The Making of a Marchioness

makingmarchionessFrances Hodgson Burnett is most well known for her beloved children’s classics The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. That she also wrote adult fiction is less well known.

So I confess that I was surprised when I saw that Persephone Books had reprinted an adult novel by Burnett called The Making of a Marchioness.

The novel was written in two parts and the first part is a sweet, captivating story of Emily Fox-Seton, a young woman living in poverty since her parents died, running errands for the rich, the kind of uncomplaining and correct young woman who does not expect more for herself. Then she is invited by a wealthy woman who keeps Emily in her employ to a weekend in the country. Emily assists her patroness with a large community fair and her self-sacrifice, hearty stature and evident pleasure in life catches the attention of Lord Walderhurst, an eligible bachelor who has been avoiding marriage since his first wife died.

The second part of the book is an examination of Victorian marriage and also involves some nail-biting suspense. Emily is left behind when her husband travels to India, and is unwittingly ensnared in a plot by her husband’s would-be heir-apparent.

The Making of a Marchioness is a good read. It does suffer from the prejudices of its day. And Emily is described over-much as being kind-hearted yet lacking in cleverness. Marghanita Laski, author of Little Boy Lost, was so right when she said called the book a “fairy story diluted with unromantic realism.” Laski also said, “But she could never have supposed its realism to be as harsh as we now perceive it to be.” Right again. Burnett’s novel is well worth discovering and discussing.



About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

4 Comments on "The Making of a Marchioness"

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  1.' Mary Ellen Quinn says:

    Thanks for this, Misha. It brought back memories of many happy hours spent reading Frances Hodgson Burnett when I was a child. I’ll definitely seek out The Making of a Marchioness.

  2.' Jill says:

    This is one of my favorite Hodgson-Burnett titles. It’s a lovely book and, in my opinion, could provide fertile material for discussion.

  3.' Ann Nichols says:

    It must be another reprint that combines The Making of a Marchioness with its sequel, The Methods of Lady Walderhurst. (Ms. Laski’s introduction in my 1967 reprint called the sequel “poor” and said that it wasn’t published “here”. The copyright page states that it’s the United States edition, published by Stein and Day. Frankly, I wish Stein and Day had been thoughtful enough to add a footnote to the introduction to let readers know that they had included the sequel after all. Then I wouldn’t have assumed that my copy of The Methods of Lady Walderhurst would be a story that was new instead of most of what I’d just read.)

    Also, I’m glad that I saw some old, round bullets on TV. When I read that Captain Osborn had a “bullet-shaped head,” I wondered why Mrs. Burnett had created such a deformed character.

    I enjoyed the sequel, although not as much as I did part one.

  4.' Melanie says:

    Thanks for sharing. Just this week I ordered this title and am awaiting it’s delivery – can’t wait.

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