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The Making of a Marchioness (Persephone Book) [Paperback]

Frances Hodgson Burnett
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Oct 2009 Persephone Book
Frances Hodgson Burnett published The Making of a Marchioness in 1901. She had written Little Lord Fauntleroy fifteen years before and would write The Secret Garden in ten years time; it is these two books for which she is best known. Yet Marchioness was one of Nancy Mitford's favourite books, was considered 'the best novel Mrs Hodgson Burnett wrote' by Marghanita Laski and is taught on a university course in America together with novels such as Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and Daisy Miller.

The first part, the original Marchioness, is a touching love story in the tradition of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and the second, called The Methods of Lady Walderhurst, is an absorbing melodrama. Whereas most novels end 'and they lived happily ever after', Part Two of this one, showing the sometimes unhappy 'after', is such a realistic commentary on late-Victorian marriage that Marghanita Laski also called it a 'cruel revelation of the nature of Edwardian high society'. Emily Fox-Seton, the heroine, 'a sort of Cinderella, a solid, kind, unselfish creature who arrives at a good fortune almost comic because it is in a sense so incongruous' (Frances Hodgson Burnett) is contrasted with Lady Agatha Slade, who has to marry well or be exiled to Ireland; and she is surrounded by people who do not wish her well because she has become a marchioness and may give birth to an heir. Unfortunately the second part of the book, the more melodramatic part, contains references to the ayah Ameerah which, although typical of the period, now seem politically uncorrect; however, as Isabel Raphael, writer of the Persephone Preface, points out, Emily dismisses these as ill-educated prejudice. Gretchen Gerzina, who is writing a new biography of Frances Hodgson Burnett and who has previously written about the Bloomsbury painter Carrington and about the black population of Britain in the eighteenth century, also points out in her Persephone Afterword, that - for better or worse - Frances Hodgson Burnett was very much part of her era and must be read with historical perspective.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Persephone Books Ltd (5 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906462127
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906462123
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 13.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 205,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Delightful...A sparky sense of humour combined with lively social commentary make this a joy to read.' -- The Bookseller August 2001 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett (1849 –1924) was an English playwright and author. She is best known for her children's stories, in particular The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, and Little Lord Fauntleroy. Born Frances Eliza Hodgson, she lived in Cheetham Hill, Manchester. After the death of her father the family was forced to sell their home, and suffered economic hardship. Until she was sixteen she lived in Salford, and when she was sixteen the family emigrated to Knoxville, Tennessee. There Burnett turned to writing to help earn money for the family, publishing stories in magazines by the time she was nineteen. In 1872 she married Swan Burnett. They lived in Paris for two years where their two sons were born, before returning to the United States to live in Washington D.C. There she began to write novels, the first of which That Lass o' Lowries, was published to good reviews. The publication of Little Lord Fauntleroy in 1886 made her a popular writer of children's fiction, although her romantic adult novels written in the 1890s were also popular. She wrote and helped to produce stage versions of Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Little Princess. Burnett enjoyed socializing and lived a lavish lifestyle. Beginning in the 1880s she began to travel to England frequently and bought a home there in the 1890s. Her oldest son, Lionel, died of tuberculosis in 1892, which caused a relapse of the depression she struggled with for much of her life. She divorced Swan Burnett in 1898 and remarried in 1900, although her second marriage only lasted for a year. At the end of her life she settled in Long Island, where she died in 1924. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sharp-edged romance 19 July 2006
I first read this story many years ago in an ancient Nelsons Classics edition with a nice woodcut at the front. I have reread it so often that the old book is falling apart, so I looked for a new copy and found to my surprise that what I had thought to be a private enthusiasm was widely shared-a great pleasure.

As many have said the story is melodramatic. Burnett was a more than competent writer and a marvellous observer of people and society. She makes her heroine frankly and explicitly stupid,but keeps our sympathy for her. (Incidently, contrary to what some reviewers state Emily Fox-Seton is handsome going on beautiful, as the woodcut illustrates.)

What makes the booke for me is her observation of society and people--from a middle-aged marquis to a lower-middle-class servant to a whole rural village. These are not saccharine portraits, but sharp and witty comments on the society of late 19th century Britain. You could write a useful social history of that time from this book.

The description of the plight of poor but genteel women before employment as other than servants was available is extremely touching. The disintegration of an aging aristocratic lady as she finds herself subject to ordinary human feelings for the first time for many years is very funny--and very moving.

Definitely a keeper!

