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At the Circulating Library

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

Title: Such Things Are

Author and Title: Matilda Charlotte Houstoun. Such Things Are

First Edition: London: Saunders and Otley, 1862. 3 volumes, post 8vo., 31s. 6d.

Summary: The novel opens on the storm-whipped coast of Wales. Gerald Bernard is an officer in the Coast Guard and he observes the capsizing of a sailboat. The man in the boat swims to shore leaving a woman to drown but Bernard swims out to save her. On the walk to their home, she nearly dies again from a fall, possibly due to her father's negligence. Bernard falls in love with the woman, Olive, in spite of her strange and heartless father Redfern. They marry. The novel next moves to London and the Brigham family: Josiah Brigham's business has gone bankrupt leaving his two sons and three daughters without fortunes. Susan, the eldest daughter, goes to live as the companion to her wealthy spinster godmother Christina Mayford Llewellen. They are joined by Miss Llewellen's niece Margaret Mayford. The household in the country is near Gerald's brother's vicarage—the Rev. Clayton Bernard is a widower with a young daughter. Later, the group moves to the Isle of Wight and then London where they circulate with a number of other characters. The plot divides into a number of intersecting subplots. Susan's cousin Florence Harley runs with a "fast" crowd, gambles, and gets in debt. She later falls in love with Clayton and they plan to marry. Lord George Annesley, the debt-ridden second son of an earl, is a fortune-hunting hedonist who first pursues Susan (until her father's bankruptcy), then Florence, and finally Margaret (who is the beneficiary of Miss Llewellen's fortune). Miss Llewellen's butler is embezzling from his overly-trusting employer. The villain Raynham Fletcher, the middle-aged worldly friend of Lord George, lends money to the young man, blackmails Florence over an indiscretion abroad, and successfully (and secretly) woos Miss Llewellen in order to secure her fortune and revenge himself on Lord George. Gerald discovers his wife Olive is party to a murder in her past, the couple separates, and Gerald has a breakdown. The novel ends with Fletcher marrying Miss Llewellen, Lord George breaking off his engagement with the now fortune-less Margaret, the marriage of Florence and Clayton, and the death of Fletcher from poisoning. Though Florence is the prime suspect in Fletcher's murder, she accompanies her husband to Malta. Reviewers complained about the sudden and seemingly immoral ending. (TJB)

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References: Bodleian; BL; EC; Texas; Wolff