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At the Circulating Library

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

Title: Gardenhurst

Author and Title: Anna Caroline Steele. Gardenhurst: A Novel

First Edition: London: Chapman and Hall, 1867. 3 volumes, post 8vo, 31s 6d.

Summary: Due to his straightened circumstances and large family, Colonel Lisle moves his family from London to the run-down country house Gardenhurst. The estate is situated near Lynncourt, the home of Lisle's wealthy spinster aunt Countess Renshawe, who reluctantly takes an interest in her nephew's family, especially the youngest daughter Esther (who is called "Esty" throughout). Esty spends a great deal of her youth with her aunt roaming the estate and devouring the books in her library. The eldest son, Gerald, joins the army where he (like his father) lives beyond his means. There he meets Captain Geoffrey Adair, the son of a military man, who was raised in Italy by his widowed step-mother. Sophy, a friend of his childhood, loves him, but she marries the middle-aged politician George Howard for his wealth and position. Even after many years, she continues to pine for Geoffrey. Inevitably, Geoffrey meets Esty and they fall in love under the watchful eye of Lady Renshawe. Geoffrey proposes right before being called to join his regiment in India. He entrusts Sophy with his secret and asks her to deliver his letters to Esty. Out of jealousy, Sophy destroys his letters to Esty and conspires with Geoffrey's half-brother Alfred Cadogan to break up the couple. Cadogan is the son of a Greek merchant and he now works as a financier and money-lender. Cadogan and Sophy tell Esty that Geoffrey has married in India (even placing a marriage announcement in the Indian Mail to aid their deception). Thinking herself abandoned, Esty marries Cadogan to free her brother Gerald from his crippling debts. Cadogan marries Esty in anticipation of her inheriting Lynncourt, which Lady Renshawe suspects after catching him going through her papers. (Her nephew will inherit her estate after all.) Meantime, Geoffrey's year in India ends and he rushes back to re-unite with Esty suffering a shipwreck on the way. The tearful reunion shows Esty's mistake in doubting Geoffrey and the confrontation between Geoffrey and Sophy exposes her duplicity. Cadogan returns to Constantinople for business where one of his Turkish mistresses (out of jealousy) pays to have him killed. Geoffrey secretly marries the newly-widowed Esty. Before they reveal the news to her family, word comes that Cadogan has been found alive and is now speeding his way to England. Esty, in despair, drowns herself in the pond at Gardenhurst. (TJB)

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References: BL; EC; NYPL