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A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

Title: St. Olave's

Author and Title: Eliza Tabor Stephenson. St. Olave's

First Edition: London: Hurst and Blackett, 1863. 3 volumes, post 8vo, 31s 6d.

Summary: David and Janet Bruce are poor Scottish siblings living in the English cathedral town of St. Olave's, an "ancient little city" with a corresponding class-conscious society. He is the organist at the cathedral and a composer of religious music—his current work in progress is an oratorio based on Jael. David falls in love with Alice Grey, the orphan niece of the wealthy Mrs. Amiel Grey, the widow of the former dean. Her sunny disposition contrasts greatly with the dour Scotsman but she greatly appreciates his musical abilities. His poverty prevents him from professing his love. Meantime, Janet answers an advertisement of a woman looking for a quiet residence and soon after the mysterious Mrs. Edenall arrives to board with them. An minor cart accident after a picnic introduces the handsome Cuthbert Scrymgeour, the nephew of the snobbish Mrs. Scrymgeour, the relict of the former archdeacon. Straight from university, he has ambitions, through his connections, of attaining a high position in the church. Prodded by his aunt, Cuthbert woos Alice for her impending fortune. David takes his completed oratorio to London where it becomes a musical sensation and makes his fortune. Meantime back in St. Olave's, Cuthbert proposes to Alice and she tacitly accepts; however the marriage is delayed by the final illness of her aunt after a stroke. During the fall music festival in the city, Mrs. Edenall sees Douglas Ramsay at a performance but he leaves town before she can confront him. David, hearing of Alice's impending marriage, takes his oratorio to Germany. Alice's aunt dies without a will, so the lawyers recall a relation, Captain Clay, from India to settle the estate. A fatal accident brings the dying Douglas Ramsay to the Bruce house: his story finally comes out. As a rich young man, he jilted the poor Janet and seduced Mrs. Edenall (whose real name is Marian Brandon) driving her mad and leaving her with a child. His death deranges her mind again and she commits suicide. Days before Alice's marriage, Captain Clay arrives with surprising news: Alice is no blood relation to Mrs. Grey and hence inherits nothing. A letter among her aunt's papers clears Alice's history: she is the daughter of Ramsay and Marian, raised in ignorance of her birth by Mrs. Grey. Cuthbert calls off the marriage. Alice lives in poverty for a time before the now famous David returns to marry her. (TJB)

References: BL: EC