by Mary Martha Sherwood
Mrs. Sherwood was a prolific and fervent author of didactic and moral tales for children and young women, in which their own innate sinfulness is emphasised, as well as the dire consequences which will befall them if they slip from the path of rigorous Christian virtue. Her books were extremely popular (among well-meaning adults) as Sunday school prizes and Sunday reading in God-fearing households. The lady of the manor was written and appeared (in five volumes) between 1825 and 1829.
It should be noted that some of the stories contain Mrs. Sherwood's personal opinion of various cultures, reflecting viewpoints of the time that would not be acceptable in today's society.
A sample chapter from Volume 1 of The lady of the manor is available on this website.
The full text of the following can also be read online or downloaded free of charge:
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Mrs. Sherwood intended The lady of the manor "for the use of the middle and higher ranks of young females." Its length, density and extreme Evangelical didacticism would certainly have made it a challenging read, although several of the individual stories contained in it, used to illustrate the Ten Commandments, phrases from the Catechism, and the Lord's Prayer, might well have been enjoyed in their own right.
The stories (subtitles include Dominion of envy, Growth of hatred, The will controlled, On the pomps and vanities of this wicked world) emphasise the natural inclination of mankind to sin, and the ease with which minor faults lead to a downward spiral to degradation and, usually, a miserable death. Mrs. Sherwood's anti-Catholic fervour is also very evident.
And here I cannot but remark, how amazing has been the skill and cunning of Satan, in first raising up, and then upholding the Roman Catholic system, that unparalleled system of delusion, by which the progress of Christianity has been strangely retarded for nearly two thousand years!
Mrs. Sherwood spent the first twelve years of her married life in India, and uses her own personal experience in the story of Clara Lushington (Volume 3, chapter 21), producing a fascinating picture of Anglo-Indian life in the early nineteenth century. In Mrs. Sherwood's view, India is not the only exotic and benighted continent, though, and Catholic Europe is castigated in her introduction to La morgue.
In this story, the horrible effects of infidel principles, and a departure from God, are pointed out in a manner particularly striking; the narrative being composed of facts, and describing scenes which are replete with inconceivable horror, but many of which must be acknowledged to be too descriptive of real life by those who have lately visited the countries in which these events are said to have taken place.
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