Title: Verner's Pride
Author and Title: Ellen Wood. Verner's Pride
First Edition: London: Bradbury and Evans, 1863. 3 volumes, post 8vo, 31s 6d.
Serialization: Once a Week, illustrated by Charles Keene, 23 June 1862 to 7 February 1863 (weekly)
Summary: Verner’s Pride is the name of the Verner family estate. As background to the events of the narrative, we learn that old Mr. Verner built Verner’s Pride. He had two sons, Lionel and Stephen Verner. Lionel joins the military and is stationed in India; he dies, leaving behind a son also named Lionel. Stephen stays home and grows close with old Mr. Verner. Controversially, old Mr. Verner leaves Verner’s Pride to Stephen, instead of Lionel. Stephen takes Lionel under his care, raises him as his own, and promises to leave Verner’s Pride to Lionel upon Stephen’s death. Stephen marries a widow, Mrs. Massingbird, who has two sons from a previous marriage, John and Frederick. Frederick has a distinctive black mark on his cheek. The novel opens with the mysterious drowning of Rachel Frost, a favorite servant at Verner’s Pride. Witnesses say that they saw her arguing with a man before she died, someone associated with Verner’s Pride, though all the sons deny it. The autopsy reveals that Rachel was pregnant. John leaves for Australia to make his fortune, and Lionel leaves for Paris to care for his injured brother, Janus (“Jan”), who is training to be a physician. During Lionel’s absence, Stephen learns something about Lionel that angers him. Two years pass. Lionel’s mother, Lady Verner, lives with Lionel’s sister and a young ward, Lucy Tempest. News from Australia reports that John struck rich but was murdered for his money. Lionel is in love with Dr. West’s vain, selfish daughter, Sibylla; but she is in love with Frederick. Sick and nearing death, Stephen decides to amend his will to pass over Lionel, leaving Verner’s Pride to John, Frederick, and then Lionel. Dr. West learns of the altered will and urges Sibylla to marry Frederick, knowing that he will inherit Verner’s Pride. Sibylla breaks Lionel’s heart by marrying Frederick, and the newly weds immediately leave for Australia to claim John’s fortune. Lionel and Lucy fall in love. On his deathbed Stephen repents of his decision to pass over Lionel and makes a codicil to his will that reinstates Lionel’s inheritance. Only a few people are aware of the codicil’s existence. Stephen dies, but the codicil has disappeared, to everyone’s surprise. Frederick inherits Verner’s Pride. Dr. West suddenly leaves town. Just as Lionel is leaving for London, news of Frederick’s death in Australia is heard, making Lionel master again. Sibylla returns from Australia and Lionel is momentarily love-struck and proposes to her, but he immediately regrets the act, knowing that he loves Lucy and not Sibylla. The marriage is a poor one: Sibylla is selfish and extravagant; Lionel loves Lucy but is bound by duty to Sibylla. Time passes, but mysterious things begin to happen around town. A number of people claim to see the ghost of Frederick wandering at night. Lionel and others begin to think that Frederick is alive and hiding for an unknown reason. Jan catches the mysterious figure who turns out to be John, not Frederick. The report of John’s dead in Australia had been incorrect. John returned to England when he heard about Stephen’s will. Until he could be sure of his inheritance, he remained hidden to avoid creditors. For fun, he dressed up like his dead brother Frederick to scare the town. John takes over Verner’s Pride. Lionel and Sibylla move in with Lady Verner. John is an idle landowner and hires Lionel to run the estate. Sibylla is distraught about losing her wealth and privilege, and her health declines. In a fit of rage, she bursts a blood vessel, leaving her very weak. She refuses to follow Jan’s instructions and insists on attending a ball, despite her very weakened state. She shows up looking like a “corpse” and dances until she bursts another blood vessel and collapses. She never recovers. Jan’s assistant, during a chemical experiment, accidently creates an explosion in Dr. West’s old office that discovers the missing codicil. Dr. West had stolen the document in order to secure Verner’s Pride for Frederick and Sibylla and hidden it in his bureau. It comes to light that Frederick was the unknown man with Rachel Frost, who committed suicide after he broke off their relationship to marry Sibylla. John returns to Australia. Lionel is restored to Verner’s Pride and marries Lucy. (SCT)
References: BL; EC
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