Barnaby, Rina Ramsay (1910)

This is an everyday tale of fox hunting folk with a duplicitous marriage as the main part of the plot. Interestingly, the heroine is an American, although we never find that much out about her. Of course it's all totally preposterous, but great fun, I think probably because, unlike some similar novels I've read, the hero is actually likeable.

The rest of the post, contains a synopsis of the plot, and gives away the ending, but it's not intended to be a serious literary analysis.

Our heroine is found down on her luck somewhere in the middle of America, in the process of being abandoned by the travelling theatre company of which until now she has been a member. One member of the company takes pity on her and gives her some papers proving her marriage to some dead British guy. "You never know, there might be some money in it," she says.

"Oh no," says our heroine, "I could not do it, save my ass by telling a lie? Unthinkable!" She gets talked into it, which is just as well as otherwise there would be no story.

Cut to fox-hunting country in England where a family of local bigwigs are in mourning over the death of the son and heir who went racketing off to America several years previously. Enter our heroine, quivering with fear that she will get found out. (why are all these heroines such wimps?) But the dead guy's mother welcomes her with open arms. In fact the only person not happy to see her is the dead guy's very ex girlfriend whose jilting of him sent him off to America in the first place. (she's changed her mind and would rather like to have married him). Enter the dead guy's cousin, an unpleasant rakehelly type, ideal hero material in a Louise Gerard book, of whom more in a later post, but thankfully, not here.

But lo! Who is this at the front door? My God, it's the dead guy, not dead at all. Our heroine duly faints at the sight of him. He decides not to unmask her because of the effect this would have on his mother (who, somewhat conveniently one feels, has a weak heart) and he and the heroine agree to pretend that they are married meantime. Of course each is determined not to interfere with the other more than necessary. She naturally, falls desperately in love with him, but thinks that he is in love with his very ex girlfriend. He naturally, falls desperately in love with her, but thinks that she doesn't care a jot for him, and is at pains not to inflict himself on her so flirts with his very ex girlfriend to distract himself, which of course makes him look like a total philanderer.

His fox hunting friends are very concerned at this dastardly behaviour. Meanwhile his cousin (remember him?) works out that the two of them aren't married, and that he'd rather like to marry the girl himself. Our two not quite-lovers finally agree that they can't go on like this and our hero arranges a stratagem to recall our heroine to America, allowing her a graceful exit. But it all goes wrong, when he is horribly injured in a foxhunting accident. Our heroine nobly nurses him for an unspecified period of time, but flees, determined to escape the situation.

In London, it just so happens that the actress who is married to our hero has made good and is now a Big Star. Our heroine goes to see her, whereupon she hears the glad tidings that the actress was never really married to the hero at all, because she'd never got divorced from her previous marriage. The heroine drops the hero a postcard to let him know and books herself passage back to America.

The dastardly cousin follows her to London, and starts to bully her to marry him. She is on the point of capitulating, when enter our hero who has leapt off his sickbed and tracked her down. They fall into each other's arms, and exit the dastardly cousin, moustaches twirling. After that they all lived happily ever after until they were killed in the First World War four years later.

Utter tosh, but great fun.

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One response to “Barnaby, Rina Ramsay (1910)

  1. Denise Ramsay Porter

    This gothic novel was written by my Great Aunt (Grandpa’s sister on my Dad’s side). I’ve never read the book but would love to get ahold of a copy…

    Thanks for the publicity on behalf of Auntie Rina (I was named “Rena” after her…

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