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At the Circulating Library

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

Title: Dragons' Teeth

Author and Title: Rev. James Pycroft. Dragons' Teeth

First Edition: London: L. Booth, 1863. 2 volumes, post 8vo., 21s.

Summary: In his preface, Pycroft calls his tale a "literary Mosaic tesselated with Facts." The novel focuses on the twin sons of Thomas Walford, a retired businessman who buys a country house then marries. Thomas dies shortly after, leaving a pregnant widow to raise the twins Edward (Ned) and Nathaniel (Nat). Ned, destined to inherit the estate, grows up pampered and indulged, attends a lax tutor for his education, and enrolls in Oxford after cramming with the dubious Tom Snipe. Meantime, Nat attends Eton, receives a comprehensive education, becomes a gentleman, and goes into law to make his own way in the world. At Oxford, Ned runs with a fast set: enabled by his wealth and mentored by Snipe, he gambles, sports, drinks, and neglects his studies. This life culminates with Ned proposing to elope with a bar maid Alice—caught, Ned is rusticated and breaks off contact with Alice. A subplot focuses on the jilted Alice and her return to her sister Hannah, who works as a lady's companion for Mrs. Belmont. Freed of Alice, who he cold-heartedly pays fifty pounds, Ned throws himself in to a dissolute life resulting in an illegitimate child who lives in poverty. Snipe returns to help Ned pursue a rich heiress Miss Lindsay—her inheritance requires her husband to settle £10,000 on her, which Ned gladly does. After the marriage, Miss Lindsay reveals her true identity as Hannah, the now avenged sister of Alice. The marriage is passed off as a fraud and Ned returns to the country where he marries Lucy, the daughter of a neighbor. Years pass in rustic tranquillity, until Ned is called upon to sentence a murderer who turns out to be his own illegitimate child grown up a thief, and Hannah returns one last time to reveal Ned's crimes. A chastened Ned lives out the rest of his life reflecting on his folly. The twists of the plot give the author much space to moralize on the ramifications of a sinful life. (TJB)

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References: Bodleian; EC


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