Mrs Cayhill, in Henry Handel Richardson’s first novel Maurice Guest (1908), is an indolent American who uses fiction as a drug, happy to settle in Leipzig because of its “circulating library rich in English novels”. Maurice himself appeases her with tribute of “old Tauchnitz volumes”. One of the novels Mrs Cayhill reads “like a tippler in the company of his bottle” is Caroline Clive’s third novel, Why Paul Ferroll Killed His Wife (1860); she finds it, Richardson says, “dry reading”.1 No doubt she had the Tauchnitz edition, published in Leipzig in 1861, one of the little cream paper-covered Collection of British Authors Series which entertained generations of English-speaking travellers on the continent of Europe during the railway age.
One would like to know what Richardson expected her readers to understand by this reference; whether, for example, she assumed that some of them would be aware that the novel and its predecessor, Paul Ferroll (1855), are, like Maurice Guest itself, studies of a triangular sexual passion, treated with more detachment and more emphasis on sexual violence than contemporary audiences expected from novels by women. Perhaps she simply took the title because it contrasted nicely with Mrs Cay hill’s lazy and unreflecting personality, so as to emphasize how an appetite for novels may coexist with an absolute lack of interest in art and ideas and an indifference to the human personalities which surround one. That Mrs Cayhill is an undiscriminating reader is suggested by the heterogeneous list of other novels she reads:
Shadowed by Three, a most delightful Book. On Friday, Richard Elsmere, and—oh yes, I know, it was about a farm, an Australian farm … a nice book, but a little coarse in parts, and very foolish at the end.2
The Story of an African Farm (1883) and Robert Elsmere (1888), so controversial in their day, are reduced to fictional fodder for Mrs Cayhill, down at the level of Shadowed by Three (1884), a forgotten detective story by Emma M. Murdoch. To those intrigued by the dense undergrowth of Victorian fiction, this picture of Mrs Cayhill indulging herself with the Leipzig circulating library offers tantalizing possibilities. Richardson is interested in the ironies thrown up by the sordid lives of dedicated artists; no doubt she also remembers that her own novel may meet an obscure fate like that of those titles she plays with. In another irony, the unpredictable fashions of twentieth-century literary history have belatedly canonized Richardson in the name of “Australian literature” and “women’s writing”. They have also brought some revival of interest in Why Paul Ferr oil Killed His Wife and in its author, an interesting personality and a notable diarist, the disabled wife of a rich Victorian clergyman, author of meditative verse and sardonic, intermittently impressive novels which shocked and impressed her contemporaries.
The author of Paul Ferroll was bom on 30 June 1801 at Brompton Grove, a now demolished Georgian terrace in the Brompton Road some hundred yards west of the present site of Harrods,3 then a pleasant suburban area. She was the second daughter and third child of a barrister and, from 1789 to 1802, Whig M.P., Edmund Wigley (1758-1821) and his wife, Anna Maria Meysey (1770-1836). Her mother had inherited the ancient Meysey estate of Shakenhurst, near Cleobury Mortimer, on the Shropshire/Worcestershire border. When Caroline was about ten Edmund Wigley changed his surname to Meysey Wigley; soon afterwards he retired from legal practice and settled at Shakenhurst, a country house to which he and Anna Maria had added, in 1798, soon after their marriage, a red-brick classical facade in the latest modem fashion.
The Wigleys had five children, Anna, Edmund, Caroline, Mary and Meysey, and seem to have been a happy, prosperous and united family.4 However, when Caroline was two she contracted a severe illness with a high fever (perhaps infantile poliomyelitis). She recovered, but both legs were partly paralysed, and she never walked without a stick. Her younger sister, describing her own childhood in idyllic terms, remembered that the handicap seemed to affect Caroline more as she grew older:
… though her strong mind & high spirits carried her through childhood with the same feelings as the rest her privations told as she grew up & she felt sharply the loss of all the active pleasures in which all her companions revelled.5
Her consciousness of being crippled was later deeply to affect her writing; it is also likely that her enthusiasm for literary pursuits was encouraged by her enforced passivity. A diary of hers which survives for the year 1815 indicates that she was learning music, drawing, French, Latin, Greek, history, geography, mathematics, and possibly also German; and the attempts at verse and passages of flowery moralizing which she has copied into it speak eloquently of adolescent intellectual aspiration.6 Scribbled at the front are the words:
Swift says “that after all her boasted acquirements Woman will generally speaking be found to profess less of what is called learning than a common school-boy[“] Alas! Alas! Alas! Alas! Alas! Alas! Alas! Alas! Alas!
During Caroline’s childhood the Wigley family lived between London and Worcestershire. They had a house in Sackville Street, off Piccadilly, until about 1813, and used to spend some time each year at Shakenhurst, which was three days’ journey from London. They seem also to have kept a house at Richmond, from where one could visit London and return within the day, but to which they used to go and stay for a week or so. After the move to the country there were occasional visits to London or Cheltenham, and a tour of Scotland in 1815. They had a house in Cumberland Square in London in 1819. It was probably at about this time that Caroline developed an attachment, remembered later with embarrassment, to the novelist Catherine Gore (1799-1861):
… she was a gay London y[oun]g lady & very kind to me in my chrysalis state … I used to fall into the most viol[en]t friendships & the one I felt for her was n[ea]rly the str[on]gest of my pass[ion]s. Of course she did not return it, to an ugly, awkward, half taught, unintelligible girl like me …7
In 1821 Edmund Meysey Wigley died leaving his widow and three unmarried daughters of 24, 20 and 19 living together in genteel comfort. Edmund, 23, was already in the army; Meysey, 18, was to be a clergyman. Anna, the eldest daughter, was attached to a family friend, John Seveme, whom she married in 1825. Caroline and Mary, who would inherit some money, were naturally expected to marry likewise. But Caroline was handicapped by a plain face and crippled legs and, besides, had immortal yearnings. The literary critic Isaac D’lsraeli (1766-1848) wrote to her in 1823, answering an impassioned letter about her aspirations which she had written under a male pseudonym:
I have offered you at your desire such advice as I should give my Son; but I own I should be uneasy that my son should suffer such a feverish irritability after … a Poet’s name, as you evidently do. Your personal happiness is too deeply involved in your writing.
In 1827 she addressed a similar letter, with samples of her poetry, to the philosopher Dugald Stewart (1753-1828), whose wife replied in friendlier terms. She also published under an assumed name, and no doubt at her own expense, a volume of theological essays which seems to have been greeted with absolute indifference by an ungrateful public.
In 1829 the Meysey Wigleys were delighted to hear that a distant and childless cousin on their father’s side had died, leaving a large estate, Malvern Hall, Solihull, near Birmingham, and a handsome fortune (more than £8000 a year) to Caroline’s brother Edmund, who was to change his surname to Greswolde. Caroline seems to have undertaken the office of lady of the house for him (he remained in the army and was often absent with his regiment), while also visiting her mother and sister.
However, this piece of good fortune was followed by unexpected disasters. First of all her younger brother, the Rev. Meysey Meysey Wigley, died as a result of an accident in the house in 1830. Then Edmund, who seems to have been close to Caroline, also died young in especially distressing circumstances. As was not unusual among the English landed class, the Malvern estate was entailed; Edmund had, that is, a life interest in the estate which was held by trustees for the benefit of the family’s male heirs. Wishing to raise a large sum of money to buy himself a colonelcy, he borrowed it against the security of insurance policies taken out with several different companies. As he was a young man in apparently good health, with a large income and no dependants, there seemed nothing especially imprudent in this step. Unfortunately, however, Edmund was one of the victims of the first European cholera epidemic (he died with his regiment in Ireland in January 1833). The insurance companies refused to pay up, claiming that Edmund was an alcoholic and an epileptic. It is hard to determine the rights and wrongs of this issue, which led to a prolonged and inconclusive legal battle, but Caroline and her sisters were convinced of Edmund’s innocence and the wickedness of the insurance companies. She was later to use the experience in her second novel, Year after Year (1858).
