The Publication History of the Novel
Jennifer Carnell

First edition published by Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co. in 1898.

Yellowback edition of Rough Justice, published by Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co. in 1899.

'Rough Justice,' Athenaeum, 19 February 1898.

'The character of Greswold, the 'philanthropist,' drawn out at somewhat excessive length by Miss Braddon, is yet remarkable. There is originality in the conception of an intellectually able man, ambitious to excess, but genuinely enthusiastic for redeeming the balance on happiness among his fellow-creatures, deliberately slaying one of those fellow-creatures, a meek and harmless woman, whose only offence was standing between him and the fortune on which his schemes depend. On that fortune also depends his marriage with the girl he loves: a motive of hardly less cogency. As he says in his confession:

"Under the belief that I was justified in suppressing a useless life, which blocked my way to a career of benevolence and usefulness, and in the interests of the many against the few,"

he commits a deliberate and cruel murder. Fully to realize such a character demands more skill than Miss Braddon possesses, but she has succeeded fairly. Greswold, the hard atheist, mixing with the Evangelical and other religionists in the camp of social reform, and pursuing his aims with relentless consistency by means that would strike his conventional friends speechless with horror, is a grim, but not impossible, figure. Next to him his grandfather, the old miser and money-lender, to whose treatment of the boy may be traced many of the perverted characteristics of the man, may be held the most complete and detailed portrait. The young and prosperous women, maids and brides, are charming in their different ways. In sad contrast stands the ill-starred Lisa Raynham, or Lilian Carford, who gives up her womanhood to a man she has rescued from suicide, and after going through the extremity of suffering with him, is deserted when Arnold Wentworth returns from the goldfields, once more a wealthy man. She is parting in misery from her only lover when she is struck down by the fellow Greswold. It will be seen that the element of tragedy prevails in Miss Braddon's newest work; but there are passages to relieve the gloom, and the minor parts are filled with the adroitness with which we have been long familiar. The 'rough justice' which leaves the two betrayers of Lilian Carford to their conscience, after Arnold has extorted from Greswold the confession necessary to clear himself with innocent Mary Freeland, is not the worst example of the writer's knowledge of humanity. But if a man had written the book, we think he would not have shown so much sympathy with the less guilty of the two. The doings of Faunce, the detective, are as well managed as can be expected.'

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'Rough Justice,' Spectator, 26 February 1898.

'[…] she has reverted in her latest venture to villains, murder and mystery […] In the end, thanks to the indefatigable exertions of Mr. Faunce, a highly accomplished detective, the guilt is brought home to Greswold; but Wentworth is content with a signed confession […] Greswold is accordingly spared to continue his philanthropic labours […]

[…] Rough Justice is not an agreeable story; but in point of construction, narrative ability, and animation of dialogue, it shows no falling off from the author's previous efforts. One point is to be noted, in conclusion, as characteristic of Miss Braddon, and no doubt as contributing to her popularity. Although she has been writing novels for forty years, or thereabouts, she has never failed to adapt her standpoint to that of the moment at which she happens to be writing. The latest fads, fashions, and foibles are all alluded to in Rough Justice.' (Please note that transcripts were originally made as research notes 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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