And here we come to the end of E. H. Dering, who finished this novel just before dying. As far as I know, this novel did not provoke my current symptoms (provided courtesy of the belated revelation that I'm allergic to sulfa-class drugs), but I'm sure Dering would have some spiritual advice about how to handle my low-grade suffering. Anyway. The Ban of Maplethorpe (1894) is a striking instance of a novelist having a change of heart, as it is a straight-up rewrite of Freville Chase, albeit without a baby-switch. The Ban's backstory, with which Dering does almost nothing beyond introduce some wandering ghosts in a funeral procession, is that Maplethorpe has never had an heir in the male line as divine punishment for an apostate alienating the property from the recusant owners. This is a fairly traditional plot, and Dering is not the only nineteenth-century Catholic novelist to use it (e.g., Laetitia Selwyn Oliver's Father Placid). In the main plot, our hero, the saintly Oswald Bramsby (standing in for the saintly Everard Freville), falls in love with the Protestant Pearl (her real name is never used after her first introduction) of Maplethorpe (standing in for the Protestant Ida); unlike Everard, who is so charitable as to completely do himself in, Oswald immediately figures out that the two revolutionary foreigners in his plot, the General Foreigner (no name--"Foreigner" is apparently sufficient for Dering) and the Baroness Diabolouski (really), are Total Villains and Not to be Trusted. As in Freville Chase, a Protestant, Lady Rossden, attempts to interfere with the Grand Romance between Oswald and the Pearl by separating them, while the Baroness (a Fallen Catholic) attempts to help Augustus Twerleby (another Fallen Catholic) hang on to an inheritance by marrying the Pearl, his ward, off to the General Foreigner. Augustus has engaged in Shenanigans with the Pearl's father's will, hiding a codicil that would not be to his best advantage. Worse still, Augustus also betrayed the beautiful Gertrude, niece to Mr. Blastmore (who swears a lot--er, just go with it), by decoying her into a False Marriage. Of course, Dering is all about conversion, so the Pearl initially suffers the same sort of emotional breakdown that Grace does: like Ida, she insists that if the Evil Rumors about Bramsby first being involved with Gertrude, then with the Baroness, are "true," then "I shall not believe in anyone" (I.237). When, for quite some time, she does become convinced of the rumors, then she loses faith entirely. In other words, apart from her mistake, she gives in to the sin of elevating sinful humanity above divine perfection. When Ida makes the same mistake, she is punished by marriage to her foreigner, followed by Everard's death and, soon after, her own, although she redeems herself at least by conversion; by contrast, Oswald helps rescue the Pearl from the clutches of the General Foreigner and the Baroness, and not only manages to convert her via passionately romantic theological disquisitions rooted in Aquinas (again, really), but manages to recover from his wounds and marry her. Hooray! But Augustus Twerleby, the General Foreigner, and the Baroness do not experience the same miracle of divine grace that Moncalvo did--and Augustus and the Baroness, forever locked together in a horrific marriage based in mutual loathing, are both completely conscious that they have rejected grace altogether. Thus, whereas the first novel demonstrates how grace can save even the most apparently debased and evil character, the second redeems solely the mundanely-flawed characters and sends the rest off to stew in their coming damnation.
Part of the reason for the change, I think, is that Dering has slightly shifted his theological emphasis to the importance of free will. Early on, Oswald explains to the Pearl why the Church objects to mesmerism: "Can it be right to give up the control of one's will to another person--the control of that will through which we shall be saved or lost?" (I.43). By contrast, the Baroness tells the General Foreigner that "we have no free will, though we seem to exercise a great deal of freedom when we want something" (I.123). Later, however, she describes herself as having an "indomitable will," and insists that "I cannot repent. My will is too strong to resist--" (I.131). This, explains the narrator, is because she was "under the influence of the devil, and refusing to pray for the grace of God" (I.131). Similarly, when Twerleby faces and succumbs to temptation at Mr. Malmaines' deathbed, his "[c]onscience again warned him, and again he listened, oscillating between knowledge of his duty and free consent against it" (I.203). The Baroness' "indomitable will" is the will not to choose goodness, which would require her to humble herself before God against the tyranny of her own desires, just as Twerleby's twirls back and forth between "duty" (the higher obligation to the needs of another) and the "free consent" he makes to ignore it (thus, again, falling prey to his own sinful lusts). Over and over, the novel repeats this point: one has the free will to choose salvation, the path of duty, or to choose damnation, the path of sin. The Baroness, Twerleby, and the General Foreigner are all nightmarish characters precisely because they again and again will their own alienation from God's grace--which, as Freville Chase makes clear, can be given freely to even the chief of sinners. The first novel saves just about everyone far too late for it to do them any earthly good, although they are at least promised rewards in heaven. The second novel clears the way for all the characters tending towards the good to both freely choose it and to live (reasonably) happily ever after, but then dramatizes the psychologies of men and women who, given multiple opportunities to choose, insist on evil. It is very understanding of circumstances that might lead someone to initially make the wrong choice, as Gertrude did when she ran off with a disguised Twerleby or the Pearl when she lost faith in Oswald, but it always returns to the position that when prayer and conscience make the right choice clear, it must be made immediately and freely. Under those conditions, circumstances count for nothing.