Title Information At the Circulating Library
Author and Title: Frederick William Robinson. Slaves of the Ring: or, Before and After
First Edition: London: Hurst and Blackett, 1862. 3 volumes, post 8vo., 31s. 6d.
Summary: The novel is told from the point of view of Alfred Neider, a gentleman left only a Cumberland farm as inheritance from his father. Neider comes to Matthew Genny's Follingay farm to learn the science of farming where he joins two other students, Nicholas Thirsk and William Grey. Whereas Neider and Grey earnestly take to farming, Thirsk acts indifferently towards Genny's instruction. Neider soon learns that Thirsk has come to the farm in order to plan an elopement with Agatha Freemantle, an heiress of £60,000 and sister of a neighboring landowner Sir Richard Freemantle. Earlier, Thirsk has developed an unexplained hatred for the baronet and sees his sister as the solution to his money problems. Meantime, Neider has fallen in love with Genny's niece Harriet who acts as his housekeeper and Grey is smitten by another niece Mercy Ricksworth who is the daughter of a drunken and dissolute father Peter. Mercy has turned down Grey's proposal to save him from the embarrassment of her father. With the help of Mercy, Thirsk elopes with Agatha at the Tramlingford Races and the two live in London to await Agatha's coming of age. Harriet, anticipating Neider's imminent proposal, confesses she has promised herself to another man, her cousin Robert Genny years earlier. Robert, a hack journalist and novelist, stays at his uncle's farm and holds Harriet to her youthful promise. Both feel that marriage will steady his character and keep him from drinking and gambling. At the end of their tutelage and still bachelors, Neider and Grey go in on a farm together outside London. All of Thirsk's hopes come to nothing when the bank holding his wife's money smashes on her twenty-first birthday. Left with just enough to pay his debts, a bitter Thirsk blames Sir Richard for his troubles and turns to journalism to support his wife and son. (The bank failure also causes Genny to lose his farm and he comes to work for Neider and Grey.) Peter Ricksworth, spurred on by the promise of £1000, attempts to kill Sir Richard—instead, he kills his daughter and severely injures Thirsk's son. A chastened Thirsk reconciles with Sir Richard and turns over a new leaf. Robert Genny, his talent wasted, drinks himself to death. Two years later, Neider and Harriet marry. The title refers to the three women characters—Agatha, Harriet, and Mercy—who patiently endure much suffering from the men in their lives.
References: BL; EC