Monthly Archives: December 2006

Lucy Clifford – Mrs WK Clifford

Another in my intermittent series of posts about authors.

Lucy Clifford (1846-1929) was an English author who wrote under the name Mrs WK Clifford, and was active in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth. As well as being a novelist and dramatist she was a great literary correspondent, conducting voluminous exchanges of letters with among others Henry James. She had a wide circle of literary friends including Rudyard Kipling, George Eliot, and Thomas Huxley.

She was very well known in her day, but I had certainly never heard of her until I picked up my great grandmother’s copy of Woodside Farm the other week. I will discuss that another time. More information about her can be found in this Wikipedia article and on this website devoted to her and her husband, William Clifford, the mathematician.

Her work has been described as sensation fiction and often had a decidedly gothic cast to it for example her short story Wooden Tony. See this article in The Guardian about it.

Her novels & short stories included:

The Anyhow Stories, Moral and Otherwise (1882) – for children
Mrs Keith’s Crime (1885) Available for download here.
Love Letters of a Worldly Woman (1891)
The Last Touches and Other Stories (1892) A review is available here.
Aunt Anne (1893) available for download here.
A Flash of Summer (1895)
Mere Stories (1896)
Woodside Farm (1902)
The Getting Well of Dorothy (1904)

Two of her plays were:
A Woman Alone (1898)
The Likeness of the Night: A Modern Play in Four Acts (1900)

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Lucky white heather: Mr Rowl by DK Broster, 1924.

This novel has long been out of print, and for those more familiar with Broster’s later, Jacobite related work, represents a departure, although the French Revolution, in which this novel is set, was her favourite period. Like Ships in the Bay! Which I reviewed some months ago, this features a tortured hero, separated from his love by force of circumstances. However, I feel that the former book is the more mature work.

The Mr Rowl of the title is a dashing young officer of almost nauseating integrity and goodness who has the misfortune to be a French prisoner of war in the England of 1812. He has given his parole, which means that provided he stays within certain limits he is free to come and go as he pleases. Along with other French officers, he frequents the houses of the local gentry, and in one, he meets our heroine, Miss Forrest. Sadly she is engaged to one of these local gentry who feels that Mr Rowl is paying far too much attention to his betrothed. When Mr Rowl breaks his parole on a technicality, he arranges for him to be imprisoned, and our poor hero’s fortunes decline from this point forwards.

I did feel that much of the book was a catalogue of misfortune, with things continually going from bad to worse. The relationship between hero and heroine was also of rather less importance than that between Mr Rowl and his later benefactor Captain Barrington, to the extent that fans of slash may find this book of interest. Nonetheless, I did enjoy the book and it’s worth ferreting out if you can find a copy.