle" continues to be a target for the cannons and penny pop-guns of criticism. In some quarters Sir Garnet Wolseley is referred to as the actual author of the book, an in others is burdened with undue responsibility as its nominal editor. I should like the critics in question to know that Sir Garnet never read a line of "Marley Castle" before it appeared in print. It is the work of a lady, a near relative of Sir Garnet's, whose publisher made it a sine qua non that the gallant soldier's name should appear on the title page. The result is known. Sir Garnet must be added to the already long list of those whose good nature has joined them to the company of martyrs.
- London gossip (quoting the Whitehall Review) Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle etc (Portsmouth, England), Wednesday, October 10, 1877.
It seems a pity that Sir Garnet Wolseley should not have been a real, rather than a nominal editor of this novel, written by his sister and bearing his name upon its title-page; but we can trace very few signs of editorship throughout its pages.
- The Dublin University Magazine: A Literary and Philosophic Review, Volume 90, December 1877, page 761.
LORD WOLSELEY .... It will be news to most of you readers that this great soldier tried his hand at writing fiction. In the year 1877 appeared a novel entitled "Marley Castle," "edited" by Sir Garnet Wolseley, as he then was; but it was common talk that "editor " was a pious fiction for "author." In spite of his future fame, the book made no mark, and is not mentioned in his autobiography or in any life.
- AN OLD SOLDIER, Curragh, letter, The Irish Book Lover, Volume 4, 1913, page 174.
The two novels probably were written by an unidentified author, who may have been a friend of Sir Garnet Wolseley.
- A Guide to Irish Fiction, 1650-1900, Rolf Loeber, Magda Stouthamer-Loeber, Anne Mullin Burnham, Four Courts, 2006
Matilda Wolseley [one of Sir Garnet Wolseley's sisters] tried her hand at being a novelist, publishing Marley Castle: A Novel (1877) and Corafin [sic] (1878). The former appeared as 'edited' by Wolseley himself to his intense embarrassment as he considered it 'rubbish': : see SLCM [South Lanarkshire Council Museum], Wolseley Diaries, CAM.H.22. Entry for 8 Aug. 1877.
- footnote in Wolseley and Ashanti: the Asante war journal and correspondence of Major General Sir Garnet Wolseley 1873-1874, Viscount Garnet Wolseley Wolseley, Ian Frederick William Beckett, Army Records Society (Great Britain), History Press for the Army Records Society, 15 May 2009.
In Schiller's well-known words: "Man can never from himself divide." ... "S'abstenir pour joir," says Rousseau, "c'est l'épicurisme de la raison." ... "kisses never seem so sweet as when long-parted lovers meet." [Phoebe Cary]... and with absurdly inflated turns of phrase, as noted by the Westminster Review's comments on Marley Castle:
- Marley Castle, vol 2.
... the penny-a-line style that pervades the book. Thus a silver spoon is called a "buccal ornament" (i. 3). How a spoon can be called an ornament of any kind we cannot imagine, still more how it can be called a "buccal ornament," which, if it means anything, means an ornament for the cheek. A savage might perhaps call .an ear-ring an "aural ornament," or his nose-ring a "nasal ornament, but even he would hardly call a spoon a "buccal ornament." In much the same strain whiskers are termed an "hirsute appendage" (ii. 98), whilst a wig is a "capillary attraction" (ii. 97), and a member of Parliament is "a fractional portion of the wisdom of Parliament" (ii. 102). This wretched would-be-witty style was first begun by Dickens, and has been followed by all his imitators who possess none of his genius and all of his faults. It has now become the property of penny-a-liners, provincial newspaper correspondents, and the writers in fifth-rate comic journals.Marley Castle is weighty with dull exposition: lengthy formal accounts of where characters are going and why and where they'll go next, and what they're thinking and why they're thinking it. The intro to volume 2 gives something of the flavour:
- Belles lettres, Westminster Review, [Vol. CVIIL No. CCXIV.]—New Series, Vol. LII. No. II, 187, page 561.
Major Vere, in succeeding to Marley Castle and part of the property thereunto appertaining, obtained a very goodly heritage. But as a rule Fortune only sells the favours she seems to bestow—so manifold are the drawbacks with which they are attended, and so high is the price we have oftentimes to pay for them. And this case was no exception to the rule; for the recipient of the favours in question, though he by no means undervalued them, felt that they had come too late so far as his power of enjoying them was concerned, and he proved that he did so by bidding adieu to all his fair possessions as soon as he possibly could, and going abroad.Marley Castle chiefly concerns the wanderings of said Major Vere in pursuit of the love of his life, Blanche (who he doesn't know is already married, until he proposes). After Vere has wandered all around Europe, Blanche's husband conveniently dies of drink, and the lovers are happily united.
