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A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

Title: Three Hundred a Year

Author and Title: Julie Bosville Chetwynd. Three Hundred a Year: A Novel

First Edition: London: Tinsley Brothers, 1866. 2 volumes.

Summary: Bertha Haughton, the motherless daughter of Sir Clement, was raised by her governess Mary Thurston until her father's death when she lived with her uncle Sir Luke Haughton. At twenty three, over her uncle's and Mary's objections, she marries the kind-hearted but relatively poor Frank Herbert: together his small income of £300 per year in addition to Bertha's £400 per year should afford a comfortable life without the luxuries to which Bertha has been accustomed. In fact, Bertha and Frank romanticize their future of genteel poverty. After the wedding and honeymoon, they set up a small household in the suburbs where Bertha struggles with household economy and Frank invests in expensive furniture. They might have struggled on indefinitely if not for the crash of Bertha's maternal uncle's business (due to bad investments and possibly fraud) and with it the loss of her small fortune. Left with only £300 per year and a new baby boy, the couple move to the country where Bertha hides her discomfort from her husband whom she still loves. The local neighbors, the rector Doall and his family, are comically vulgar. To make some much needed money, Frank undertakes a business trip to China leaving his pregnant wife and son behind. While Frank is gone, Bertha gives birth to a daughter, Alice. When Frank returns, the family moves to Germany where Frank has accepted a job managing mines from a German businessman he met on the boat coming home. The life in Germany runs smoothly: the mine owner, Madame La Princesse de Sauerlich, is friendly; the local doctor Knoblauch befriends them; Mary accompanies them; and Frank is successful in managing the mine. The former governess Mary marries the doctor. A few years later a fever strikes the town and Bertha and her son both die. Frank, now a widower, and his fifteen-year old daughter return to lodgings in London. After two years, thinking his daughter needs a mother, Frank is drawn into a marriage with the parsimonious Bessie Graves, the status-conscious orphan niece of the wealthy retired businessman Mr. Clott. Once again, Frank marries on limited means which his second wife resents and he comes to regret. While taking Alice to London, Frank falls ill and the doctor recommends German baths. The two get as far as Antwerp before Frank becomes bedridden. They are joined there by the Knoblauchs and Bessie and meet Mr. Cecil Champney, a seemingly poor gentleman and distant cousin, who assists the family. Alice becomes an heiress when Mr. Clott dies and leaves the bulk of his £40,000 fortune to Alice; she becomes an orphan when her father dies shortly afterwards. Champney proposes to Alice but she refuses him due to a misunderstanding of his motives on her part. Back in London society, Alice eventually becomes reconciled to Champney and they marry. At the end, he inherits the baronetcy from her uncle. (TJB)

References: BL