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The Making of a Marchioness

by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Persephone book no:

28 29 30

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The Far Cry
A Well Full of Leaves
Regular price £14.00
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ISBN 781903155141

The Making of a Marchioness (1901) was one of Nancy Mitford's favourite books; in The Pursuit of Love, Linda puts a copy of it in the window of the Red bookshop, where she works, in place of Karl Marx: the Formative Years. Today, a number of US college courses teach it alongside Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. It is indeed a remarkably good read from this most beloved author of The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy and Persephone favourite The Shuttle

Like Miss Pettigrew in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, the heroine of The Making of a Marchioness 'is a sort of Cinderella,' wrote Frances Hodgson Burnett to her publisher, 'a solid, kind, unselfish creature who arrives at a good fortune almost comic because it is in a sense so incongruous.' Emily Fox-Seton never imagines her life will change: she is quite content living in a bedsitting room in Mortimer Street in Marylebone and supporting herself. ' "It is her fate to be a woman who is perfectly well born, and who is as penniless as a charwoman, and works like one. She is at the beck and call of any one who will give her an odd job to earn a meal with. That is one of the new ways women have found of making a living.' " She is contrasted with a society beauty, Lady Agatha Slade, who is also poor but can do nothing but wait for a husband. ' "She has had the advertising of the illustrated papers this season, and she has gone well. But she has not had any special offer, and I know she and her mother are a little frightened." '

Part I, the original Marchioness, was written in London in two weeks early in 1901 followed in the spring of the same year by Part II, The Methods of Lady Walderhurst. The sequel is an absorbing melodrama; most novels end 'and they lived happily ever after', but this one develops into a realistic commentary on late-Victorian marriage.

'Delightful... A sparky sense of humour combined with lively social commentary make this a joy to read' wrote the Bookseller. Kate Saunders told Open Book listeners that she was up until two in the morning finishing this 'wildly romantic tale whose hero and heroine are totally unromantic' (Daily Telegraph); the Guardian referred to 'a touch of Edith Wharton's stern unsentimentality'; the Spectator wrote about the novel's 'singular charm'; and the Daily Mail stressed the 'sharp observations in this charming tale.'

Also available as a Persephone Classic, a Persephone Audiobook and a Persephone e-book.


The endpaper fabric is a 1901 figured cotton called 'Tulips', which is simple, cheerful and graceful; Emily might have picked tulips at Mallowe Court.

Picture Caption

Rupert Bunny 'Portrait of the Artist's Wife', 1902

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Categories: Love Story Victoriana

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