As a result of Edmund’s death, Caroline left Malvern, which was inherited by their uncle Henry Wigley (who changed his name to Greswolde), and she moved to Olton Hall nearby, a house of some antiquity which had also come to the family by inheritance. She spent her time between there and her mother’s house. The latter’s death in 1836 (which had followed Mary’s marriage in 1834) left her living full-time at Olton. In the division of assets between the three sisters, Mary and her husband Charles Wicksted took the estate at Shakenhurst and Anna and Caroline other property, which amounted to approximately £75,000 each. Caroline was thus extremely well-off, but rather lacking in obvious duties and occupations. She solaced her loneliness and filled her leisure partly with literary pursuits, and partly with an increasing obsession with her closest friend, the Rector of Solihull, the Rev. Archer Clive (1800-1878). Like him she engaged in charitable work in the neighbourhood and was interested in the new Poor Law. She also held office as a Surveyor of Highways. He was friendly to Caroline (she was already showing him her manuscripts before Edmund’s death) but wanted to marry a much younger and prettier woman, Georgiana Duff Gordon (cl815-1906), whose mother was keener on his suit than she herself, and who finally refused him in February 1839.8 After this experience he seems to have turned increasingly to Caroline. She discussed with him her reading and her compositions—for she was still writing poetry. In May 1840 he brought from London for her the first copies of her first volume of verse, IX Poems by V. In the summer of that year they read the first complimentary reviews and planned a holiday together in Germany. Soon after their return in September he proposed marriage to her, and they were married at Bayton Church, near Shakenhurst, on 10 November.
Thus in a very short space of time she obtained, aged 39, belatedly, unexpectedly and to her great delight, a measure of public recognition of her literary work, the companionship of the man she loved and the status of a married woman. This was followed by the birth of a son in January 1842 and a daughter in October 1843. Nor did she find that these longed-for pleasures turned to ashes. Her children proved healthy and beloved; she continued to idolize her congenial husband; her small literary success gave her enormous satisfaction. In Solihull Rectory, to which she moved after her marriage, she published two more slim volumes of verse, a story in Blackwood’s and a satire on the Oxford Movement. None of these made a great noise in the world, though there were some respectful reviews.
In 1845 their prosperity was further enhanced by the successive deaths of Archer’s elder brother and his father. From their comfortable rectory in Warwickshire they moved to Whitfield, near Hereford, and they became people of consequence in society. Archer Clive gave up his parish and lived the life of a country squire; they had a house in London as well as a large country house, and in both places they entertained more people more often and more lavishly. Caroline’s pronounced taste for literary life was given scope, and she cultivated the acquaintance of a number of the celebrities of the day. In 1853 the Clives left England for sixteen months on the Continent while their house was enlarged, spending the winter in Rome with their two children. The year after their return Caroline published her first novel, Paul Ferroll, which made something of a sensation. In 1856 they visited Paris and she enjoyed a taste of fame. Her poems were republished, and a new career seemed about to open to her as a novelist. In March 1857 she wrote in her diary:
I th[in]k the past winter has been the happiest time, the culminat[in]g point of my life. Not that I expect any misfortunes, but it has been high Tide—Personally I have enjoyed Life, reading interest[in]g books, & writing freely—I have given m[ysel]f over to Comfort—wheeling about the house in a chair—not riding; therefore being neither cold tired nor afraid.
But advancing age and successive falls and strokes inexorably limited her mobility and probably prevented her from taking full advantage of the success of her first novel. Though she published three more, Year after Year (1858), Why Paul Ferroll Killed his Wife (1860), and John Greswold (1864), reviewers made it clear (and a modem reader may well agree) that the promise of the first was not completely fulfilled. An accident in July 1860 paralysed her completely at first, and her legs were almost useless afterwards. In 1865 she had a seizure at the foot of the Alps while on a journey to spend another winter in Rome. She recovered the use of one hand, though her handwriting from this point is very shaky, and her voice was permanently affected. After this she never wrote anything more which was published, but she continued to correspond with friends, and she supervised the selection of her Poems (1872).
In the late afternoon of 12 July 1873 she was sitting in this helpless state by the fire in the library at Whitfield, surrounded by newspapers, when a spark caught her dress; by the time the footman answered her feeble ring at the bell, she was enveloped in flame. He beat out the fire with cushions, but she had been badly burned and soon sank into a coma, dying at 5 p.m. the following day.9
Though she lived more than three score years and ten, Caroline Clive’s career as a published writer was thus not a long one: she began late and her career was cut short. Between 1840 and 1864 she published with some frequency and experimented with a considerable variety of literary forms. Roughly speaking, she began with verse and moved on to prose, and on the whole her most considerable achievements are in prose. Her work in various genres, however, does exhibit common features. There are similarities of theme—she is preoccupied with tension, transience, foreboding, violence and death—and there are stylistic similarities—she loves clarity, precision, irony, the morbid and the fantastic.
In the spring of 1840 Caroline Meysey Wigley published her first book, a small thin volume of verse entitled IX Poems. Like most women writers at this period, she refrained from putting her name on the title page, but signed the title page “V.”, short for “Vigolina”, a nickname given her by Archer Clive. Review copies were sent out, and she soon received a letter, dated 12 June 1840, from John Gibson Lockhart, the editor of the Quarterly Review, which afforded her undying pleasure:
It is impossible to read the verses of V without being deeply impressed with his talents, & accomplishments[.] I regret that this No of the Quarterly Review had been made up before yr little volume reached and take the liberty, in the view of noticing it next time if possible, of asking whether you have not published some work of more considerable bulk or meditate doing so soon[.]10
This was followed by an enthusiastic review in the September issue which was part of Henry Nelson Coleridge’s article on “Modem English Poetesses”, and which was often referred to by later critics of Clive’s work. He quotes her poem “The Grave”, which, probably as a direct result, became much the best-known of her poems. Terseness and masculine clarity of thought were detected by Coleridge and by subsequent critics, such as Thackeray’s friend Dr John Brown, an Edinburgh physician and belles-lettrist, whose once-popular volume of essays Horae Subsecivae (1858) includes a rapturous review of IX Poems which he had first published in 1849. But, in spite of this, neither a second edition, with additions, of IX Poems, nor the longer, melancholy and reflective narrative poems which followed it—I Watched the Heavens (1842), The Valley of the Rea (1851), The Morlas (1853)—achieved as much recognition as had that first thin little book. She also published two occasional poems, The Queen’s Ball (1847), a grim comedy in octosyllabic couplets based on a friend’s story that invitations to a court ball had been sent to 150 dead people; and The Glass-berg (1851), a blank verse celebration of the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace.
In 1851 Clive recorded in her diary a meeting with the travel writer and historian Eliot Warburton, who “said such fine things about my poetry that I was quite astonished. It seemed to me to have so entirely passed out of every bodys head.”11 She made one more attempt to impress the public with a long poem, also in octosyllabic couplets. In a preface to The Morlas she declared that she had been working on the poem for many years, and had had it corrected by “one of the ablest pencils of the day”(probably that wielded by Caroline Norton, 1808-1877):
I improved it as far as I was able according to those criticisms, and now I feel justified in offering it to the world as the best I can do; which if it fails to please, fails through want of ability, not for want of pains.
