Title: Wild Wood
Author and Title: Helen Dickens. Wild Wood: A Novel
First Edition: London: T. C. Newby, 1872. 3 volumes.
Summary: The novel follows the lives of the Drever children, eight in number, four of whom are denoted "Benton-Drevers" after their weak-willed mother (nee Benton) and four of whom are true Drevers after their more stalwart father. Of the latter class, the elder son and heir Durill is a successful engineer; another son Julius is a successful solicitor in London; the elder daughter Judith remains a spinster after a heartbreak in her youth; and the youngest May serves as Durill's right hand in managing their father's estate Wild Wood. Of the "Benton-Drevers," the second son Gilbert has made an unfortunate marriage to a low woman. Debt-ridden, without a profession, and cut off by his father, he sends his two children Ivo and Evelyn to live at the estate where they become the favorites of Durill and May. (In a heart-rending scene later in the novel, Evelyn dies from internal injuries after a fall.) Minnie has married the local doctor, Mark Calvert, and neglects both her husband and children. The unmarried Lois is vain and a flirt. The youngest son Crispin has racked up debts at university. The plot centers on the mysterious behavior of Judith concerning a heirloom necklace in her possession, the strange letters send to Julius from a Jewish moneylender (who is depicted in a thoroughly anti-semetic way), and the will of their father gone missing after his death. Crispin has forged his brother Julius's name to a loan (hence the letters); to cover his crime, Durill and Julius pay off the loan and ship Crispin off to Australia. Judith has given the necklace to Gilbert in a misguided attempt to help him financially. Knowing that he is cut out of his father's will, Gilbert steals the papers and after his father's death attempts to shoot Durill. However, in attempting to escape, Gilbert suffers a serious fall and dies. The novel ends with Durill marrying Mark's sister Rose and May marrying their neighbor Captain Hardwick. (TJB)