Title: A Woman's Requital
Author and Title: Helen Dickens. A Woman's Requital: A Novel
First Edition: London: C. J. Skeet, 1881. 3 volumes, post 8vo, 31s 6d.
Summary: Grace Sharland, the narrator, is the daughter of Edwin Sharland, the second son of a nobleman, and Frances Earl, a public singer. Because of the unequal marriage, the Sharlands disown Edwin who is left to raise his daughter on his own after the death of his wife in childbirth. After Edwin's death, Grace is left a small inheritance and goes to live in a nearby town Up Holland with her former servants in a farmhouse. Taught music by her father, she teaches in Danver to support herself. Grace comes to know her landlord, William Lovering, a proud and taciturn man who works alongside his employees on his estate. The forty-year-old Lovering lives with his two elder spinster sisters, the twins Miriam and Naomi. Through visits, meetings in the fields, and parties at his house, the two fall in love. On a trip to Brighton, Lovering proposes and the two secretly marry in London. During their honeymoon at Box Hill, Grace discovers the name "Rose Russell" scratched into the window glass—the name inexplicably upsets Lovering. On her return to Up Holland, Lovering's sisters, ignorant of the marriage, warn Grace to not fall in love with their brother because he is already married. Confronted, Lovering confesses to a youthful marriage with a nurse-maid named Rose Russell who has subsequently run away. As a result of his confession, Grace flees to London where she supports herself as a musician and street singer. During one of her engagements at Lady Fane's country house, she meets a servant named Rachel Rock who reveals (while sleepwalking!) her actual identity at Rose Russell. Grace returns to London with this secret. A short time later, she learns of an inheritance of £15,000 from her father's family and the death of Rose Russell. Grace returns to Up Holland and discovers Lovering has gone mad due to the loss of Grace. In an affecting scene, she visits him in his Yorkshire asylum. Grace lives out the rest of her life alone. Reviewers noted a strong similarity with Brontë's Jane Eyre. (TJB)
References: BL; EC
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