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A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

Title: Within the Maze

Author and Title: Ellen Wood. Within the Maze: A Novel

First Edition: London: Bentley, 1872. 3 volumes, 31s. 6d.

Serialization: Argosy, illustrated by M. E. Edwards, January 1872 to December 1872 (monthly)

Summary: The novel follows the aristocratic Andinnian family. Mrs. Andinninan is a haughty widow with two sons, Adam and Karl. Mrs. Andinninan passionately loves the eldest Adam but does not care much for Karl. Adam falls in love with Rose, a local girl, and they are secretly married. Rose is tormented with inappropriate and unwanted advances by another young man, Scott, whom Adam promises to murder if the advances persist. Scott steals another kiss from Rose and Adam shoots him in broad daylight. Adam is then tried, found guilty of murder, and sent prison. Meanwhile, Karl falls in love with Lucy Cleeve. Lucy’s family likes Karl but desires their daughter to marry someone with an aristocratic title. Lucy is in love with Karl and, when her parents refuse their marriage, she becomes despondent, but Karl honors their wishes. Mrs. Andinninan is distraught about Adam’s imprisonment and hatches a plan to help him escape. The plan appears to go sideways and Adam is reportedly shot and killed in the escape attempt. In reality, it is another prisoner who is killed and the escape is successful. With the help of Mrs. Andinninan, Adam and Rose move into an isolated house inside of a massive hedge maze on their family estate. Rose takes the name of Mrs. Grey and tells the locals that her husband is abroad. Karl, like the rest of the world, presumes Adam is dead, so Karl believes he has inherited the family title. Because of Karl’s new title and Lucy’s despondency, the Cleeves decide to allow them to get married. However, before the marriage, Mrs. Andinninan lets Karl in on Adam’s secret, which puts Karl in a bind because he is only being allowed to marry Lucy because of his title and because he wants to keep his brother’s secret. Karl ends up vaguely telling Lucy that he has a secret that might bring shame on her once they are married, but she decides to marry him anyway. Mrs. Andinninan hires a mysterious man named Mr. Smith to watch over the maze. She then becomes fatally ill and dies. Karl and Lucy move into their estate, Foxwood Court, and are accompanied by a family friend of the Cleeves, Miss Blake. Blake is a busybody who previously desired to marry Karl. Blake notices Karl making secretive trips into the maze to visit his brother and, in part to revenge herself on Karl for marrying Lucy instead of her, begins to spread a rumor that Mrs. Grey is Karl’s mistress. Blake confronts Lucy with the rumor and Lucy is devastated. When she and Karl speak, they do so in vague language that results in a miscommunication between them: Lucy believes she is speaking about Karl’s mistress, and Karl believes they are speaking about his brother’s secret. Rather than open separation, Lucy decides to sleep in a separate bedroom, a decision that confuses and frustrates Karl. Meanwhile, Blake, who fancies herself a devout Christian, founds a new church in the Foxwood village so that she can invite a young, handsome pastor, Guy Cattacomb, to tend it. This new church attracts all the young single ladies of the surrounding area to daily services and social gatherings, much to the chagrin of the rest of the townsfolk. Karl and Rose/Mrs. Grey want to relocate Adam to another country, but Karl believes that Smith is attempting to keep Adam in the maze so that Smith can continue to collect a salary. Karl looks into Smith’s personal life and comes to believe that Smith is actually a wanted felon named Philip Salter. Karl asks around about Salter in London, drawing the attention of Scotland Yard, who send a detective to Foxwood to investigate. The detective, Mr. Tatton, begins living in the village under the name Mr. Strange. Mrs. Grey is pregnant, which requires regular visits from the doctor. On one such visit, the doctor and his nurse catch a glimpse of Adam in the house. The nurse believes she has seen a ghost and spreads the rumor around Foxwood that the house is haunted. Blake convinces Lucy that Karl is the father of Mrs. Grey’s child, further estranging the couple. Tatton is convinced that Salter is the mysterious man hiding in the maze, and he mounts a search of the house and premise, which comes up empty handed. The only occupants of the maze he can find are Mrs. Grey, her maid, and her maid’s husband, an old gardener. Karl’s suspicions about Smith are put to rest when Smith reveals that he is actually Salter’s cousin. Tatton is still convinced that Salter is in the maze and refuses to give up the search. Mrs. Grey’s child becomes sick and dies, and Adam soon after begins showing symptoms of a deadly hereditary disease. It is revealed that Adam had avoided capture by disguising himself as the old gardener whenever the police came to look for him. Adam soon perishes, leaving Karl the rightful owner of the title and estate. Cattacomb is seen kissing the doctor’s daughter, which infuriates Blake, and Karl shuts down the new church. Karl and Lucy finally communicate about their circumstances, and Lucy realizes how wrong she has been about Karl. She repents and they are reconciled. (SCT)

Title Tags:

References: BL; EC


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