Elderfield, Otterbourne, Winchester
December 10, 1896.

MS location unknown. Printed in Coleridge, Life, 339-341

Dear Miss Christie,
I think I must lend you my Fairy Bower. It was written, as you see, nearly sixty years ago, before the Oxford Movement had become a visible fact, by Mrs. Thomas Mozley, while her husband was vicar of Cholderton. She was Harriet Newman, and though the little book is quite in children’s form, it was such as none but a Newman could write.

A little girl, Grace Leslie, goes with her widow mother to stay with a Christmas party. She is a very pretty picture of unconscious cleverness, mixed with conscientiousness and refinement of perfect simplicity. She is thrown with two families, one of the suburban evangelical type, rather vulgar, and infinitely self-complacent, despising their cousins as worldly. The elders talk just enough to make you understand the situation, but the effect is shown in the characters of the children, praise-loving (one honestly, the other dishonestly), sentimental, or really quietly good and despised by the self-righteous but really good sister. The visitor Grace invents a pretty decoration, the Fairy Bower, and chiefly contrives the whole, but the honour of the idea is tacitly stolen from her by one of the Puritan family, and her sense of the shame of the discovery of the action to the poor girl leads her to connive at leaving her the triumph, so that the difference between truth and truthfulness is brought out. There is an unnatural amount of sensation about such a matter among the elders, but the touches of character are excellent. Some people cannot see anything in the story, and one can never judge what another person will think of it. The Lost Brooch continues the history when the girls are grown up, and is more development of character than story, though there is a good deal of that in the sentimental girl’s folly, and the Puritanical sister’s persecution of a servant girl, whom she supposes to have stolen the Lost Brooch. The absolute inability to see truth or do justice runs through all. If you are taken with Grace in the Fairy Bower, I can lend you the Lost Brooch. My original copy was lent and lost, so this was recovered from a second-hand bookseller. There was some displeasure at Grace’s reticence towards her mother, which was scarcely natural in an only daughter, though it might be in a large family, and I really think both my Abbey Church and Miss Sewell’s Amy Herbert both came from the reaction.

I did not know Mrs. Mozley, and only saw her once in the middle of a ‘function.’ A year or two later her health failed, and when she tried to write again she collapsed entirely and died. Mr. F. Palgrave once asked me to write a review of her, but I think it was while my Fairy Bower was lost, and I did not know what to do with such a paper.

Thank you for your paper on the Russian novelists, they are strange productions of the civilised thought forced on by the despotism.

I read George Eliot when it came out, but whether I am thinking out of it, or out of a review by Mr. Ashwell, long before, I cannot tell. It seems to me that she could represent but not create, and that when she had lived with a world she did not really know, her ideals were absurd, as in Deronda.

Lewes, I believe, never let her see an unfavourable review, which was a great mistake, they teach one much. But a real review – not a mere notice – is so seldom to be seen in these days, and I am the more grateful for yours.

I see what you mean about the want of focus in Pillar, but I think I care for Felix and Lance more than Dr. May or Ethel, though of these last I could not touch them really again and only mentioned them in that last scene to satisfy ‘inquiring friends.’ There are some people one feels to need further development, others that it is better to let alone.

I should much like to know what you think of the Fairy Bower, though I am quite prepared to hear that you are too much of a different era to care for it.

Yours sincerely
C. M. Yonge

Cite this letter

The Letters of Charlotte Mary Yonge(1823-1901) edited by Charlotte Mitchell, Ellen Jordan and Helen Schinske.

URL to this Letter is: https://c21ch.newcastle.edu.au/yonge/3334/to-mary-elizabeth-christie-3

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