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A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

Title: A Fashionable Marriage

Author and Title: Mrs. Alexander Fraser. A Fashionable Marriage

First Edition: London: F. V. White, 1883. 3 volumes, post 8vo, 31s 6d.

Summary: The novel begins with the marriage of the Marquis of Ennisford and Lady Frances Clavering, both the children of dukes. Lord Ennisford is a handsome and fashionable man-about-town—a "worshipper of beauty," he is noted flirt in society. Lady Frances is a retiring, soulful, and plain woman who Ennisford proposed to after a weekend meeting. The marriage enrages Bella Grant, Ennisford's cousin and past lover. The pair live happily for a time at their country estate Highcliffe Towers. The honeymoon ends with the birth of a son, Lord Chester, a colicky baby that annoys Ennisford and that fills the attention of Lady Ennisford. The situation leads Ennisford back into society without his wife. He enlists his cousin Bella, now a confirmed spinster, to come assist his wife and son and she torments the young wife. After a daughter May is born, Ennisford attempts to reconnect with his wife by taking her to Paris. While there, Ennisford meets his half-brother Bertie, a young man working as a diplomat in Vienna. Bertie has fallen madly in love with Lady Aylmer, a "grass widow" of an older husband in India. She is rich, beautiful, and charming, and she unscrupulously ensnares Ennisford. Back in England, their dalliance continues to the horror of Lady Ennisford, Bella, and Bertie. Each, at some time, attempts to turn Ennisford away from Lady Aylmer. Totally besotted, Ennisford spurns them. Even Lady Ennisford's direct appeal to Lady Aylmer fails. The situation climaxes when Ennisford invites his lover to Highcliffe Towers and his wife refuses to acknowledge her rival and insults her publicly. Bella, now in sympathy with Lady Ennisford, attempts to poison Ennisford, accidently killing the valet instead. Her failure leads to her sending proofs of Lady Aylmer's unfaithfulness to her husband in India. He returns and sues for divorce: uncontested, Ennisford and Lady Aylmer flee to the continent. The love-spurned Bertie kills himself. After six months, the relationship between Ennisford and Lady Aylmer sours and she leaves him for an Austrian count. Repentant and bitter, Ennisford returns to England where he learns of his brother's death. The news precipitates a stroke. Partially paralyzed, Ennisford returns to Highcliffe Towers where he is tearfully reunited with his wife. Bella ends her days in a lunatic asylum. (TJB)

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References: Bodleian; EC