`Not till then did he understand his own feelings, and recognize her as the being he had dreamt of ...Sternly as he was wont to treat his impulses, he did not look on his affection as an earthborn fancy, liable to draw him from higher things, and therefore to be combated; he deemed her rather a guide and guard whose love might arm him, soothe him and encourage him ...' First published in 1853, The Heir of Redclyffe was the foundation of Charlotte Yonge's fame and the most successful novel of the century, surpassing even the work of Dickens and Thackeray in popularity. Its themes characterize the early-Victorian mood of romantic virtue, self-sacrifice and piety, epitomizing the period's nostalgia for an idealized chivalric past. Young baronet Sir Guy Morville fights to overcome his faults and the ancestral curse on his house, his spiritual journey combined with courtship of his guardian's daughter Amabel, and feuding with his worldly, priggish cousin Philip. The reader's attention is rapt to the end as Guy struggles to resist temptations to give way to his violent temper, provocation following provocation, until the final, dramatic vindication of his character.
Adopted by William Morris and Burne-Jones `as a pattern for actual life', Guy was a popular role model of chivalric heroism, while Amabel is the ideal Victorian wife, mother and widow, redeemer and inspirer, support and guide. The Heir of Redclyffe is a virtual paradigm of the trends of thought which marked the middle decades of the nineteenth century, and is deeply marked by the influence of the Oxford Movement. Barbara Dennis's illuminating introduction examines the novel's relationship to religious controversy and representation of women in the context of its age. This book is intended for courses in Victorian studies and the novel; nineteenth-century fiction; women's studies.show more