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The Heir of Redclyffe

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(1853)



This was the first of Charlotte M. Yonge's bestselling romantic novels. Its religious tone derives from the High Church background of her family and from her friendship with a leading figure in the Oxford Movement, John Keble, who closely supervised the writing of the book. The germ of its plot was suggested by her friend Marianne Dyson. According to J. B. Priestley The Heir of Redclyffe was "the most popular novel of the whole age…Its popularity left Dickens and Thackeray far behind."



It tells the story of the Byronic Guy Morville, heir to the Redclyffe baronetcy, and his cousin Philip Morville, a conceited hypocrite who enjoys an unwarrantedly high reputation. When Guy raises money to secretly pay off the debts of his blackguard uncle, Philip spreads the rumour that Guy is a reckless gambler. As a result Guy's proposed marriage to his guardian's daughter Amy is called off and he is disowned by his guardian. Guy bears the situation with a new-found Christian fortitude until the uncle clears his character, enabling him to marry Amy after all. They honeymoon in Italy, finding Philip there suffering from a life-threatening fever. Guy nurses him back to health, but catches the fever himself and dies. Philip, transformed by contrition, inherits Redclyffe.



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