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Tales and Novels - Volume 10

Maria Edgeworth

Book Overview: 

"It was in 1830–when already past sixty years of age–that Miss Edgeworth set to work upon the last, and what, at the time it was written, was possibly the most successful of all her novels–namely, Helen. Any reader who will take it down from its shelf, and glance over it, will quickly perceive that it is a novel of a very much more modern type than any other by the same hand. In reading it we are aware that the eighteenth century has at last dropped out of sight, and that we are well out upon the nineteenth, not indeed as yet 'Victorian', but in a sort of midway region, on the road to that superior epoch." (Summary from Wikipedia)

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Beauclerc.

"I do not usually form my judgment," replied the general, "from reports either of friends or enemies; I have not the honour of knowing any of Lord Beltravers' enemies."

"Enemies of Lord Beltravers!" exclaimed Lady Davenant. "What right as he to enemies as if he were a great man?—a person of whom nobody ever heard, setting up to have enemies! But now-a-days, these candidates for fame, these would-be celebrated, set up their enemies as they would their equipages, on credit—then, by an easy process of logic, make out the syllogism thus:—Every great man has enemies, therefore, every man who has enemies must be great—hey, Beauclerc?"

Beauclerc vouchsafed only a faint, absent smile, and, turning to his guardian, asked—"Since Lord Beltravers was not to be allowed the honours of enemies, or the benefit of pleading prejudice, on what did the general form his judgment?"

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Community Reviews

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Maria Edgeworth’s novel “Helen”. To me Helen seemed to be a novel about lying. The small, little lies we tell and how destructive even they can be. The heroine of the novel, Helen Stanley, is orphaned and goes to live with her dearest friend, Lady Cecelia Clarendon and h

Maria Edgeworth was the best-selling author in Jane Austen's time, and it's not hard to see why. In Helen, she sketches some really excellent characters so that you sympathise with almost all of them. This novel is the inspiration behind Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters, except there's actual

Helen is the kind of novel where one should not focus on plot. In truth, the plot is very silly; but what redeems this novel is Edgeworth’s character studies—the social and emotional impact on deception and concealment. It is truly amazing how something so insignificant and trivial—school girl decep

Maria Edgeworth was, apparently, a role model of sorts for Jane Austen. It's very clear in "Helen," a story whose title character is a young woman of perfect integrity and maturing judgement. An enjoyable read for lovers of this literature, which I am.

A really super book. Apparently she was Jane Austen's greatest rival at the time, but she is obviously nowhere near as popular these days.
The book has similarites to Austen but is slightly racier (!) and really does involve you in the lives of the characters.

Helen is of the moralistic novel variety, and while it is more character driven than typical of the style IMO, the characters do serve (and suffer a little from) the overarching point of the story.

The length got a little tedious, I must admit, but it did serve to illustrate the value of truth and ho

There is much to recommend this, including the invigorating common sense of Edgeworth's writing about women and marriage and honesty. But there is plenty of baggy histrionics to bulk out the paper thin plot over 500 pages and the ending is full on emotional excess.

As others have noted, Maria Edgeworth was one of the most popular and esteemed authors of her time. Roughly a contemporary of Jane Austen, she wrote along simiar lines, i.e., novels of domestic affairs rather than of larger social movements or "great" events such as wars. Her strength is in her expl

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