Elderfield, Otterbourne
November 19, 1897.

MS location unknown. Printed in Coleridge, Life, 341

My dear Miss Christie

I had just been thinking of you, being reminded of your work by the review of Mrs. Ritchie’s book, one which carries one along with it entirely, though I am not sure that her power is not greater in sketches of character in real life than in the construction of stories.1 Indeed she is too true to nature to satisfy one always with poetical justice, which, after all, one does love.

The sketch of Miss Mitford is specially good. I remember a sense of disappointment as I drove through ‘Our village’ to see how small and narrow it was, after what those rose-coloured spectacles had shown.2

I hope you are going to ‘do’ Mrs Oliphant in the same manner. She is a person who always puzzles me, partly because she can rise so much higher than what I suppose are ‘pot-boilers,’ half of which I have never read. The Beleaguered City seems to me the best of all her work – yet there she seems, as I have heard it observed of her other works, to sit outside and look at enthusiasm (often on the seamy side) and not share in it. The shrewdness and ironical observation are charming, but I could never love her books or people except the two old people in Valentine. Those ‘Lookers On’ in Blackwood are some of her best writing, giving scope for her peculiar tone and high principle. But she never understood English poor, and though she could deal with Scotch servants, she always made unpleasant pictures of the English poor when they are needed by the story – nor is she generally good to clergymen’s wives.

About the Fairy Bower, I have been thinking a good deal over it, and I think if you do not feel as if you had time to undertake it that I should like to write a notice myself at some length, as remembering something of the state of society and thought at the time the books were written.

Like you I have to attend to what is sent me, but they keep me a good deal on children and poor people’s books, and I don’t complain, for I really want them for various libraries and school gifts. But I get very frivolous about Christmas, though really children’s books are better to read than most novels of the day.

Don’t you think that throwing over the dread of vulgarity has had a good deal to do with the want of refinement of speech, together with the relaxation of the strictness of Evangelicalism which really made a conscientious life easier on the total abstinence principle.

I have had a sorrowful year in the death of the invalid friend who lived with me, and was my memory, and since that my relations have given me a good deal of variety, hardly favourable to work!

Yours sincerely
C. M. Yonge

1The book referred to here may be the new edition of the novel Old Kensington, (London: Smith Elder 1898) published as the first volume of Anne Thackeray Ritchie's collected works. Mary Christie had perhaps reviewed it in the Guardian.
2Mary Russell Mitford, Our Village had been recently reprinted with an introduction by Anne Thackeray Ritchie.
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/3361/to-mary-elizabeth-christie

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