Title: The Shadow of Ashlydyat
Author and Title: Ellen Wood. The Shadow of Ashlydyat
First Edition: London: Bentley, 1863. 3 volumes, post 8vo, 31s 6d.
Serialization: New Monthly Magazine, October 1861 to November 1863 (monthly)
Summary: The story centers on the Godolphin family, landed gentry and local bankers of Prior’s Ash. The novel’s title derives from a superstition that if a Godolphin does not inhabit their ancestral estate Ashlydyat, the family will come to ruin. In addition, an inexplicable shadow will appear on the lawn of the house just before something bad happens to the family. When the novel begins, Sir George Godolphin’s first wife is dead and he has remarried. The second Lady Godolphin does not like Ashlydyat and has a second house built on the property. Sir George does not want to leave his ancestral home, citing the superstition. Despite his reluctance, he is convinced to move to the second home, named Lady Godolphin’s Folly. He rents Ashlydyat to Mr. and Mrs. Verrall and her sister, Charlotte Pain. The two Godolphin sons—Thomas and George—both have lovers in town. Thomas is attached to Ethel Grame, who dies unexpectedly from a fever after being forced to tend to her sick sister. George is attached to the rector’s daughter, Maria Hastings, though he is openly flirtatious with Charlotte. On a trip to Scotland, Sir George becomes ill and desires to return to Ashlydyat to die, forcing the Verralls and Charlotte to relocate to Lady Godolphin’s Folly. Sir George dies. Thomas takes over as head of the family estate and business. He appoints George to be co-partner in the bank, despite George’s extravagant lifestyle and lack of work ethic. Charlotte marries her cousin Rodolf Pain and George marries Maria. While on their honeymoon in Germany, George and Maria meet the Verralls. George goes out gambling in the evenings with Mr. Verrall, to whom George quickly becomes indebted. In Prior’s Ash six years later, George and Maria have a daughter named Maria (“Meta”). George works at the bank, insists in living extravagantly, and openly flirts with Charlotte (an affair is insinuated though never confirmed). He does not inform Maria of their situation, financial or otherwise. Maria spends her time idly, drawing and playing with Meta, and trusts completely in George’s ability to run their family and finances. Cecil Godolphin, younger sister of Thomas and George, marries Lord Averil, a wealthy childhood friend of Thomas’s. Thomas becomes ill with a hereditary disease. George’s debts catch up with him, and Verrall convinces him to steal money from the bank, beginning with Lord Averil’s money. George forges the bank’s books to cover for his thefts. Lord Averil tries to withdraw money but is initially diverted by George. It soon becomes apparent to Thomas and others that money has gone missing. Rumors begin to spread around the town that the bank has lost Lord Averil’s money, which results in “a rush” upon the bank: everyone in town comes to withdraw their investment at the same time. The bank is ruined, and the lifesavings of the majority of the town are lost, including Maria’s family. When the crisis hits, George quietly runs off to London by himself to avoid responsibility, leaving Thomas and Maria to deal with the town’s anger. The stress and sadness of the event and its aftermath are too much for both, and Thomas and Maria die. It comes to light that Verrall, with some assistance from Charlotte, had orchestrated George’s financial ruin, beginning with the gambling loans but continuing for years. Lord Averil does not press charges against George and instead arranges a position for him in India so that he can have a fresh start in life. Charlotte and Rodolf Pain and the Verralls move to London and hold fashionable parties. (SCT)
References: Bodleian; BL; EC
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