Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Victorian Jag: the "Mrs." Project

Mrs. Oliphant
I've charged up my Sony Reader and have been browsing at Project Gutenberg. This website's superb e-books are impeccably proofread, and I very much admire the volunteers who make this happen.   I once proofread a novel (for someone else) and was desperately bored after 75 pages.  It is essential because if this monotonous, time-consuming work is neglected, very strange errors appear in e-texts: peculiar letter-number combinations like "3r" for "y", and "i" for exclamation points liberally dotted an Internet Archives e-text of E. M. Delafield's Humbug:  An Education.

"She always sa3rs she doesn’t want to do!  It’s not fair!”

Well, we don't have to worry about typos at Gutenberg.

I'm preparing for a Victorian reading jag.  In the waning sunlight of December there's nothing more enjoyable than perusing the once-popular Victorian novels of Mrs. Oliphant, Mrs. Henry Wood, and Mrs. Humphrey Ward.  I'm thinking of calling this the "Mrs." Project.

I just downloaded Mrs. Oliphant's A Country Gentleman and His Family.  I'm quite a fan of Margaret Oliphant, though I've never heard of this particular novel.  A few years ago I read Oliphant's Chronicles of Carlingford novels, a series that resembles Trollope's Barsetshire novels.  Penniless curates, hard-working doctors, businessmen, women bankers, old maids, and engaged couples have all manner of conflicts.

My favorite is Miss Marjoribanks.  Here's the product description from Amazon:

"Returning home to tend her widowed father Dr Marjoribanks, Lucilla soon launches herself into Carlingford society, aiming to raise the tone with her select Thursday evening parties. Optimistic, resourceful and blithely unimpeded by self-doubt, Lucilla is a superior being in every way, not least in relation to men. 'A tour de force...full of wit, surprises and intrigue...We can imagine Jane Austen reading MISS MARJORIBANKS with enjoyment and approval in the Elysian Fields' - Q. D. Leavis. Leavis declared Oliphant's heroine Lucilla to be the missing link in Victorian literature between Jane Austen's Emma and George Eliot's Dorothea Brook and 'more entertaining, more impressive and more likeable than either'.”

But I'm not utterly wedded to Mrs. Oliphant.  If anyone has other suggestions for "Mrs. lit," let me know.


Anonymous said...

Gaskell is superb -- perhaps too melancholy sometimes, but I'm basically enjoying the stories and novellas very much. I recommend Cousin Phillis, Lady Ludlow.

Not that I don't like Oliphant. Have you tried the Ladies Lindore. I loved that one -- and her ghost stories, The Beleaguered City (a masterpiece you won't be able to put down) and her criticism. Hester too.


Frisbee said...

I do love Gaskell, and have always meant to read Lady Ludlow.

Yes--loved The Ladies Lindore. There's so much Oliphant to read.

I know the other "missues" less well, though.

Buried In Print said...

What a great reading project! (And I'm wondering now if I've had the Mrs. H.W.'s confused all this time...must check my shelves to see how muddled I've been about them.) Enjoy!

Frisbee said...

Mrs. Humphrey Ward and Mrs. Henry Wood? Do I have them straight? I've got Oliphant and Gaskell.

It is a good idea for a project though I will probably abandon them after the new year.

Buried In Print said...

Oh yes, I think you've got them straight. But I just realized that I think I've been muddling them (at least half the time) myself!

Frisbee said...

BIP, the HWs are pretty close. What I'd like to know is how I know about these Mrs. writers anyway. I did read Wood's East Lynne, attracted by the Oxford cover, I've never read a thing by Mrs. Humphrey Ward and have no idea what her first name is.