The narrator of the poem, resting in a clearing in a forest, hears the voice of the spirit of the valley, speaking of the change of history, the progress of man towards enlightenment, the inevitability of the natural cycle of love and death, all of which appear mysterious until Christianity gives them meaning. The paradox of the existence of suffering and multifarious humanity in the midst of a calm and inexorable universe is the contrast which interests her. The spirit remarks to the narrator:
I love thy melancholy eye,
The portal of a musing mind,
The lip where the long stifled sigh
Turns to a smile for human kind.
The poem was no more popular than its predecessors, and this may have influenced Clive’s decision to embody her quizzical view of life in fictional form. She had hitherto published in prose only a macabre story in Blackwood’s and a privately printed anti-Tractarian parody of J. H. Newman’s Lives of the English Saints. In May 1853, as mentioned above, she and her husband and their children left England for sixteen months; the novel which appeared after her return was marked at several points by her experiences on this journey and was perhaps begun abroad. In the summer of 1855 she published Paul Ferroll, whose popularity and notoriety gave her an entirely new literary reputation and also incidentally revived interest in her poetry and led to the publication of a collected edition in the following year.
It is sometimes said that the sensation novel of the 1860s burst suddenly on the Victorian literary world. Winifred Hughes, for instance, has declared that “the new genre had no perceptible infancy”.12 Margaret Oliphant, reviewing sensation fiction in 1862, felt that the 1850s had been dominated by domestic realist novels:
The well known old stories of readers sitting up all night over a novel had begun to grow faint in the public recollection. Domestic histories, however virtuous and charming, do not often attain that result—nor, indeed, would an occurrence so irregular and destructive of all the domestic proprieties be at all a fitting homage to the virtuous chronicles which have lately furnished the larger part of our light literature.13
It seemed to several reviewers of the 1860s as if recent fiction had been so mealy-mouthed and ladylike that a reaction had been inevitable. However, one might also see the rise of the crime novel in that decade as a cyclical return to motifs which had been temporarily banished from most upper-class fiction during the 1840s and 1850s. Novels such as Collins’s The Woman in White (1860), Mrs Henry Wood’s East Lynne (1861), and M.E. Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret (1862) borrow the middle-class settings and characters and the material detail of domestic realism, but allow into their plots the criminals, adulterers and violence which had for some years been exiled to the trashy world of working-class periodical fiction. Sensation novels, or things very like them, were being published in England throughout the 1850s in low-class rags like the London Journal. And they were being read in England, but often in the French language. It had long been recognized that conventions of literary propriety differed in France and England: “Malheureusement”, observed the novelist Paul de Kock, “les passions vertueuses sont plus rares dans le monde que dans les romans anglais”.14 In French fiction sexual transgression was more freely treated, and because instalment fiction played a large part in periodicals, the novel of suspense was well-established. The social problem novel, in which crusading fervour licensed the use of controversial material, was another influence: it would be awkward to argue that the popular appeal of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) or Bleak House (1853) was of an unsensational kind. And G. A. Lawrence had a great success with Guy Livingstone (1857), the tale of a muscular and upper-class Don Juan. Therefore, although the 1850s were made glorious by such homely narratives as Gaskell’s Cranford (1853), Charlotte M. Yonge’s The Heir of Redclyffe (1853) and Trollope’s The Warden (1855), they also saw the publication of several novels which anticipate the preoccupation of the popular novelists of the 1860s with murder, adultery, madness and domestic tragedy.
Paul Ferroll is a remarkable example of such a novel: the story of a man who murders his wife and lives happily for seventeen years before his crime is revealed. In its simplicity of form, the dry humour of the narrative voice and the lack of moral judgments, there is a peculiar independence. It also has literary historical interest, since the story of its mostly respectful reception, the blame and praise it received, reveals a variety of contemporary critical assumptions.15
The plot of the novel is as follows. The hero is called home one morning to find his disagreeable wife with her throat cut. Suspicion falls on a gardener named Franks who is tried and acquitted. Ferroll gives him the means to emigrate and himself leaves the neighbourhood. A few years later he returns to the same house with a new beautiful wife and a small girl. Though he keeps the county neighbours at a distance, he attracts their gratitude and admiration by his bravery. He disarms a mad butler, nurses the victims of a cholera epidemic, and finally shoots the ringleader of a riot. For the last act he is found guilty of murder, but pardoned with the support of the enthusiastic gentry. He discourages the attachment between his daughter Janet and one of their neighbours, and refuses a seat in parliament after hearing that Franks’s widow has recovered from an illness. When Mrs Franks is arrested he confesses that he had himself killed his first wife. His second wife dies of shock. Janet with her lover’s help bribes the prison governor and escapes abroad with her father. The novel ends with him asking if she can still love him. She says yes. A Concluding Notice, in effect an additional chapter, was added to the third and subsequent editions of the book. It shows the death in America of Ferroll, who has escaped from prison.
The Concluding Notice was no doubt added in response to the anxiety and perplexity the book created in its first readers. The principal reasons for this were two: Ferroll escapes punishment, and the way the story is revealed leaves it extremely unclear what the reader is supposed to think about his character. Is he a villain? Or is he a hero? Is he (most unsettling of all) both at once? What does the novelist mean by having this plot and telling it in this way? None of these questions can be answered straightforwardly.
The epigraph to the novel is: “How little we know of what passes in each other’s minds.” The gradual revelation of Ferroll’s guilt is contrived through indirect hints. At moments Clive seems to be suggesting that her technique is purely dramatic, in a way which recalls the experiments of Dickens and Wilkie Collins:
If he had been in the habit of talking over his secrets to himself, it is probable he might have said something very much to the purpose of this story. However, he was not, so what he thought remains unrevealed; what he did say, casts no light on the past or the future. (118)
The reader is only to know what is revealed by utterance, by action. This is, of course, disingenuous; we have already gathered more than we have been told. But even the approach to such a technique challenged the reading-habits of her mid-Victorian audience. The central innovation is the presentation of the hero. We are invited to find him selfish, autocratic and obsessive, but also admirable and exceptional. Clive plays with the reader’s expectations throughout. Early on, his indifference to his first wife, his failure to visit her corpse or pray beside her coffm, are ambiguously placed so that the reader is uncertain whether the function of the incidents is to indict Ferroll or to mock the simplicity and conventionality of the onlookers:
A man more anxious about appearance would probably have constrained himself to visit the room where the body of his wife lay; but Mr. Ferroll was perfectly indifferent in this, and all other instances, as to what was said of him. (15)
In fact the comment has both effects: it is an early example of the way his crime is made to elevate him above as well as set him apart from other men. Thus the authorial detachment conceals a real ambiguity of attitude throughout. Even after his crime is apparent Ferroll continues to assert his intelligence and humour at the expense of his neighbours, and the novelist, regardless of literary morality, never satisfies her readers with a thoroughgoing expression of remorse from her hero’s lips.
Clive replied to her critics after the book came out in the Concluding Notice, in the Prefix to her next novel, Year after Year, and in the 1860 “prequel” Why Paul Ferroll Killed His Wife. In the first she killed him off; in the second she described him as “a man in whom conscience is superseded by intellect”; and in the third she elaborated on his sufferings at the hands of his first wife. She also recorded in her diary a conversation with the novelist Prosper Merimee in which she denied that Ferroll was amiable.16 None of these statements amounts to a recantation, and it is difficult to see how she could have resolved the difficulties of her early readers without extensive rewriting. In the late twentieth century the shock of discovering that a man of high intellect and good social standing is a murderer is no doubt less keenly felt, but in 1855 Ferroll’s mixture of good and bad qualities, and the fact that his crime is revealed only by his own scrupulous confession, subverted fundamental beliefs in the consistency of character and in the effectiveness of social controls.
