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At the Circulating Library

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

Title: The Woman Who Did

Author and Title: Grant Allen. The Woman Who Did

First Edition: London: John Lane, 1895. 1 volume, post 8vo., 3s. 6d. net.

Summary: Volume 8 in the Keynotes series. One of the most popular New Woman novels. Herminia Barton is a "very free and advanced" young woman, a former student at Girton and daughter of a dean. She meets the like-minded Alan Merrick, the son of a rich doctor. They take to meeting frequently and fall in love. Alan proposes marriage, but Herminia refuses: she argues that marriage is legal slavery and against her notions of freedom. She offers Alan a free-love union, which he accepts after agonizing over its implications for Herminia's social standing. As a result of their relationship, Herminia becomes pregnant and she again refuses Alan's offer of marriage. The couple travel to Italy where a daughter, Dolores, is born. Shortly afterwards, Alan catches typhoid and dies without marrying Herminia or writing his will. Dr. Merrick arrives and refuses to help Herminia since it is "her own doing." Herminia returns to London and works as a novelist and journalist (she even writes a New Woman novel) to support herself and her daughter. Years pass. Herminia becomes friends with Harvey Kynaston, a politician and Fabian Society member. He proposes to her, but he refuses to accept her conditions of a free-love union (due to his political ambitions). Dolores grows up with conventional ideas despite Herminia's pains as to her education. While visiting a classmate's grand house, Dolores falls in love with Walter Brydges. Dolores's birth becomes an obstacle—she confronts her mother who confesses her illegitimate birth. Outraged, Dolores angrily denounces her mother and flees to her grandfather's house. He takes her in with the condition that she have nothing to do with her mother. In despair, Herminia commits suicide. Dolores marries Walter. (TJB)

Title Tags:

References: BL; EC; Sutherland; Wolff


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