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A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

Title: Folly Morrison

Author and Title: Frank Barrett. Folly Morrison: A Novel

First Edition: London: Bentley, 1881. 3 volumes, cr. 8vo., 31s 6d.


Summary: The novel begins with the history of John Morrison: born in a workhouse, by his teens he labored on Marsh's farm in Surrey. In order to keep his superior employee close, Marsh throws John in the way of his maid Joan. John and Joan marry and have eleven children, all while still living on thirteen shillings a week. Suffering grinding poverty, John picks up a dead hare in the road (placed there as a trap by the squire's gamekeeper who has a personal animosity against John) and he is sent to prison for three months for poaching by Sir Andrew Aveling. Joan, in despair and nine-months pregnant, attempts to walk to town to see her husband. She collapses in the road: found by a carter, she is taken to the Chertsey workhouse where she gives birth to Florence ("Folly") and dies anonymously. John returns from prison to find his wife gone and his children dispersed, so he heads to London for work. Meantime, Folly spends her early years in the workhouse before being adopted by a retired dancer Tom Fernandez and his wife. Through them, Folly learns to dance and perform. At eighteen, after the deaths of her adopted parents, Folly moves to London where she quickly becomes a popular success as a dancer. The novel then introduces the Vicar of St. Barnabas Richard Vane, his sister Margaret ("Madge"), and Roland Aveling, the son of Sir Andrew. Roland proposes to Madge, but Sir Andrew is against the match due to his class prejudice against his vicar and his sister. He convinces and funds Roland to spend a year in London seeing the world hoping his son will forget about Madge. While there, Roland comes under the thrall of Folly who he showers with gifts and attention. Soon after, Folly meets her father, now a broken-down alcoholic, and she takes him in. While caring for her father, she hears about her past and formulates a hatred for Sir Andrew. Based on the morality of "an eye for an eye," she plans to entrap an unsuspecting Roland into marriage in order to revenge her family. Prompted by Vane, Roland breaks off with Madge and does marry Folly. On the day of the marriage, she confesses to Roland and Sir Andrew and presents her bed-ridden father to them. A greatly chastened Sir Andrew offers Folly and her father compensation which she refuses. Vane, who has given up his living and moved to the slums of London due to his republican sympathies, councils Folly to see the error of her actions and helps her through the difficult death of her father. Folly develops a hopeless and secret love for the honorable clergyman. After her father's death, Folly moves to Paris where she is not the performer she once was. Meantime, Madge, who assists her brother in the slums, engages herself to the older French painter Amadis Garnier, a friend of Sir Andrew. After the disaster of the Franco-Prussian war and the siege of Paris (where Folly is trapped), Vane and Madge go to Paris to assist the new republic. Vane dies fighting on behalf of the commune. Garnier is revealed a double-dealing spy. Folly's last action is to shoot Garnier to save Vane's sister and Folly dies hugging the dead body of Vane. (TJB)

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References: Bodleian; BL; EC