Reviews of Paul Ferroll gave almost unanimous praise to the writing, even though the story was often found immoral and/or unlikely. The reviewer in the National Review (perhaps R. H. Hutton) responded to Clive’s characteristic irony:
There is a peculiar mixture of emphatic simplicity and yet rhetorical art in the style; so that a thought or sentence which begins in the commonplace is heightened into point and pungency by a single unexpected finishing-stroke as it concludes.17
The structural irony is underlined by the tone of the narrative voice, in a way that, as Hutton implies, becomes one of the chief pleasures for the reader. Black comedy is not infrequent; Ferroll often makes jokes at tense moments, as when a chatty neighbour observes that no-one will mention Mrs Franks to Mrs Ferroll, “Certainly it is not a subject upon which any judicious person would wish to entertain her” (229).
Another noteworthy feature of the book is its treatment of Ferroll’s obsession with his second wife. When she is absent he displaces his sexual frustration by riding furiously on a horse and swimming under a waterfall. When she is present he monopolizes her, is jealous of their child, demands her attention regardless of her health. It is all very unusual as a portrayal of reciprocated married love at this period. The author refrains from offering her opinion as to how far the Ferrolls’ mutual passion is ideal, how far excessive, morbid and distorted. On that subject as on others, one has to make up one’s own mind.
Ferroll himself is a writer, a contributor to reviews and an occasional poet. This is curious, because Clive’s own first book, the long-forgotten venture into theology, had been published under the name Ferrol. One begins to suspect an element of identification, especially when she attributes her own verses to him and treats his literary eminence with a deference amounting to intellectual snobbery, which is striking in a book so concerned to mock pretension of all kinds:
He had written a few things which gave him fame, and from time to time there issued from the Tower a brilliant article, a few exquisite verses, or a fine fiction, which kept the attention of the reading public upon him. (28)
The extent to which the hero is a projection of the author’s fantasies of literary success is perhaps the final enigma in a very enigmatic text.
Year after Year (1858), Clive’s next novel, though it made less noise than its predecessor, also bears her personal stamp. It is based on a single character and a single idea: it is concise, harsh, ironical, intelligent, and relates interestingly to some developments in the contemporary novel.
The story is recounted by Katherine Buckwell, the plain and illegitimate daughter of a rich baronet. She is brought up with her legitimate brother Gray, whom she adores and who is the only person who values her. Orphaned, they set up house together, and for a year live quietly and happily, saving money to pay off debts Gray has contracted as a child. But a friend tempts Gray to join in county society, and Katherine becomes gradually isolated. Then he is accidentally killed, and the insurance companies from whom he has raised money make difficulties, claiming he has acted dishonestly. The rest of the novel is taken up with the legal processes, as Katherine risks destitution to fight for her brother’s honour. It ends as she wins.
It is a novel about the individual and society, the pressures of the community, the needs of the affections and family love and loyalty. Katherine is an interesting character; her tone is dry and plangent, her attitude plausibly shaped by her condition, “a disgraceful situation, and an unamiable exterior” (4). Of her brother she says:
He was of honourable station, beautiful, and rich; and his feelings towards the world were the very opposite to those which I acquired. Confident of welcome, accustomed to ornament society, and to be wished for when he was to come, missed when he stayed away, he took frankly to the world … (4)
Katherine is a spectator, conscious of the doubleness of life: “the things spoken in a comer, and those which are said aloud in company, may differ very much from one another” (2). Her role is to expose to the reader the ugly reality. The figure of Dr Monkton, disillusioned by an unhappy past, stands for those who have abandoned optimism. He recommends resignation to Katherine:
It was very evident that philosophy was made on purpose for me. I was ugly, and philosophy says beauty is of no sort of consequence; I held to happiness by only one tie, and that was my connexion with Gray, which the natural progress of life and its events threatened almost visibly to weaken. Philosophy said that self-dependence was the finest state of mental existence, and that solitude had charms of the first order for those who knew how to enjoy it. To impart philosophy to me, therefore, was a favourite aim of Dr. Monkton; and I was a very docile pupil-only in my heart I never either understood nor allowed that it would not be better to be rich, admirable, and happy, than to be poor, plain, and philosophical. (64)
Her voice mingles irony and indignation. Another aspect of this theme is touched on in the figure of Jonathan Wolfe, a lone autodidact befriended by the Buckwells, who weeps over Alison’s Essays on Taste because he has no-one to discuss it with: “He said he never heard any comment, except ‘That’s all very good, and all very right, and all very true …’” (37). While she has Gray, Katherine has a companion to sympathise with “the crude strange fancies which haunt everybody’s youth” (30); losing him, she is cut off from everything familiar. His uncle inherits and she sees:
… how a hundred objects were become superfluous in the house, which used to belong to its most intimate habits. All those which had got their place through the custom of a life spent there, and which were necessary to our old ways of passing time, or which were the marks of how it had been passed, were now fit only to be cast away by a new possessor. (183)
Such is the tone of the novel: morbid, tense, self-conscious and acute. Katherine reproves the heartlessness of Dr Monkton, but her own emotions find no satisfactory outlet, and she ends in much the same case as Jonathan Wolfe was found in: cut off from the commerce of the intellect or the affections. In her role as narrator she is given the novelist’s authority to interpret and understand the other characters. In this capacity she contrasts with Gray, whose straightforwardness permits him to be deceived by the fashionable beauty Mrs Carey—he takes people at face value. There is a persistent theme about the interpretation of the feelings of others. A relation, Mr Tapeworm, is a caricature of precision, who reminds us of the difficulty of sympathy: “I see, by fictitiously representing myself to be the inner man of your consciousness … the state of your ratiocination on the subject…” (140). On another occasion he says of the insurance men: “Do you know their interest is so great in disbelieving the truth, and believing the untruth, that obliquity of vision is not unlikely to be generated by fiction of self-concern [?]” (204-05).
As the word “fiction” reminds the reader, the task of the novelist is to put the reader into sympathy with the minds of others, to enlarge his solipsistic vision. Paul Ferroll had been attacked for doing so too thoroughly, for abandoning the moral spectacles which correct vision. In that novel the unexpectedness of the story’s being told from the murderer’s point of view achieves an effect of freshness, of a narrative slightly askew. Year after Year, very much an autobiography about ways of interpreting the world, continually reminds us that the heroine’s personality gives her a special obliquity of vision. In fact there is mutual understanding between none of the characters, and only in a few cases mutual affection. The extent to which even Katherine’s feelings are governed by her own interests is expressed when during the legal process she has to go and see Dr Monkton: “I … remembered, with great pleasure, that my old friend was at this time suffering from one of his frequent attacks of lumbago, which I was quite certain would secure me in finding him at home” (275-6). Another scene with a similar and characteristic irony occurs at the height of the insurance trial, at a moment of great tension:
The door of the court opened again, and two dusky figures issued together, whom we presently recognised to be the two principal champions, and of whom, Mr Son’s burning face and moist brow bore witness that he had but that moment ceased from energetic exertion. Sir John Interest and he walked slowly round the hall, in order, probably, that they might grow cool before going into the outer air; and it seemed as though they had taken the moment to confer on some point in which they both were greatly concerned.
