Finished a day early! The contrast between the earnest early-19th-c. evangelicals and the seriously weird late Victorians was a little discombobulating.
- Frederick St. Clair. Or, the Infidel Reclaimed. A Tale. And Alphonso. A Sketch (Thomas Richardson, 1833). I was initially a bit puzzled by this, because Richardson was a Catholic publisher, and this is an anti-Catholic text--either there are two TRs, or he converted (the latter is more likely). Anyway, Frederick, who grows up in the Highlands, is left unprotected by his Catholic upbringing and becomes easy prey for all those French Enlightenment skeptical types. However, thanks to the Love of his Life, among other things, he discovers evangelicalism, and gets to live happily ever after. BODY COUNT: One.
- Lucy Ashbourne; Or, Solitude Sweetened. Exhibiting the Influence of True Religion in Rendering Life Happy and Death Peaceful. A Tale Founded on Fact (Thomas Richardson, 1833). Another evangelical novel. The Ashbournes are living an apparently perfect life. Then, Dad dies (at considerable and verbose length), leaving Mom depressed but resigned until she dies (silently). Poor Lucy must go off and live with her obnoxiously worldly relatives, who persecute her and interfere with the letters from the Love of Her Life. While there, Lucy witnesses the "bad" death of a worldly young woman (also at considerable and verbose length). Finally, Lucy's eeevil aunt drives her insane, but she recovers enough to die well (at reasonably verbose length) right as the aforementioned Love returns home. BODY COUNT: Four.
- Coelebs Married. Being Intended as a Continuation of Coelebs in Search of a Wife (G. Walker, 1814). Unauthorized sequel to Hannah More's (in)famous novel. Charles is now married to the perfect Lucilla Stanley. What more is necessary? A lot of diatribes against Catholic Emancipation, apparently. There are also various disquisitions on charity, greed, worldliness, education, and servants. The primary excitement derives from Charles nearly falling prey to the erotic wiles of his wife's cousin Julia (moral of the story: don't spend time unchaperoned with women not your wife). There was one more sequel, not by this author, called Coelebs Deceived. BODY COUNT: Zero.
- A. Kevill-Davies, The Girl-Priest. A Novel (Hutchinson & Co., 1899). Annnnnd now for something completely different. Beautiful Brenda Shannon has been forced to act as bait for her stepfather, a blackmailer. However, with the help of one of her victims, the "virile" John Caswell, she cross-dresses and successfully becomes...an Anglican priest. Various complications ensue, as all the women fall in love with her, but she carries off the disguise perfectly for several years; fina lly, John's obnoxious wife dies, and he and Brenda finally marry. Not really a feminist novel--there's a running parody of New Women novelists, "Fanny Jingo"--but it seems genuinely in favor of female clergy. Rather more overt lust than one normally expects. BODY COUNT: One.
- I. Hooper, The Minister's Conversion (Adam & Black, 1898). An attack on Dissenting hypocrisy. Margaret Brooke, daughter of the hellfire-and-damnation Calvinist layman Simon Brooke, is loved by 1) Cuthbert Romaine (what's up with all these Cuthberts?!), a freethinker; 2) Mark Increase (meant to remind us of Increase Mather?), a hellfire-and-damnation Calvinist minister; and 3) Kris Lee, a half-Romani orphan who is psychologically abused and eventually betrayed by Brooke. Margaret refuses #1, has a sexual relationship with #3, and marries #2, with disastrous results. Once the sex comes out, Mark rejects her savagely and then plans to murder Kris; instead, the disgraced and drug-addicted Kris commits suicide and Margaret goes insane, slowly coming around at the end. The conclusion suggests that Margaret and the now-humbled Mark will eventually be happy together. Meanwhile, the freethinker neither converts nor dies. BODY COUNT: One.