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Mount Sorel or the Heiress of De Vere, by Anne Marsh (Marsh -Caldwell)

First published 1845

"Mount Sorel", Anne Marsh's fourth novel was published in 1847 and is a retrospective narrative which charts the history of the De Vere family and their battle to regain possession of their ancient family seat, Mount Sorel. As with many of Mrs. Marsh's novels the narrator is an old man, in this case Edmund Lovel, who is looking back on his youth and the events which so inextricably involved him in the affairs of this old aristocratic family.

Edmund's personal narrative begins by recounting the development of his deep attachment to Clarice De Vere from their early years as playfellows to the awakening of a lasting passion for this gentle and beautiful young woman. However Edmund's dreams of marital bliss are foiled by the introduction of his old school friend Reginald Vernon who soon becomes a rival for Clarice's hand.

But romance is far from the main concern of this highly political novel. Set against the backdrop of revolution in Europe Mount Sorel explores the diametrically opposed political positions of the ancien regime, represented by the aristocratic De Vere, and the rising middle classes symbolised by the mysterious stranger, Mr Higgins. Their differences are explored as they vie for possession of the Mount Sorel estate which has just become vacant on the fortuitous death of its drunken and dissolute owner Entwistle. Despite De Vere's careful efforts to regain his long lost inheritance Higgins pre-empts the aristocrat well laid plans by offering far above the property's expected market value. Unlike De Vere, Higgins has no problem raising funds from his extensive fortune rooted in 'trade' and  De Vere's pride is wounded. Under no circumstances will he allow himself to communicate with this vulgar man who has suddenly become his close neighbour.

As the novel progresses the plot is further complicated when we discover that it was Edmund, who in an ill judged and fateful visit to Mount Sorel, precipitated Higgins's decision to buy the property. The guilty feelings evoked by this realisation haunt Edmund throughout the rest of the novel. The situation is made even more difficult when Edmund discovers that his friend Reginald is not only a rival for Clarice's hand but also Higgins's son, a fact that will never endear him to de Vere his prospective father- in - law. Thus the contest for Clarice's hand becomes inherently linked with the right to possession of Mount Sorel itself, the woman and the estate therefore become intrinsically linked, a connections which is apparent in the title.  But Mount Sorel also represents the political conflicts within England as Higgins and his new Jacobin friends prepare to destroy these last vestiges of aristocratic privilege, even partitioning the land in a move to support their principles of social equality.

Mount Sorel is finally saved but not before we have been made fully aware of the negative forces at work behind this new ideology.

In this novel Anne Marsh explores tyranny in both its political and domestic forms and happiness can only be achieved by those who show sympathy and respect to others, even though that happiness may not be a fulfilment of personal desire. As Edmund Vernon De Vere finally inherits Mount Sorel we are shown how a better future can be built from the past.

The above review written by Diane Duffy, 2002.

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