… They were so intent upon their own conversation that they did not observe us; and as they passed, Mr. Son said-“There’s no doubt Jenkins will be acquitted if you can prepossess the jury that train oil is of the nature of spermaceti.” (362-3)
The grand illusion of the legal process, its acting, its arcana, contrasts with the burning emotion of Katherine’s feelings about the outcome, but matches the preoccupation throughout the book with the way objective reality is patterned by the subjective view of the individual. Like the debris of Katherine’s daily life at the house she must leave, the material of her law case is, for other people, devoid of significance. In the examples I have quoted and throughout the novel there is an effective tension between the passion of her feeling and the coldness of her description, and between the importance of her identity and experience to herself, and the indifference of those about her.
Like Paul Ferroll, Year after Year is full of waiting and of anticipation: and again there is a marked absence of interpretive conclusion, a refusal to undertake the part of fate dispensing justice, to an extent which might be held to indicate a lack of faith in such patterns. Clive terminates both books without asserting the authority of the narrative voice. Her concern seems to be principally with the individual under the pressure of neurotic states of mind. At the end of both books the outsider has no prospect of readmission into society, for Ferroll is a murderer and Katherine’s brother is dead. The reader is deserted at what is only a moment of stasis, and the author does not acknowledge a duty to resolve these difficulties: conveying the uncertainty of the operations of the universe appears to be part of her project. Characters and reader remain in the hands of an ordering principle as unknown as it is perverse.
Great emphasis is laid on the necessity for love, conversation, comfort, family and friends. The time which Katherine and Gray spend alone together peacefully and charitably is referred to as “my own Eden”, and their gradual involvement with the outside world is the beginning of her troubles, just as Ferroll’s domestic haven is threatened by the encroaching world. However Clive proposes no source of comfort other than family love: Christian asceticism is explicitly rejected both as Monkton’s cold philosophy and as Wolfe’s self-flagellating fanaticism. God is absent; and all that remains is the individual, with a subjective view derived from personal experience, operating ignorantly within the networks of society, upheld only by a stoic pride.
The form in which Year after Year is cast was a popular one in the 1850s: the plain woman’s autobiography. The huge success of Jane Eyre (1847) set a fashion for first-person narratives, and stories of clever, independent women. The 1840s had seen a move towards the novel of middle-class domesticity, usually patterned as a love-story, and there was a fashion for naming novels after their heroines, which indicates a bias in favour of the stuff of female lives: examples are Lady Georgiana Fullerton’s Ellen Middleton: A Tale (1844), Elizabeth Sewell’s Margaret Percival (1847), Anne Marsh’s Emilia Wyndham (1846), and Catherine Sinclair’s Jane Bouverie, or, Prosperity and Adversity (1846). Such a title also is Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, indicating that it proposes to deal with a woman’s life from a woman’s point of view, and, in the deliberate unpretentiousness and unglamorousness of the name, making a statement about the novel’s realism. Publishers notoriously influence the selection of titles in response to the demands of the market, and the flood of titles of this kind after 1847 undoubtedly reflects the Jane Eyre phenomenon. Not unheard of before (Amelia Opie, Adeline Mowbray, 1804; Disraeli, Henrietta Temple: A Love Story, 1837), it was used for the first time by many novelists after 1847. Julia Kavanagh published Daisy Bums (1853); Geraldine Jewsbury, Marian Withers (1851). Even the hack G.W.M. Reynolds turned from The Parricide , or, The Youth’s Career of Crime (1847) to Mary Price, or, The Memoirs of a Servant-Maid (1852), and the veteran historical novelist G.P.R. James was reduced to writing a love story about Poor Law reform called Margaret Graham: A Tale Founded on Fact (1848). Elizabeth Gaskell called her first novel Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life (1848), and Margaret Oliphant called hers Passages in the Life of Mrs. Margaret Maitland, of Sunnyside, Written by Herself (1849). Other novelists announced in title or subtitle that their novel was prosaic, domestic, autobiographical, or concerned with the outsider; examples include Dinah Craik, Bread upon the Waters: A Governess’s Life (1852), Mary Martha Sherwood, Caroline Mordaunt, or, The Governess, Harriet Parr (“Holme Lee”), Kathie Brande: A Fireside History of a Quiet Life (1856).
Not all these novels, of course, live up to the expectations raised by their titles, but the fashion reflects a desire to depict the lives of “ordinary” middle-class women which was inspired by Charlotte Bronte. This raised groans from some contemporary critics. The Westminster Review declared in 1854 that “these self-involved and self-reliant young ladies, misunderstood, as a matter of course, by their nearest kindred, and all apparently ‘done after’ ‘Jane Eyre’ … have been much the fashion of late”.18 The Examiner observed plaintively in 1856:
Here are four of the last story-books that have reached us. They are all written in one form— … autobiographies by women …. Perhaps this may not be an unsuitable opportunity of calling the attention of all persons who are at this moment, or may be hereafter, engaged on projecting novels, to the fact that the form, and much of the subject too, of that kind of sentimental autobiography whereof a lady is the heroine, is by this time very nearly as familiar to the public as it can be made.19
Walter Bagehot complained in 1858 of the fraud perpetrated on the unsuspecting purchaser of a novel who discovers that “he has only to peruse a narrative of the conduct and sentiments of an ugly lady”.20 One of the reviewers of The Mill on the Floss in 1860 praised Maggie Tulliver for being “far, far removed from the ‘faultless monster’ of the old romance, and still as far from the pale, clever, and sharp-spoken young women whom Jane Eyre made fashionable for a time”.21
Margaret Oliphant, discussing the phenomenon of the influence of Jane Eyre less sarcastically and and at greater length in Blackwood’s in 1855, realized the feminist implications of the new heroine, who does not want deference but fights with men on terms of emotional equality.22 This novel of anti-romance and anti-chivalry was a crucial stage in the serious treatment of women in fiction. Though the heroine of Year after Year is not a governess and does not have a love-affair, her sense of being an outsider, her autobiographical self-analysis, and her passionate desire for involvement in society, identify her strongly with this fashion of the 1850s; the novel thus belongs firmly in its period, though its author wrote it out of memories more than twenty years old, an example of the evolving novel of the woman of character.
Late in 1860 Clive published Why Paul Ferroll Killed His Wife, which purports to show the events which preceded those in Paul Ferroll: the machinations whereby his first wife estranged him from his second, an episode which has only been mentioned in the earlier book. Elinor Lady lift, pretty and poor and brought up in a man-hating convent, is sent to live with her elderly guardian and his young, rich half-sister Laura. Laura loves Leslie (not his real name, we are told), who is arrogant and possessed of great ability, but has been brought up without parents and therefore lacks humanity. Leslie teaches Elinor to admire waterfalls, and gradually she learns something of the world’s corruptions. He abandons his original intention of simply making her love him, and offers her marriage. Laura, however, succeeds in making him think Elinor deceitful, and, after nursing him through brain fever, marries him herself. The marriage proves unhappy, her lies are revealed, and Leslie finds Elinor in the convent, where he is permitted one interview. The novel ends in deadlock:
Violent were the passions of the strong but fettered man, fierce the hatred of the powerful but baffled intellect; wild was the fury of the man, who believed in but one world of good, and saw the mortal moments passing away, unenjoyed, and irretrievable.
