by Dinah Craik
Published in 1853, Agatha's husband was Mrs. Craik's fourth full-length novel in five years. It is shorter and less complex than some of her other works, dealing as it does with a single crisis in one woman's life, and with the theme of the lack of communication between husband and wife. The book was not popular with reviewers, who found Nathanael's reticence absurd, and criticized Craik on moral grounds because the dishonest Frederick remains unpunished.
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After an auspicious start to their romance, when Nathanael rescues little James from a bear, distrust, hurt pride and insecurity lead both Nathanael and Agatha to behave unreasonably. Their story is paralleled by that from an earlier generation, that of Brian Harper and Anne Valery. Anne is held up as a role model for Agatha, advising her to trust and obey her husband without question.
"We women," she continued softly, "the very best and wisest of us, cannot enter thoroughly into the nature of the man we love. We can only love him. That is, when we once believe him worthy of affection. Firmly knowing that, we must bear with all the rest; and where we do not quite understand, we must, as I said, have faith in him. I have heard of some women whose faith has lasted all their life."
Agatha's own doubts and self-questionings about love are sensitively described, as is the uneasy and unhappy relationship with Nathanael after their marriage.
"We are both punished, Agatha; I for the selfishness of my love towards you, and you--Alas! how can I make you happier, poor child?" Her tears fell still, but less with anger than emotion. "I know now, we ought never to have been married. Yet, since we are married--"
"Ay, since we are married, let us try to be good to one another, and bear with one another. I will!"
She kissed his hand, which held up her drooping head, and Nathanael pressed his lips on her forehead. So outward peace was made between them; but in sadness and in fear, like a compact sealed tremblingly over a newly-closed grave.
Page created 27 November 2002 and last
updated 27 November 2002
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