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A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

Title: Little Lady Linton

Author and Title: Frank Barrett. Little Lady Linton: A Novel

First Edition: London: Bentley, 1884. 3 volumes, post 8vo, 31s 6d.

Serialization: The Family Herald, 8 December 1883 to 8 March 1884 (weekly)

Summary: The novel opens with Mrs. Gower hiring the private investigators Mr. and Mrs. Pierce to investigate the death of her daughter Lady Linton. She was found drowned in her estate's boathouse after she, her maid Sophia Kirby, and a groomsman went missing. Sir Gilbert Linton was tried for murder and acquitted when it is revealed that Lady Linton was an alcoholic from before her marriage and Sir Gilbert withdrew her from society for her health and reputation. It was during her attempt to escape her nurses that she drowned accidentally. After the death, Sir Gilbert quickly remarries, the "little Lady Linton" of the title. The novel then recounts the past through the new Lady Linton's diaries, copied by Pierce's partner and wife. Gertie Graham grew up in Neufbourg with her English father, an author of a cosmographical dictionary. After his death, she travels with her nurse to London to sell his manuscript, her only inheritance. She finds an Englishman named John Brown (really Sir Gilbert) to take her across the channel in his yacht (since her nurse has a fear of steam ships) and the two have a number of long conversations. Their friendship continues in London: Gertie fails to sell her father's manuscript, Sir Gilbert assists her in finding lodgings, and Gertie eventually take a position as governess to Mr. and Mrs. Gower's four daughters (arranged secretly by Sir Gilbert). (The first Lady Linton was the daughter of Mrs. Gower's first marriage; three of the remaining daughters are from Mr. Gower's first marriage.) Gertie discovers the identity of her John Brown—their meeting leads the still-married Sir Gilbert to ask Gertie to elope with him which Gertie refuses. In any case, Gertie loses her governess position. She goes to live with Mr. Gower's mother-in-law who operates a Kensington bake shop. A year later, Lady Linton dies and Sir Gilbert's is tried and acquitted. She hears that he plans to leave the country so she rushes to his side and proposes to him. Sir Gilbert and "little Lady Linton" cruise in his yacht and end up renting a house in the French countryside. Meantime, Mrs. Pierce, as Gertie's maid, spies and reports to her husband and Mrs. Gower. The arrival of Miss Drummond disrupts their happy life: she is an old friend of Sir Gilbert's youth and her behavior grates on Gertie but Sir Gilbert seems powerless to stop her. Mrs. Pierce suspects Miss Drummond is Sophie Kirby back to blackmail Sir Gilbert. The novel comes to a climax in England: Mrs. Gower confronts Sir Gilbert in the presence of Miss Drummond convinced the two conspired to kill her daughter. Instead, she meets her own daughter who confesses she killed Sophia. When the police arrive to arrest her, the old Lady Linton shoots herself. Mrs. Gower goes mad and later kills herself; Sir Gilbert and Gertie remarry (the first marriage being bigamous); and the Pierces retire from detective work. (TJB)

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References: Bodleian; EC