I intended my next book to be Maurice Baring’s ‘Cat’s Cradle’, but soon discovered that I’d read it already!
So I switched to ‘Marcella’ by Mrs Humphry Ward, aka Mary Augusta Ward. This is her.
Previously I’d read only her ‘Robert Elsmere’, which I very much enjoyed.
‘Marcella’ was written six years later, in 1894. It demands patience because the story takes an inordinately long time to ‘get going’, but there is much to enjoy.
Marcella is an ardent Socialist who accepts the marriage proposal of a Tory landowner and politician. But she soon backs out, finding herself attracted instead to a fascinating politician of the left.
She volunteers as a nurse amongst the poor of London. He supports a strike but, beset by gambling debts, accepts a bribe to withdraw his support. This becomes public knowledge, ending his chances of leading his party.
As she matures, she realises she has made a dreadful mistake in dropping the landowner. We wait to see whether fate will draw them back together.
Ward’s sympathies are clearly with the Tory, but all the principal characters are very human combinations of good and bad qualities, of faults and virtues alike.
The political backdrop is also particularly interesting, capturing English society on the verge of immense change.