Out of those hours arose a purpose. The reader sees the man, and knows the deed. From the premises laid before him, he need not indeed have concluded that even that man would do that deed; but since it was told, in 1855, that the husband killed the wife, so now, in 1860, it is explained why he killed her. (333)
It is not so much a justification as an explanation, and has no surprises to offer the reader of the earlier novel. The hint of atheism which we are given here (“believed in but one world of good”) is not a persistent theme: Ferroll is indeed godless, but so is the novel as a whole—no character is a touchstone of grace, for Elinor’s religiosity is merely an aspect of her placability and obedience. As is usual in Clive’s novels, the moral reflections are left for the reader to infer. The narrator preserves some, though not all, of the detachment maintained in Paul Ferroll. The plot, being less ambiguous, renders more explicit the reflections on the selfishness of Leslie and Laura, and this is accompanied by authorial comments to that effect. Yet, though it is clear that our sympathies are to be with Elinor, against Laura, and partly for Leslie, the story is told by an omniscient narrator whose interest is evenly shared between the three characters, and is told dramatically, mostly in dialogue and action, so as to postpone the moral implications to some area outside the reading process. Nevertheless the innocence of the second wife and the cruelty and selfishness of the first are heavily stressed, and Ferroll/Leslie himself is portrayed as at once arrogant and sensitive in a way which is consistent with his later behaviour in Paul Ferroll.
Like Clive’s other novels it is short, with few characters, and few episodes, and its best features are the dry narrative voice and the moments of observant irony. Laura/Anne is a stock character of selfish worldliness, and her machinations, involving forged notes and false assignations, are extremely hackneyed, but Clive shows her customary interest in abnormal states of mind in depicting Laura’s jealousy:
She learned to know that beating heart, that dry mouth, that distaste to food, that early waking and no more falling asleep, which make up the personal sufferings of mental anguish. She had to talk, to listen, to make music, while intensely preoccupied … (47)
Though some readers seem to have thought so, it would not be accurate to say that this novel is a clearer condemnation of Ferroll’s character than the other, “How moveable her nature is,” said he. “It was made on purpose, I think, to complete mine, cast in my mould, when a man had been completed, and it was fit only to form a woman.” (140)
There are some touches of feminist feeling: Laura says, “‘I could have laughed at times to think how the great, the manly intellect yielded to despised woman.’” (316), and at the end we are told that “He was fast bound in the meshes, which a woman, a mere woman, had found the means to twine around him” (332). Three women, in fact, the author, Laura and Elinor, have by the end tied him down, Clive by inventing him and thus in a way acquiring his self-confidence and the genius ascribed to him. Though he does not dominate this book quite as he did Paul Ferroll, he is the central character, and his brilliance and authority are much referred to, though less convincingly evoked than in that novel. His literary genius is attested to by the fact that he has written Clive’s early poem “The Grave” (151).
Why Paul Ferroll Killed His Wife has some of the properties of a short story, being elliptical, theatrical, striking and brief. It is unique among Clive’s novels in that it contains no violent crime or frightful death, but its title, promising both, kept it on the railway station bookstalls throughout the century. Though it suffered the fate of most sequels and was adjudged inferior to Paul Ferroll, it was approved by some reviewers. The Saturday Review thought it written by a “pen of genius” and that it made reparation for the “ambiguity of tone” in the earlier novel.23 The Examiner objected to the “purely narrative” method adopted by the novelist, but thought that within the limitations of such a technique she had shown “rare and precious” strengths.24 Some critics were impressed with the coherence of the two-part story, including the Rev. James Davies:
A tragedy, in its entirety worthy to be classed with the intensely wrought creations of the Greek drama; a tragedy evoking strongest sentiments of indignation, pity, and sympathy; a tragedy in which, though convention will not suffer us to justify the chief actor, yet every one agrees that the wretched successor of the Clytemnestras and Lady Macbeths of the ancient and modem drama deserved her fate, or even a worse.25
Classical tragedy offered a convenient analogy: “we feel that we are in the unrelenting grasp of a Greek fate …” wrote William Allingham.26 If the novels were intended to depict a long-drawn-out cycle of inevitable retribution, Ferroll’s outrageous behaviour can be seen as elemental, Clive’s starkness as strength. The dearly-held conviction that the universe is ultimately orderly and providential, which Clive’s novels, so unusually at this date, seem to undermine, could be surreptitiously reasserted. Guided, surely, by such feeling, Florence Nightingale wrote to Clive:
So far from “not liking” your book, it interested me extremely. To the truth of Paul Ferroll’s character I can testify from personal experience. … But I think as a work of art it is now lop-sided. It ought to be like a Greek Trilogy ought it not? Ought there not to be a third part, shewing what Janet the offspring of those two characters, became, and what Paul Ferroll himself became in his old age. I think this would be the most curious and interesting part of all.27
Clive gratified Nightingale’s curiosity, but in a letter which apparently does not survive, and the public was not vouchsafed another sequel.28
In 1864 Clive published the last, least noticed, and perhaps oddest, of all her novels, John Greswold. The hero, younger son of a poor gentry family, tells the story. He is first articled to an attorney, who drops down dead in a gaming house leaving the narrator a fortune which he nobly resigns to his employer’s family. He falls in love, becomes a land agent, witnesses the unsuccessful romances of his brother and his new employer, and has no better luck in love himself. The novel ends with him still ignorant of what the future holds, and the reader no wiser. Her calm and ironic style was praised by reviewers in the Examiner and the Saturday Review, who saw the novel as a kind of still life: “less a novel than what the French call an etude”?29 But these were exceptional; the novel was little noticed and never reprinted. Like Paul Ferroll and Year after Year it ends with a central character speaking, on a note of indeterminacy:
Twenty-three years ago I was bom into this world, and now the twenty-third is mn out. The time is gone; the known things are all over, all buried in the darkness behind. Before me lies the great blank page of the future, and no writing is traced upon it. But it is nothing to me; I won’t ask, nor think, nor hope, nor fear about it. The leaf of the book is turned, and there’s an end—the tale is told. (II, 219)
Clive’s detached authorial technique, brought to bear in both Paul Ferroll and Why Paul Ferroll Killed His Wife on a retribution plot with a recognizable pattern, encounters in John Greswold a story nearly as formlessly serial as reality, to curious effect. There is an absence of authoritative closure which is formally dismptive—there are pathos, humour, melodrama and the characteristic tension in John’s story, but no resolution. Clive’s customary unwillingness to provide a point of authority reaches a peak in the last chapter with the revelation that the autobiographer has nearly reached the reader’s own time, so that the story exists like the reader on the edge of ignorance of the future:
It was the 5th of last February, a night, as the reader will recollect, of severe frost; the thermometer was down below zero fifteen degrees in the Southern counties. (II, 217)
There is an intrusion of reality which makes the statement desultory, conversational. The weather has at this point none of the significance one anticipates in a nineteenth-century novel, where it usually functions symbolically, or affects characters or action. Here it simply demonstrates, as do other episodes in the novel, the inexplicable hazards of experience. Just as Katherine Buckwell’s household arrangements were reorganized by others, so John Greswold is forced to realize the failure of his attempt to bring pattern to his life. His story tails off, as real autobiographies so often do, into anecdote, because no plot can be detected in recent or current experience. Novelists, however, generally arrange that closure will take place at some significant moment: the breaking-off will affect our interpretation of the preceding story. Thus ending and morality are intimately connected, and Clive’s eccentric treatment of her last hero is the fmal expression of her indifference to the literary proprieties.
The freshness which her contemporary admirers commented on derives partly from this feature of her work. One might argue that it is as much a consequence of incompetence as of a deliberate attempt to break the mould of mid-Victorian convention; a certain amateurishness undoubtedly clings to her fiction. Yet her eccentricities were ones which had important implications for the future of the novel: having a murderer for a hero; having a plain spinster for a heroine; ending novels without telling the reader what has happened and what it means; ending two autobiographies with neither death nor marriage; writing very short fictions. By the end of the century some of these aberrations were commonplaces: the three-decker was dead, and literary morality had been transformed.
