The publication history of the novel
Jennifer Carnell

First edition, published as a three volume (three decker) by John and Robert Maxwell in 1883.

Yellowback edition published by John and Robert Maxwell circa 1884.

Reprint in a standard one volume edition published by John and Robert Maxwell circa 1884.

'The Golden Calf,' Athenaeum, 3 March 1883.

'The first two volumes of Miss Braddon's new book are as good as anything she has ever written. One can only be surprised at the extraordinary vivacity of her style, the invention she shows in her characters, and the charm which she puts into her descriptions of scenery. In the third volume the interest of the story flags. Every reader will see how it is to be ended, and all that is left is to observe with admiration the skill with which the practiced hand contrives to write a readable volume in working out the obvious conclusion. But there is a real defect in the third volume. The heroine, who is very attractive in the earlier part of the story, does not bear her trials in a pleasing manner. She becomes an exasperating young woman. Her position is bad enough, certainly; but that is a heroine's opportunity. She has been deceived into marrying a scamp who takes to drink; but instead of trying to cope with her misfortune she bears it with irritating resignation, relieved by occasional irreproachable reflections to and upon her husband, which would almost excuse him for being more of a brute than he is. It is not to be expected of one who writes so rapidly as Miss Braddon that she should fail to be guilty of inaccuracies. She talks of Winchester boys as Wykehamites instead of Wykehamists, though she accidentally uses the proper expression, as if to show that her slip is a mere bit of carelessness. She talks of a young barrister having no immediate prospect of briefs while he lives in Paris, after giving up his chambers in Verulam Buildings, as if there was the remotest chance of his getting briefs at either place. When she ventures to come still nearer the law she makes another mistake. She says, 'Sir Vernon had left no will. Everything went to the heir-at-law - pictures, plate, horses and carriages, and those wonderful cellars of old wine, & c.' As a fact, she is quite right as to the person to whom they went; but they went to him as next-of-kin, not as heir-at-law, of course. If she had only mentioned him by name, she would have avoided so obvious an error. She speaks of Miss Austin's novels - instead of Austen - of Addiscomb and Boscomb, and a place which is first called Wendover Abbey as Kingthorpe Abbey. On the other hand, the book is full of smart sayings, of which the following is not a bad example: 'Euthanasia, to Fanny Palliser's mind, meant a death which relieves the family of the deceased from the burden of a long illness.' (Please note that synopses and transcripts of reviews and articles were originally made for personal 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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