Two waifs, John and Alice Withers, are received into the Staffordshire workhouse, where the boy learns cotton spinning. After he has passed his apprenticeship, he goes to work at a mill in Lancashire. John Withers marries his master’s insignificant daughter and after she dies his supposed sister Alice comes to live as housekeeper with him and his daughter Marian. Marian learns the misery of unrequited love when she goes to visit Mrs. Arl at Knutsford and falls in love with Albert, who forgets her as soon as she leaves, for the more worldly Mrs. Wollaston.....
Geraldine Jewsbury was born in Measham, then in Derbyshire, now in Leicestershire. She was the daughter of Thomas Jewsbury (d. 1840), a cotton manufacturer and merchant, and his wife Maria, née Smith, (d. 1819). The family moved to Manchester in 1818, after her father's business failed. After her mother died, she was brought up by her sister Maria Jane Jewsbury. In 1841 Geraldine Jewsbury met the Carlyles. Thomas Carlyle pronounced her "one of the most interesting young women I have seen for years, delicate sense & courage looking out of her small sylph-like figure." Jewsbury has earned a place in literature in three respects: as a novelist, as a critic and publisher's reader, and as a figure in London literary life. Jewsbury was primarily a novelist of ideas and moral dilemmas.
Examiner — "Full of cleverness and originality."
Critic — "The best of Miss Jewsbury's novels."
Observer — "One of the noblest works of fiction that has been for some time published in this country."
Sunday Times — "A work of singular beauty, aiming at a noble purpose, and affording a vivid and faithful view of society in the nineteenth century."
Weekly News — "A clever and brilliant book, full of the results of varied knowledge of life. The personal sketches remind one of Douglas Jerrold. The style is admirable for its caustic and compressed vigour. Marian Withers will take a high rank among contemporary fictions."
Leader — "The design of Marian Withers is that of displaying Lancashire life in all its varieties of good and bad, coarse and elegant, serious and frivolous, hardhearted and considerate. It claims attention for its eloquence, its knowledge of life, its straightforward dealing with realities, and general elevation of tone."