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A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

Title: The Confessions of Gerald Estcourt

Author and Title: Florence Marryat. The Confessions of Gerald Estcourt

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

Summary: Written as a first-person memoir of his life, the story begins with Gerald Estcourt's childhood living with his mother. Shortly after his birth, his parents separated: his father living at his estate Grasslands and circulating in London society as a wealthy novelist; and his mother living a retired life in a country house. At the age of ten, Gerald moves to his father's house where he is introduced to his extended family, assumes his place as his father's heir, and attends Eton. As he grows up, he becomes more sympathetic towards his father, rejects the narrowness of his mother's views, and assumes his place as a wealthy English gentleman in London society. While stationed at Freshwater as an army officer, Gerald meets the beautiful, but sober, Ada Rivers who is escorting her younger step-siblings on a seaside holiday. She is the daughter of divorced parents: her mother scandalously ran off with another man who then abandoned her. Her father subsequently remarried, but the scandal follows her. Gerald spends much time with Ada and eventually proposes only to be told she is already engaged to another man. Heartbroken, Gerald throws himself into writing a novel which his father assists in publishing. While at Grasslands, he becomes friendly with the two pretty daughters, Adelaide and Julia Sherman, of one of the local cottagers. Though never more than a flirtation, the two women both fall in love with Gerald. Soon after, Gerald's father dies leaving him a fortune and his estate. Gerald travels for two years, writes another novel, and returns to London to live as a gentleman of means. While in London, Gerald runs into Julia again: she pursues him and becomes his mistress. During a visit to Grasslands, Gerald meets Ada at a neighbor's house. She is now a widow with a one-year-old son. Gerald renews his love-making but Ada only agrees to marry Gerald if he promises to live an honest and morally upright life. He agrees to give up his bachelor lifestlye and he quietly pensions off Julia. One evening, returning home, Gerald meets a mysterious woman who wishes to speak with him: she is Ada's mother who wants to learn about her daughter's life. Gerald relays Ada's history and promises not to tell Ada he has met her. To thank him, the mother gives Gerald a ring as a gift. The next day, Ada sees the ring but Gerald feels bound not to tell who gave it to him. Because of his apparent lack of honesty, she calls off their marriage. Gerald angrily plans to leave England for Cairo—at the last moment, inexplicably, Julia arrives at Portsmouth to accompany him. Gerald falls deathly ill in Egypt and Julia nurses him back to health—in recompense, Gerald marries his former mistress. On their return to London, Gerald's family and friends refuse to see his wife and he regrets marrying Julia. He learns that his cousin both prevented Ada's apology letter from reaching him at Portsmouth (she admits she overreacted) and he sent Julia to accompany him. Gerald publicly thrashes his cousin, blaming him for ruining his life. He meets Ada again (due to the death of her son) to sort out what happened, explain his disastrous marriage, and ask for her help in making Julia accepted in society as his wife. Ada forgives him and visits Julia. Time passes. After Julia dies in childbirth, a chastened Ada and Gerald marry and live a quiet life at Grasslands. (TJB)

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References: BL; EC; Indiana