HOSTAGES TO FORTUNE (1875)
BY
MARY ELIZABETH BRADDON
The Publication History of the Novel
By
Jennifer Carnell

Yellowback edition published by Ward, Lock, and Tyler circa 1875.
The three volume edition was published in the same year.

Reprint published by Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co. circa 1904.

'Hostages to Fortune,' Saturday Review, vol. XL, 2 October 1875.

[Review begins with a long passage about how forgettable the plots of Braddon's novels are …] Weak then, though our recollections are of Miss Braddon's previous stories, they are nevertheless strong enough for us to say that we have been affected by reading the story before us in exactly the same way as we were affected when we read each of the others. We have read it with great effort, and with great dislike, and we closed the third volume with a decided feeling of relief.

Still, if we are not mistaken, and are not confusing Miss Braddon with other writers of her class, there is a very unusual absence of murderers in this her latest story [...] As Miss Braddon really does manage to get through these three volumes without murdering anyone […] To this result we should be pleased to think that our past criticisms had in any way contributed […] She is not, however, so grateful for criticism as we could have hoped; if that is to say, her novelist hero, in his repeated attacks on the reviews his books receive, at all expresses her sentiments. There is one paper, the Censor, which would seem to have given him great offence by innocently advising him to keep a dictionary by him as he wrote. That Miss Braddon herself needs the occasional service of a dictionary we will not be so rude as to assert. […goes on to say Johnson would be of use to the reader…] Perhaps, however, they might with some reason object that, if they were to succeed in understanding every strange word, they would as much spoil their own enjoyment as a child does who has peeped behind the curtain of a puppet-show. […continues at great length about words and phrases, while saying very little about the book itself…] Her hero, as we have said, is a novelist - a highly popular novelist who easily makes his two thousand a year […] The hero becomes reformed, and retires to a cottage in Wales. Unfortunately he still goes on writing novels, and brings out one that is more popular than anything he has ever written before. For such reformation as this we have not, we confess, the slightest sympathy. He should have gathered all his novels together, published or unpublished, and while his wife, 'the descendant of Cimbri, as she is called, stood by him and encouraged him, should have lighted them up at nightfall and illuminated 'the Cambrian cataract' that was close to their home. (Please note that transcripts were originally made as notes for research use by Jennifer Carnell, and that anyone wanting to quote them in their own work is advised to consult the original for complete accuracy.)

The Literary Lives of Mary Elizabeth Braddon by Jennifer Carnell (Biography)


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