Susan Ferrier sold more copies of her novels than her contemporary, Jane Austen. Sir Walter Scott declared her his equal. Why, then has she been lost to history? On the 200th anniversary of this sharply observed, comic novel, it is time to rediscover her brilliance.
'What have you to do with a heart? What has anybody to do with a heart when their establishment in life is at stake? Keep your heart for your romances, child, and don't bring such nonsense into real life - heart, indeed!'
Understanding that the purpose of marriage is to further her family, Lady Juliana nevertheless rejects the ageing and unattractive - though appropriately wealthy - suitor of her father's choice. She elopes, instead, with a handsome, penniless soldier and goes to Scotland to live at Glenfarn Castle, his paternal home. But Lady Juliana finds life in the Scottish highlands dreary and bleak, hastily repenting of following her heart.
After giving birth to twin daughters, Lady Juliana leaves Mary to the care of her sister-in-law, while she returns to England with Adelaide. Sixteen years later, Mary is thoughtful, wise and kind, in comparison to her foolish mother and vain sister.
Following two generations of women, Marriage, first published in 1818, is a shrewdly observant and humorous novel by one of Scotland's greatest writers.
With her sharp eye for human foibles and fancies, Scottish author Ferrier (1782 1854) outsold her contemporary Jane Austen with witty stories of Scottish social life. Two centuries later, her first novel returns to print, following two generations of women whose desires lead them to disparate fates. At 17, Lady Juliana, daughter of an earl, is certain she "shouldn't at all mind being poor." But when she shuns the wealthy but odious duke selected by her father and elopes with a "captivating Scotsman," she is appalled by everything about his family and life, including the ramshackle family castle surrounded by "dingy turnip fields," bagpipe music, the Scottish diet, and the swarm of long-chinned spinster aunts and hovering sisters. Later, Juliana happily hands off one of her twin baby girls whom she refers to as plagues to her husband's sister to raise. Nurture defies nature and the two girls mature into very different people with morally deserved fates. Ferrier writes with crisp, telling details and a knack for naming characters (Mrs. Wiseacre, Lady Dull). This reprint should delight modern fans of stories of manners much as it did readers 200 years ago.