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Mrs. Humphry Ward

Book Overview: 

Mary Augusta Ward was a very popular author at the end of the 19th century. The arrival of Marcella was discussed a lot in the London news papers. This popular novel tells about Marcella Boyce, a beauty of the 1880s, who thinks she truly believes in the values of socialism. A 21-year-old art student, she lives in a boarding house in Kensington until her father inherits Mellor Park, the family estate which is located in the Midlands. She unwillingly leaving her studies, all the things she loves and wants to do, and her friends, and starts her new life at Mellor Park, determined to help the poor people she sees around her. Then Aldous Raeburn, Tory candidate for Parliament and heir to Lord Maxwell's estate, falls in love with her. But Marcella is torn between her "love of power" and her "power to love." But she'll have to learn in the hard way that high morals are apt to clash with reality.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . onpleasant—but she transgressed," said Mrs. Jellison, nodding mysteriously, triumphant however in the unimpeachable delicacy of her language, and looking round the circle for approval.

"What do you say?" asked Marcella, innocently. "What did Mercy Moss do?"

Mrs. Jellison's eyes danced with malice and mischief, but her mouth shut like a vice. Patton leaned forward on his stick, shaken with a sort of inward explosion; his plaintive wife laughed under her breath till she must needs sigh because laughter tired her old bones. Mrs. Brunt gurgled gently. And finally Mrs. Jellison was carried away.

"Oh, my goodness me, don't you make me tell tales o' Mercy Moss!" she said at last, dashing the water out of her eyes with an excited tremulous hand. "She's bin dead and gone these forty year—married and buried mos' respeckable—it 'ud be a burning shame to bring up tales agen her now. Them as tittle-tattles about dead . . . Read More

Community Reviews

Well written, if not somewhat predictable. I was amazed how much I had in common with a 19th century young woman. It’s hard to reconcile the author as an anti-suffragette with such a compelling, authoritative, progressive, socialist, etc. protagonist. Slow start but drew pretty deep depth of feeling

Almost as if Middlemarch were late enough in the century (Marcella published 1894) to deal explicitly with Socialist and anti-capitalist currents. Dorothea and her village improvement projects become Marcella and her projects towards equity and even equality for the villages of her estate, breaking

Well this was excellent - shades of George Elliot but with added political/social engagement and analysis. Particularly good in navigating the contradictory and complex nature of character. If it did not get 5 stars that is probably more to do with my own tiredness. Read the other excellent reviews

An 1894 novel about class politics with particular reference to land, which attempts to find a via media between the nationalisation of land and the negligence of landlords. Marcella is a fiery, strong-willed young woman who begins the novel with Socialist ideals as her father inherits a country est

The theory of the 'living wage,' of which more recent days have heard so much, was preached in other terms, but with equal vigour[.]

All care for the human being under the present state of things is economically unsound.
This is the link between E.M. Forster and Jane Austen that I didn't know I ne