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.--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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.