Unlike many of the women who embarked on literary careers during the nineteenth century, Clive was not out to make money. She was gratified to receive her small earnings, but they were never significant to the family income, and her decision to publish was uninfluenced by financial considerations. This fact is highly significant. One cannot know whether, had she published more and been under pressure to respond to the demands of the market, the oddity of her style would have been modified for better or for worse—whether she would have refined it, or degenerated into a mere hack. Speculation on this point is profitless. But her career affords some interesting sidelights on the profession of authorship in her time.
All discussion of authorship and literary genius in the nineteenth century was pervaded by the languages of gender and class. Clive’s own remarks on the subject are no exception to this rule—two women writers of her acquaintance were described as having “something nameless about them which was Authoress more than Lady”30 Her early letters to men of letters, full of ambition, signed with male pseudonyms, indicate aspirations towards an ideal of Poetic Genius not wholly congruous with her identity as a lame young lady of the landed gentry. Reviewers of her work respond to the same sense of discrepancy when they praise it for its unfeminine virtues:
… these few pages are distinguished by a sad Lucretian tone, which very seldom comes from a woman’s lyre.31 [Of IX Poems by V.]
… the distinctive features of V.’s poems are virile force and a stem simplicity.32 [Of Poems, 1872]
Similarly, when her first novel Paul Ferroll (1855) came out, reviewers were to praise the power of its writing and marvel at the sex of its author. One should not exaggerate the significance of this—sales of her poetry were never considerable, and until 1855 she was not a well-known writer. But had she been less isolated from the literary market-place, had she, for instance, tried to earn her living selling verse to illustrated annuals as Caroline Norton did, she might have developed a more sentimental, picturesque and lyrical strain. She might sooner have tried her hand at a novel. But, financially independent, she could indulge a fantasy of herself as a Poet transcending barriers of gender, while being cautious of those whose circumstances, less socially secure, forced them to try and reconcile the roles of Authoress and Lady:
She [Caroline Norton] was anxious to please & to flatter—why should she be except that she feels her position doubtful [?] however, exciting & new as her society is, I was delighted to get o[u]t [of] it.33
It is customary to think of the gender prejudice of Victorian readers as being a handicap to women writers. However, it seems clear in Clive’s case that the unexpected qualities of her writing were recognized partly because she was known to be a woman. Reviewers of Paul Ferroll were conscious of surprise that a woman should publish such a book, and the terms in which they refer to this point indicate that their assumptions about women and writing tended on the whole to impress them with Clive’s literary skill:
We are the more ready to canvass the strange moral of this story from deference to the remarkable power with which it is written, and which is the more remarkable still if its author be a lady.34
We are naturally anxious lest the masculine nerve pass wholly from our letters …. We must needs look askance at the maudlin effeminacy that is stealing in [to English fiction] …. Yet, on the other hand, we cannot wholly sympathize with the unfeminine strides of a Mrs. Shelley or a Mrs. Clive …35
A complex of prejudices surrounded the ideas of genius, immorality and femininity. Growing numbers of women writers led to an anxiety about their influence on English literature, although they were acknowledged as the guardians of mid-Victorian social morality. Deeply as most reviewers believed in that morality, they worried whether its rigour sorted well with genius. As Fitzjames Stephen observed in 1857, “surely it is very questionable whether it is desirable that no novels should be written except those fit for young ladies to read?”36 Justin MacCarthy echoed him in 1864, disparaging novelists who “coldly, stiffly, prudishly agreed to paint for us as a rule only such life as might be lectured on in a young ladies’ boarding school”.37 Just as in 1840 Caroline Clive’s verse was seen as possessing strengths in comparison with the sentimental lyrics turned out by ladies for publication in illustrated annuals, so in the 1850s, her first novel was favourably contrasted with the domestic realist novels then dominating the market. And in both cases a gendered hierarchy of literary merit, and an anxiety about the feminization of literature, were deployed in her favour.
Between the publication of IX Poems by V. in 1840 and the publication of Paul Ferroll most of Clive’s literary experiments were in verse. After its success she added only a handful of new poems to the collections which were published subsequently: most of her efforts went into fiction. As well as her increasing physical debility the fact that she was not under any kind of financial pressure to publish probably contributed to her comparative failure to capitalize on its popularity. In April 1859 she was approached with a request for a serial story by the editors of Once A Week, the new magazine founded by Bradbury and Evans to replace Household Words when it ceased publication after their dispute with Dickens about his marital difficulties:
I wish I c[oul]d; but I am not quick enough, nor provided. They had engaged Thackeray, but Smith & Elder are undertaking a periodical, & offered him £9000 … for two years on wh[ich]: he pleaded to the others, & they let him off. Mr. Russell s[ai]d they had thought, in this embarrassm[en]t. of Troloppe & of Liggins & me, & w[oul]d ask me first.
“Liggins” here is George Eliot, then at the beginning of her career (the Clives were friends of C.H. Bracebridge, who had been convinced that the author of Adam Bede was a local tradesman). The magazine edited by Thackeray was of course the Cornhill. Anthony Trollope was then also at the threshold of his career, and the serialization of Framley Parsonage which started the first issue of the Cornhill, was a turning-point for him. In the end the first issues of Once A Week carried an early version of Charles Reade’s bestselling historical novel The Cloister and the Hearth. In short, Caroline Clive was one of several novelists who might have seized this opportunity. Dickens, temporarily under a cloud, might be vulnerable to competition from rivals. Magazines were the fashion—publishers like Smith, Elder and Bradbury and Evans were gambling on taking serial fiction upmarket with their new, handsomely produced titles. The 1860s were to be the heyday of a new generation of engravers who came to prominence in the periodicals. In the early 1860s George Smith was dignifying the novelist’s profession by offering Thackeray and George Eliot unprecedented sums of money for highbrow novels such as Romola. But Clive, though her credentials as a serious novelist impressed her contemporaries, was not able to step into the breach, and she passed into the obscure comers of literary history.
Later in the same year a negotiation with Thackeray about contributing to the new Comhill was initially more promising but the upshot was in the similar:
[28 October 1859]
Our manifesto was in preparation and I have waited a day or two until I could get a rough proof from the printer before I answered your kind note. I hope you will approve of our ends and aims; and I am seeking for good company round our Magazine-table I am sure Paul Ferroll & V will be most welcome.
If you please how long is your story? In a list of contributors may we mention your (literary) name? At this present moment* we can afford long continuations. The Editor is committed to one: and another writer is engaged for another—not a story but a picturesque biography. Our page is the size of the Virginians (very much smaller than the National Magazine) If you have a copy of any of my yellow books in your the [sic] house you will be able to judge of the number of pages you require. The Virginian’s page is about 3000 letters the stops & spaces between each word counting as letters.
Now please admire the vast field our Cornhill opens. Not stories merely do we want, but you who are a country lady, would you think what more country produce you can give us? There are Country Schools, Curacies, dissenters, dairies, Herefordshire Cyder County legends. Didn’t poor Dick Steele die in Herefordshire or near it? There’s your garden, your hunt, your fishing-river, your Arcadian villagers. I want to be interested about everything interesting do try, dear Mrs. Clive to help me, and believe me
very faithfully yours
W. M. Thackeray
* I mean that if your story is long, we could begin it in the first number.38
In the event he made difficulties about the story, saying he would take it, but adding plaintively, “I am reading articles and losing them and finding them, and mislaying and answering letters all day”, and asking if he might shorten it, “Will you amputate? Will you let me use the knife?”39 The story was never published, but she did have a poem in the first issue (January 1860), which he called “noble and touching”.40 In April 1860 he turned down another poem as unsatisfactory, and Clive acquiesced, saying she would write no more.41 When the Fortnightly Review was started in 1865 there was another approach to her for contributions from G.H. Lewes, but by then Clive was a confirmed invalid.42 In poor health, in her sixties, with two large houses to run and plenty of money, it is not altogether surprising that she did not feel inclined to struggle in the market against younger, fitter and needier competitors. Her career was effectively over.
