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Marriage by Susan Ferrier

Marriage (1818)

by Susan Ferrier

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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The writing's not a patch on contemporaries Eliza Fenwick or Maria Edgeworth. ( )
  SChant | Feb 8, 2018 |
At the time Susan Ferrier was writing this book, marriage was still the path to wealth and power. Children who could set you off on that path were domestic capital. The mountain of novels, good and bad, that dealt with the vagaries of courtship and marriage in Regency times is testament to its importance for the monied classes, and to its disastrous consequences if not done properly.

Lady Juliana, the seventeen year old daughter of the Earl of Courtland, could not have read the right novels, or else when her father told her she was to marry the Duke of L---, she would have been more compliant. The Earl contended it was No such mighty sacrifice, when repaid with a ducal coronet, the most splendid jewels, the finest equipages, the most magnificent house, the most princely establishment, and the largest jointure, of any woman in England. Juliana acquiesced, what else could she do, her empty head tempted by notions of becoming a duchess, with all the attendant dresses, balls and jewels.

Capriciousness was a defining characteristic of Lady Juliana however, and just before her wedding day, she eloped with "... the blue eyes, curling hair and fine-formed person of a certain captivating Scotsman". Unfortunately, her Henry Douglas was virtually penniless and in a few short months reality set in on both sides. Disowned by her father, they turned to his, and set off for a winter in Scotland.

Here the novel starts to deviate from the standard fare of its day. Its author, Susan Ferrier, was a Scot. The huge cultural differences between the English and the Scots, both real and perceived, were important to Ferrier. Had she been English, she probably wouldn't have sent her characters off to Scotland, and if she had, the story would have been quite different.

In the event, Lady Juliana and her husband were as useless and helpless as babes in the woods, completely unable to cope with life on an agricultural estate, even if it was called a castle. Juliana in particular was unable to discover any common ground with Henry's three aunts and four sisters, nor did she wish to. Ferrier has fun with their mutual incomprehension, aided by use of dialect. She was one of the first to use this tool, and she does it skilfully.

Ferrier had said "The only good purpose of a book is to inculcate morality , and convey some lesson of instruction as well as delight." She does well with the delighting part, but sudden shifts in tone steer her back towards the moral instruction, as if it was suddenly called to mind.

Lady Juliana was delivered of twin girls during her stay in Scotland. Shortly thereafter, she and Henry fled the wilds of Scotland for the dangers of society London, leaving one of the girls behind with Henry's elder brother and his wife. It is the reunion of the girls, now of marriageable age and living together with their mother, that allows Ferrier to explore further the emerging question of marrying for love. The old Earl had said "... it was very well for ploughmen and dairy-maids, and such canaille, to marry for love; but for a young woman of rank to think of such a thing, was plebeian in the extreme!". However, such thoughts had never stopped young girls from entertaining romantic notions of love. Ferrier now introduces the idea of a sort of responsible romantic love; two sensible people of the same rank and background falling in love and marrying, an idea that was creeping into untitled society.

She sets the two sisters up on each side of the marriage question; Adelaide, who has led the London life and learned from her mother's wretched example, and Mary, brought up as a sober and industrious child in Scotland. Here Ferrier goes back to the question of what constitutes a proper education for girls, one first hotly debated by the aunts back in Scotland as they dissect Lady Juliana's shortcomings. The presence of Lady Emily, the girls' cousin, serves to relieve the contrast and provide some real humour, for Lady Emily is an independent young woman who knows her own mind and is not afraid to speak it. The milieux of London and Bath allow Ferrier an opportunity to return to the social satire at which she excels.

[[Walter Scott]] considered Ferrier to be a writer on the level of her contemporaries [[Maria Edgeworth]] and [[Jane Austen]]. He supported he writing, singling her out for praise as one capable of continuing in the Scottish tradition. [Marriage] is a first novel, written in 1810 and published anonymously in 1818. Originally Ferrier had planned a co-authorship with Charlotte Clavering, niece of the all powerful Duke of Argyll. Charlotte's tastes, however, ran heavily to the Gothic, which had too much of sensational and too little of sensibility for Ferrier. The two eventually agreed that Ferrier would continue on her own, after Clavering contributed an early section. The novel was very successful, possibly due to the fact that some of the thinly disguised characters were recognizable to contemporary readers. Ferrier went on to write two more successful novels: [The Inheritance] and Destiny. Of planning [Marriage], she wrote tongue in cheek to Charlotte, ... the moral to be deduced from that is to warn all young ladies against runaway matches... I expect it will be the first book every wise matron will put into the hand of her daughter, and even the reviewers will relax of their severity in favour of the morality of this little work. Enchanting sight! already do I behold myself arrayed in an old mouldy covering, thumbed and creased, and filled with dog's ears.
At a little over five hundred pages, it may daunt the wise matron's daughter, but it was good fun indeed.
8 vote SassyLassy | Feb 5, 2016 |
like an even funnier jane austen, 30 Dec. 2010

This review is from: Marriage (Paperback)
written in 1818, this novel tells of Lady Juliana, beautiful but poor, who thwarts her father's plans for her to marry into money ('the Duke of L-!' repeated Lady Juliana with a scream of horror and surprise, 'why he's red haired and squints and he's as old as you!') to wed Douglas.Obliged to seek refuge at his parental home in the Highlands, the comedy begins. I particularly like invalid Sir Sampson who requires carrying about and thus 'calls his man Philistine because he has Sampson in his hands'. Years go by, Juliana has twin daughters but rejects the weaker one who is gladly brought up by her Aunt Douglas. The latter part of the book lacks the comic tones of the start; we see virtuous daughter Mary leave her Highland idyll to meet her mother and sister Adelaide who has turned out as vain and silly as her mother. ( )
  starbox | Sep 23, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Susan Ferrierprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ashton, RosemaryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gordon, John WatsonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kirkpatrick, KathrynIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'Come hither, child,' said the old Earl of Courtland to his daughter, as, in obedience to his summons, she entered his study; 'come hither, I say; I wish to have some serious conversation with you: so dismiss your dogs, shut the door, and sit down here.'
Many a nineteenth-century novel, from those of Maria Edgeworth and Jane Austen at the beginning of the century to those of George Eliot and Meredith towards the end of it, could have been entitled "Marriage". (Introduction)
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From the book cover:
'What have you to do with a heart? What has any body to do with a heart when their establishment in life is at stake? Keep your heart for your romances, child, and don't bring such nonsense into real life--heart, indeed!'

Understanding that the purpose of matrimony is the "aggrandisement" of her family, Lady Juliana nevertheless rejects the aging and ugly, though appropriately wealthy suitor of her father's choice. Eloping, instead, with a handsome and naturally penniless young Scot, she goes to live at Glenfern Castle, his paternal home. But Lady Juliana finds life amongst the "dreary muirs and rugged mountains" of the Scottish highlands altogether too much for her--and hastily repents her marriage of the heart. First published in 1818, this wonderful social satire combines the exuberance of Fielding and Smollett with the narrative power and characterization of the great Victorian novel that was to follow.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140161260, Paperback)

This is a pre-1923 historical reproduction that was curated for quality. Quality assurance was conducted on each of these books in an attempt to remove books with imperfections introduced by the digitization process. Though we have made best efforts - the books may have occasional errors that do not impede the reading experience. We believe this work is culturally important and have elected to bring the book back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:43 -0400)

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