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unlikely couple 13 Feb 2004
By Elaine Simpson-long TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
I first read this book in my teens and owned a very old out of print copy. To see that Persephone had reprinted it was a glorious surprise and I read it once more as an adult and found that my enjoyment was still the same. A more unlikely couple of lovers you could not meet - a dull, prosaic Marquis bored by being pursued by society women, and Miss Emily Fox-Seton, who cannot be described in any way as young or beautiful or even interesting. She is however a good woman, living by her own endeavours and in similar circumstances to Miss Pettigrew Lives for a day, another Persephone gem, in that she is facing a frightening future on her own. I adore all of Frances Hodgson Burnett's children's stories with their happy endings and alls well that ends well - yes, this is sentimental, yes it is Victorian, but it is delightful and each time I read it I am sorry that I have come to the end. The Indian ayah portrayed in this book is, of course, politically incorrect in today's climate, but the attitudes prevelant at the time must be borne in mind when reading in the 21st century. Some of the situations are contrived, but it is a lovely book and calling it a 'good read' though not an intellectual recommendation, sums it up beautifully.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emily and the marquis 1 Dec 2001
By Lynette Baines VINE VOICE
Emily Fox-Seton is a well-bred woman who makes a living as a general dogsbody for rich, upper-class people with less breeding and good taste than herself. The novel was originally published in two parts. The first part is quite short, almost a novella, and ends with Emily marrying a rather dull marquis after a country house party in which her qualities of good humour,good taste and sympathy are shown to best advantage. It reminded me of the fairytale qualities of last year's Persephone bestseller "Miss Pettigrew lives for a day". The second part, which explores Emily's life after her marriage, has a decidedly different tone-almost melodramatic. Emily's joy in her good fortune leads her to try to help her husband's cousin and heir, Alec Osborn. Osborn is the villain of the piece, and when the Marquis goes off to India for a long period, Alec begins to plot his revenge for being excluded from the succession to the estate. The plot includes mysterious accidents narrowly averted and Alec's wife's mysterious Indian ayah gliding around the estate looking sinister. The claustrophobic atmosphere of suspicion is beautifully conveyed. I enjoyed all this while thinking it was quite a contrast to the almost Edith Wharton-like observations of society life in Part 1. The ending is very moving, and thoroughly satisfying. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoyed Hodgson Burnett's fiction for children. It has the same unsentimental flavour that made the Secret Garden a classic.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Genteel spinster's fairytale .... 28 July 2008
I was really looking forward to reading this and saved it up for a long afternoon on the sofa with a cup of tea. But somehow, I was a teeny bit disappointed. I loved The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, but hadn't read any of the prolific Frances HB's work for adults as so much of it is out of print.
The book is very oddly-structured. The first part is a very charming fairytale, as well as a caustic comment on the plight of unmarried women in Victorian society. Emily is bowled over by gratitude and relief when she receives a proposal from a stodgy marquis who doesn't love her, because he has rescued her from a terrifying descent into middle-age as a distressed gentlewoman. But the second part, which is high Victorian melodrama, seems to have been tagged on as something of an afterthought. (The author admitted that she hadn't thought it through as a whole.) Though I suppose it is also a caustic comment on the plight of heirs presumptive whose great expectations (and those of their wives) can so cruelly be blighted!
I'm sure Frances HB had great fun writing it but it reads as though she knocked it off in something of a hurry!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Another good read
Just started reading this but very well written and takes you back to another era and way of living life
Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange tale but amazing read .
Loved the wonderful use of language which gave the story a depth and grandeur of its time. Great twist towards the end. could be regarded as heavy going as very detailed. Read more
Published 8 months ago by kittycat
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read..
I came across this book by chance , and it was a wonderful surprise, beautifully written and with an unexpected plot emerging part way through the book . Read more
Published 9 months ago by Jan
5.0 out of 5 stars a total surprise
An adult book by Hodgson Burnett. What was originally a contemporary romantic thriller is now a delightful and light historical romantic thriller
Published 11 months ago by Mrs. DS
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Read
Hands up if you thought Frances Hodgson-Burnett only wrote for children? I know I did until I came across this book recently. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Female Scriblerian
4.0 out of 5 stars great book
great book,very good value for money. Surprised I hadn't come accross it before. So glad it was recommended to me!
Published 16 months ago by sandra horner
4.0 out of 5 stars One for FHB fans
Had not known of this novel. Interesting read, not one of her best, plot is contrived, but good on the plight of penniless upper-class spinsters. Read more
Published 17 months ago by BatMam
4.0 out of 5 stars an inspirational novel
This novel provides a now old fashioned role model for young women as the heroine is a mixture of Austen's Fanny Price who always does the right thing as well as being trapped in a... Read more
Published 18 months ago by dodo wheeler
4.0 out of 5 stars Mini masterpiece for grown-ups.
I love this story, it is full of period detail, and the heroine is very quiet but complex nonetheless. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Margaret Graham
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
It is an interesting book in that it shows a good portrayal of life in the early 1900's in England. There is an underlying dark plot from the Asian sub-continent with a number of... Read more
Published 19 months ago by redrobo
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