- Marley Castle, vol 2., page 1.
Volume 2 of Marley Castle (Digby, Long and Co, 1897) can be read at, or downloaded from, the British Library website: BLL01014824824 (click I want this for links to the PDF viewer options).
Corrafin, which got marginally better reviews, is a multi-threaded Irish novel following the fates of four gentleman officers in the same regiment in Limerick barracks. It comprises one central storyline about complications surrounding an arranged marriage, and a body of anecdote:
Nevertheless, The Examiner thought distinctly well of it:Sir Herbert Corry is told off to marry an heiress; of course, it being in a novel, he falls in love with her, and equally of course refuses to marry her; in fact, it is “Uncle's Will” over again … The remaining nine-tenths of the work are padding, relating the practical jokes played upon a miserable little creature [a young third officer] called Medge. These jokes are venerable for their antiquity, having been originally invented, we believe, by Adam to relieve the monotony of Eden.- Vanity Fair, Volume 20, 1878, page 119.
“Half-sunshine, half-tears,” is the motto on the title-page of ‘Corrafin,’ and it serves well to describe the contents of the two volumes. The sunshine is somewhat artificially mixed with the tears, there being but slight connexion between the serious main-plot of the story and the rollicking underplot and collateral incidents by which it is diversified, but the mixture is the reverse of unpleasant, the different ingredients being all excellent of their kind. Both the humour and the pathos of ‘Corrafin’are genuine. The writer undoubtedly has the peculiarly Irish faculty of making “the weeper laugh, the laughter weep.” We find ourselves often laughing heartily and grieving tenderly over the pages of ‘Corrafin’ than over those of many tales more artfully constructed. The two volumes, though the title implies a unity, are really composed of three separate stories and a choice selection of racy Irish anecdotes, but we readily forgive the author for treating us to so simple an alternation of comic chapters in consideration of her rare sense of fun and her delicate handling of painful themes. That the writer is a lady, though she shelters herself under the ambiguous gender of the word “author,” seems to be indicated by many little circumstances. Her first novel, ‘Marley Castle,’ which, it may be remembered, was edited by Sir Garnet Wolseley, was rather overloaded with quotations and similitudes from the classics. There is none of this misplaced learning in her present venture, which is light and interesting from the first page to the last.However, the Pall Mall Gazette reviewer, who compared it unfavourably to the works of Charles Lever, wasn't keen ...
- Literature, The Examiner (London, England), Saturday, June 15, 1878.
... more or less uninteresting throughout … viewed as a whole, it is impossible to discover anything in “Corrafin” to raise it above the level of indifferent novels..... and nor was FM Owen (the poet Mrs Francis Mary Owen, regular reviewer for the Academy):
- New books and new editions, The Pall Mall Gazette (London, England), Tuesday, July 23, 1878.
The author of Corrafin, if asked whether he could write a novel, would assuredly have answered as the Frenchman did about hunting, "I do not know, but I will try." He has apparently made up his mind that there shall be a book, and that it shall be an Irish one. So he proceeds to write down everything funny that he can think of, not considering it necessary to arrange his plot or to give any sequence to his incidents. The mirth grows uproarious sometimes, and is not always in the best taste, and the pathos is seldom very pathetic, but two volumes are at last filled with the most commonplace jokes of barrack-rooms, a little hunting and lovemaking, and a good many moral reflections.- FM Owen, Corrafin, New novels, The Academy and Literature, Volume 14, Nov. 2, 1878, pages 425-6.
Still, in the light of the Examiner review, it looks worth at least a glance. It has, judging by a few direct quotes in that review, some vivid description and weird incident, as when the lead character, Sir Herbert, is introduced to Laurie Harden, a lady brought up in India he is expected to marry, and finds she has caught jaundice during the voyage home and looks like
... a little ghost—and a very yellow ghost, too, for her face and hands were dyed orange colour, and in addition to that she was thin to emaciation; all her features were pinched and drawn, and her lips were perfectly purple.” … “Good Heavens, is that what they want me to marry?”- Ray