Title: Court Netherleigh
Author and Title: Ellen Wood. Court Netherleigh: A Novel
First Edition: London: Bentley, 1881. 3 volumes, cr. 8vo., 31s 6d.
Serialization: Argosy, illustrated by M. E. Edwards, January 1881 to December 1881 (monthly)
Summary: The story follows the intersecting lives and families of Catherine Grant, Margery Upton, and Elizabeth Cleveland, all of whom are cousins of Sir Francis Netherleigh, the owner of the eponymous Court Netherleigh. Catherine Grant marries a wealthy merchant, Christopher Grubb, and is subsequently cut off from the family for marrying into trade. Catherine has two children, Francis and Mary Lynn Grubb. Margery Upton never marries and inherits the Netherleigh estate. Elizabeth Cleveland marries George Chenevix, a spendthrift earl, with whom she has six daughters (named Grace, Sarah, Mary, Harriet, Frances, and Adela). Sarah Cleveland marries Major Hope, whose nephew Gerard Hope is next in line for the Hope family inheritance. Robert Dalrymples, owner of the neighboring Moat Grange estate, has two daughters, Selina and Alice Dalrymples, and one son, Robert. Alice has a physical disability and is not expected to live long. Oscar Dalrymples is the younger Robert’s cousin and next in line for the family inheritance after Robert. While hunting, the younger Robert accidently shoots and mortally wounds his father. Robert inherits his father’s estate but quickly gets into massive debts through gambling. After one particularly debauched evening at the tables, Robert stumbles off in despair toward Westminster Bridge, where his hat is found the following day, suggesting suicide. The estate then passes to Oscar. Francis Grubb, a wealthy merchant, finances George Chenevix’s lifestyle and instead of repayment requests to marry Adela. Beautiful but spoiled and rude, Adela condescends to marry Grubb, despite his not being an aristocract, in order to help her father’s financial situation, but she promises to never love Grubb and to torment him for forcing her to marry beneath her class, a promise she makes good on over the next couple years. Selina Dalrymples marries Oscar. Through naivety, vanity, and a lack of financial understanding, Selina accrues a massive debt on expensive clothing without Oscar’s knowledge. When the debts become due, Oscar and Selina are forced to leave London and lease their country estate for income. Just before this occurs, Selina secretly applies to her sister Alice for a loan during a visit to the Hope family and Sarah’s diamond bracelet goes missing the same evening. The only other known visitor that evening is Gerard, who, like Selina, is also in financial difficulty. An investigation is conducted, and Gerard becomes the prime suspect. Major Hope is convinced of Gerard’s guilt, presses charges, and cuts Gerard out of the inheritance. Gerard proclaims his innocence but refuses to point blame at Selina because of his love for Alice. Meanwhile, out of boredom and spite for her husband Adela begins wracking up gambling debts and flirting with Charles Cleveland, a young employee of Grubb’s who falls in love with her. When Grubb gets wind of her debts, he cuts her off financially. In retaliation, Adela steals one of his company’s checks and forges his signature. She asks Charles to cash it for her secretly. Charles does so not knowing it is a forgery. When the illicit transaction comes to light, Adela begs Charles to cover for her. He does so by admitting that he cashed the check and refusing to account for how he obtained it or what he did with the money. He comes close to being convicted and transported but is saved on final day through George Chenevix’s intervention with the presiding magistrate. Adela’s crime is the last straw for her marriage, and Grubb formally separates from her, providing her an allowance and banishing her from his home. Adela returns to her family a disgraced woman and is frequently berated by her family for her treatment of Grubb. The investigation into the missing bracelet reveals that one of the servants stole it, clearing Gerard’s name. Gerard’s inheritance is reinstated and he marries Frances, at Alice’s request, because Alice does not believe she will live long enough to be a good wife. Oscar leases out his estate to a harsh landlord who raises all the tenants’ rent. At the height of a heated exchange between the tenants and Oscar, which threatens to become a riot, Robert Dalrymples reappears. He reveals that instead of committing suicide he fled to America. When he returned to England he found favor with an estranged, wealthy uncle, who, upon his death, willed his fortune to Robert. Robert returns Moat Grange to its former glory and marries Mary Lynn. Before she dies, Margery Upton reconciles with Catherine and wills Court Netherleigh and the baronetcy to Grubb. Grubb becomes Sir Francis Netherleigh. Adela repents of her past actions and has a change of heart for her estranged husband. She expresses her love to him and asks for forgiveness and he takes her back as his wife. (SCT)
References: BL; Duke; EC
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