Title Information At the Circulating Library
Author and Title: Mrs. Pemberton. The World's Furniture: A Novel
First Edition: London: Skeet, 1861. 3 volumes, post 8vo., 31s. 6d.
Summary: The novel opens in Calais where George Chichester arrives with his family: wife Rose, sons Arthur and Frank, and daughter Hilda. George, a poor clergyman, had married Rose Fordyce, the daughter of a wealthy Scotch baronet, against her family's wishes. Lacking a position, Chichester has moved his family to France to work as the town's chaplain. Though poor, the family is happy until George contracts consumption and wastes away. The now widow contacts her estranged brother, Sir William Fordyce, to ask his assistance in her time of need. Sir William in the meantime has married a wealthy widow with a mean-spirited daughter (Mrs. Matilda Phillips) and settled on the family estate of Burwood. The brother and sister-in-law come to Calais: he grants his sister a stipend, helps move the family to England, and assists the sons in their schooling. Lady Fordyce, however, takes an interest in impish Hilda and asks to keep the girl with her at Burwood. Rose agrees, thinking it best for Hilda's prospects, but Matilda resents the adoption. Years pass. Hilda grows up honest yet willful, loved and indulged by her aunt and uncle. A beautiful young woman, she attracts the attention of Walter Wentworth, a penniless barrister at a family party. Meantime, distant relations of Sir William—Mr. and Mrs. Graham and their son David—arrive at Burwood for a visit before the London season. Mrs. Graham has designs on wedding her son to Hilda, a match she finds socially and economically beneficial. For his part, David is reluctant to marry, but his mother browbeats him into considering it. Mrs. Graham convinces Lady Fordyce who agrees to the merits of the match but she stipulates that the engagement not be announced until after the London season and Hilda's debut. Hilda, in deference to her aunt, agrees to the plan. During the time in London, Hilda and Walter fall in love—though, as he acknowledges, his ardour is much less than hers and his position does not lend itself to marriage. Also, whatever regard David and Hilda had for each other melts into cold disregard: Hilda because of her love for Walter and David because of his selfishness. Hilda, for her part, attempts numerous times to tell her aunt of her changed feelings but never does. Events come to a climax when Walter professes his love for Hilda at a ball. A few days later, Lady Fordyce suffers a fatal crash. On her deathbed, she insists Hilda marry David for her own future security. Hilda initially refuses, works to call off the marriage, and suffers greatly, but her guilt over her dying aunt's request and Walter's abandonment leads her to accept the marriage. Brokenhearted, three months after the marriage Hilda herself dies.