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Valerie   By: (1792-1848)

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Valerie, by Captain Marryat.

This book was the last one that Marryat was working on in his last days. It is unusual for him in that the story concerned the life of a lady, whereas he normally wrote about the rough and tumble of life aboard ship. There is a preface which explains more about the way in which this book was conceived and written. It was completed by someone whom I think may well have been Marryat's wife.

There are some interesting episodes, particularly the way in which the young Lionel is raised from being a junior servant to regain an estate which is rightfully his.

What is not so easy to cope with these days is the quantity of reported speech in the last few chapters. But try it, and see how you get on.



On August 10, 1845, Marryat wrote to Mrs S., a lady for whom, to the time of his death, he retained the highest sentiments of friendship and esteem:

"I really wish you would write your confessions, I will publish them. I have a beautiful opening in some memoranda I have made of the early life of a Frenchwoman, that is, up to the age of seventeen, when she is cast adrift upon the world, and I would work it all up together. Let us commence, and divide the tin; it is better than doing nothing. I have been helping Ainsworth in the New Monthly , and I told him that I had commenced a work called Mademoiselle Virginie , which he might perhaps have. Without my knowing it, he has announced its coming forth; but it does not follow that he is to have it, nevertheless, and indeed he now wishes me to continue one" ( The Privateersman ) "that I have already begun in the magazine."

However, Mrs S., with whom at one time Washington Irving also wished to collaborate, declined the offer; and Mademoiselle Virginie was ultimately published in the New Monthly under the title of Valerie . The first eleven chapters appeared in the magazine 1846, 1847, and the remaining pages were added according to The Life and Letters of Captain Marryat by another hand, when it came out in book form.

There are two special features in Valerie , beyond its actual merits, that inevitably excite our attention. It is Marryat's last work, and the only one in which the interest centres entirely on women. For this reason, and from the eighteenth century flavour in some of its characters, the book inevitably recalls Miss Burney and her little read The Wanderer , in which, as in Valerie , a proud and sensitive girl is thrown on the world, and discovers by bitter experience as governess, companion, and music mistress the sneer that lurks beneath the smile of fashion and prosperity.

The subject is well handled, on the old familiar lines, and supplies the groundwork of an eminently readable story, peopled by many life like "humours" and an attractive, spirited heroine. The adventures of Valerie are various and well sustained; her bearing throughout secures the reader's sympathy, and he is conscious of a genuine pleasure in her ultimate prosperity and happiness.

Valerie, an autobiography , is here reprinted from the first edition in two volumes. Henry Colburn, 1849.


After Marryat's death a fragment of a story for the "Juvenile Library" was found in his desk, and has been published in the Life and Letters by Florence Marryat. It describes the experience of a man who, like Marryat himself, was compelled by the failure of speculations to live in the country and manage his own estate. It was projected "because few young people have any knowledge of farming, and there are no books written by which any knowledge of it may be imparted to children." Marryat himself was not a very successful farmer, but probably his theory was in advance of his practice.

CHAPTER ONE... Continue reading book >>

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