by Rhoda Broughton
Miss Jocelyn has never been in love, and, for a person who has depicted with such sultry force the amatory emotions of her Odo and Elfrida, has curiously little acquaintance with the tender passion.
Emma Jocelyn lives with her aunt, Mrs. Chantry, at Chantry Castle and has kept from her the fact that she has written a novel under the bland nom de plume of "A beginner". When a parcel of printed copies arrives, Mrs. Chantry discovers Emma's secret and insists on reading a copy. First impressions are not favourable, however, leading to a very critical discussion over breakfast the following morning:-
"Out of whose paint-box...you got the colours with which you paint these headlong passions, I am at a loss to conjecture; for I am bound to say that there is a certain vividness about them. They do not read like second-hand!"
Lesbia Heathcote, Emma's second cousin, has advanced her a sum of money to enable the first printing and is an immediate champion of the work. She stays up all night to finish it and declares that it is the most delightful book she has ever read, and that it is "desperately improper".
Emma is introduced to a much respected author, Mr. Edgar Hatcheson, and she finds his company very congenial. They converse at length and on several occasions around their mutual interest in literature and specifically on his book of essays without Emma betraying her secret.
The first reviews appear and Emma is delighted to read:-
"We congratulate the anonymous author of 'Miching Mallecho' on having produced a work which must place him high ...among the ranks of contemporary novelists. By his masterly analysis of character, and his scientific treatment of the philosophy of life, he reminds us at every page of the method and manner of George Eliot."
In other reviews the author is compared favourably with great names, such as Emily Bronte and Loyola, but her aunt points out that the pieces appeared in such journals entitled "The Pudbury Post", "The Mudshire Independent" and "The Little Didlington Advertiser", hardly carrying authority or influence. Emma later discovers her aunt pasting all the favourable cuttings in a book (although Mrs. Chantry says she is keeping all the unfavourable ones for a much larger volume!). A scathing review in "The Porch", an influential journal, leaves Emma dejected and sales drop off completely, according to her publisher. All her fury is secretly directed towards Miss Garmstone, who she meets through Edgar. She is the niece of the editor and Emma presumes she has written the critical piece.
Edgar Hatcheson prospers, is offered the editorship of "The Porch" when Mr. Garmstone dies and has a second volume of essays published, which he dedicates to Emma. But what decides Emma between possible matrimony with Edgar or with the easy-going Mr. Greville, who has long been thought to be her intended?
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