This Bibliography aims to list each distinguishable edition of Clive’s works, and, since they are not particularly numerous, it probably does not omit very many, though it is possible that there were other foreign editions which I have missed. The most striking feature of the publishing history of Clive’s works is the small size of the editions printed by Saunders & Otley, and her valuable testimony to their shady practice of printing continuously while calling every few hundreds a new edition. It is regrettable that the Saunders & Otley archives, of which a few survive in Reading University Library, do not provide any information about her dealings with the firm, though the Smith, Elder accounts in the John Murray collection are very interesting. Enough evidence survives to make clear that Clive’s reputation was not based on enormous sales, but on a succes d’estime. It is partly as a result of the small editions that I have sometimes thought it appropriate to name the library which holds a copy of a given edition, usually in cases where I have not been able to see the book for myself.
Most of the research on which this bibliography has been based was done while I was a postgraduate student writing the thesis which is listed below as No. 184. I should like to thank all the people who helped me then and since: especially Professor Rosemary Ashton, the late George Clive, Lady Mary Clive, Mrs Virginia Murray, Mr Michael Severne and Professor John Sutherland. I am grateful to the staff of the Slavonic and Scandinavian sections of the British Library who helped me obtain details of the foreign editions of Clive’s works, and to the staff of Princeton University Library who established that there was no 1862 American edition of Paul Ferroll. I should also like to thank Professor Peter Edwards and Dr Barbara Garlick for including Clive in the Victorian Fiction Research Guide series, and for all their help in the preparation of this bibliography.
The following abbreviations have been used in this bibliography, usually to indicate the authority for a book’s existence or for its exact publication date:
BN Catalogue general des livres imprimis de la bibliothequeRationale. 231 vols, Paris: 1924-1981.
BUPB Bibliograficeskie ukazateli perevodnoj belletristiki. London: Variorum Reprints, 1971.
DB Dansk Bogfortegnelse for Aarene 1841-1858, etc. Kjobenhavn: 1860-
Diary Caroline Clive”s MS diary.
ECB The English Catalogue of Books. London: Sampson Low, 1864 etc.
NUC The National Union Catalog: Pre-1856 Imprints. 754 vols, London and Chicago: Mansell, 1968-1981.
PC The Publishers” Circular and General Record of British and Foreign Literature.
Sadleir Michael Sadleir, XIX Century Fiction: A Bibliographical Record Based on his own Collection. 2 vols, London: Constable, and Los Angeles: California UP, 1951.
Wolff Robert Lee Wolff, Nineteenth-Century Fiction: A BibliographicalCatalogue based on the Collection formed by Robert Lee Wolff. 5 vols, New York and London: Garland, 1981-1986.
For the identification of anonymous contributions to periodicals I have used The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals.
- Henry Handel Richardson, Maurice Guest (London: Virago, 1981), 74, 81, 127, 230. [↩]
- Ibid., 78. [↩]
- Brompton Grove was a terrace of seven houses on the south side of the road, standing approximately where Beauchamp Place and Beaufort Gardens now meet the Brompton Road. James Elmes, A Topographical Dictionary of London. (London: Whittaker, Treacher & Arnott, 1831); Southern Kensington: Brompton. (London: Athlone Press, 1983), vol. 41 of The Survey of London., ed. C.R. Ashbee et al., (London: 1900-). [↩]
- Her brothers and sisters were:Anna Maria Meysey Wigley (1797-1884), married (1825) John Michael Severne; Edmund Meysey Wigley (1798-1833); Mary Charlotte Meysey Wigley (1802-1878), married (1834) Charles Wicksted, ne Toilet; and Charles Meysey Meysey Wigley (1803-1830). [↩]
- Shakenhurst MS, Memoir of Mary Wicksted. [↩]
- Hereford and Worcester Record Office, Worcester branch, B.A. 6442, Box 3. [↩]
- Whitfield MS, Diary (24 May 1838). [↩]
- Georgiana Duff Gordon was the sister-in-law of the writer Lucie (Austin) Duff Gordon (1821-1869). [↩]
- “Fatal Accident to Mrs. Archer Clive”, Hereford Journal (19 July 1873): 7. [↩]
- Whitfield MS, A5. [↩]
- Diary (11 March 1851). [↩]
- Winifred Hughes, The Maniac in the Cellar: Sensation Novels of the 1860s (Princeton: 1980), 6. [↩]
- “Sensation Novels”, Blackwood’s 91 (May 1862), 564-85, 565. [↩]
- Paul de Kock, Frere Jacques, 4 vols (Brussels 1834), I, 44. [↩]
- There is a more extended discussion of the reception of Paul Ferroll in my introduction to the reprint in the Oxford Popular Fiction series (1997), x-xv. [↩]
- Diary (May 1857). [↩]
- “The Author of Paul Ferroll”, National Review 12 (April 1861): 488. [↩]
- [Jane Sinnett], “Belles Lettres”, Westminster Review n.s. 5 (April 1854): 619-33, 622. [↩]
- Examiner (1 March 1856): 133. [↩]
- [Walter Bagehot], “The Waverley Novels”, National Review 6 (April 1858): 444-72, cited by Elaine Showalter, A Literature of Their Own (London: Virago, 1978), 122-23. [↩]
- Spectator 33 (7 April 1860): 330-31. [↩]
- [Margaret Oliphant], “Modern Novelists—Great and Small”, Blackwood’s 77 (May 1855): 554-68, 557-60. [↩]
- Saturday Review 10 (29 December 1860): 838. [↩]
- Examiner (8 December 1860): 773. [↩]
- James Davies, “The Poems and Novels of the Author of ‘Paul Ferroll”, Contemporary Review 23 (January 1874): 197-217, 216. [↩]
- [William Allingham?], “Mrs Archer Clive”, Fraser’s Magazine n.s. 8 (September 1873): 348-52, 349. [↩]
- Whitfield MS A246, Florence Nightingale to Caroline Clive (29 December 1860). [↩]
- “I have been long intending to write & thank you for telling me what became of ‘Janet’”, Ibid. (Easter Eve 1861). [↩]
- Saturday Review 17 (4 June 1864): 694. See also Examiner (16 July 1864): 454. [↩]
- Whitfield MS, Diary (2 July 1846). The writers were Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake (1809-1893) and the Etruscan historian Elizabeth Caroline Gray. [↩]
- [H.N. Coleridge], “Modern English Poetesses”, Quarterly Review 46 (September 1840): 374-418, 410. [↩]
- [William Allingham?], “Mrs Archer Clive”, Fraser’s Magazine n.s.8 (September 1873): 348-52. [↩]
- Whitfield MS, Diary (10-12 July 1845). [↩]
- The Times (2 February 1856): 7. [↩]
- [Cockbum Thomson], “Modern Style”, North British Review 26 (February 1857): 339-75, 354. [↩]
- [J. F. Stephen], Review of Madame Bovary, Saturday Review 4 (11 July 1857): 40-41. [↩]
- [Justin MacCarthy], “Novels with a Purpose”, Westminster Review 82 (July 1864): 24-49, 49. [↩]
- Whitfield MS C132 (28 Oct 71859). [↩]
- Whitfield MS A49 (18 Nov 71859). [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- Pierpont Morgan Library MS, Thackeray to George Smith (9 April 1860). [↩]
- Whitfield MS A274, G.H. Lewes to Mr Cox. [↩]