Original draft, entirely written out by hand, of the sequel to the international sensation THE ROSARY.
Handwritten manuscript of THE MISTRESS OF SHENSTONE
"Mrs. Barclay is certainly entitled to rank with the most popular authors of her generation" – retrospective from publisher George Putnam
While Florence Barclay was working on this manuscript, she was in the midst of a life-changing experience: her romance novel THE ROSARY had just become one of the biggest blockbuster novels of the Edwardian era. It was not only a runaway bestseller for years on end, but also parodied by PUNCH, made into at least five films, and described by the Queen of England herself as her favorite book of the year. According to Rachel Anderson, it was "said to have been read and wept over by every housemaid in the British Isles." THE MISTRESS OF SHENSTONE was something of its sequel, featuring characters first introduced in THE ROSARY.
THE MISTRESS OF SHENSTONE is an exquisite romance between a widow and the man who accidentally killed her husband: like THE ROSARY, it combines a moving arc of emotional development with an alluring charisma between the main characters. When Barclay arrived in the United States for a book tour of SHENSTONE, she was greeted as a celebrity much in the way that Charles Dickens had been on his first trip to the country. In addition to photographers and journalists, she was met right off the boat by a crush of fans holding welcome banners. This experience was so unlike what was expected for English authors in the period that her daughter makes special remark upon it in her biography of the author: "To English readers it may seem a surprising outburst, and very different to anything that can be imagined as taking place in England by way of reception accorded to a private individual" (220). In 1921 SHENSTONE also became the first of Barclay's books (before THE ROSARY) to be turned into a film.
This manuscript offers a window into the writing process of a famous romance author at the height of her power. In addition to the entire base text in Barclay's hand, essentially every page is revised in the same hand, in some cases extensively. Common editorial markings include crossed out words and sentences (some replaced with new text), additions to punctuation, and rearranged phrases. It is illuminating to compare the manuscript itself with the details of Barclay's writing as described in her daughter's book, LIFE OF FLORENCE L. BARCLAY (1921). In seeking to champion her mother as an author for "ordinary readers," her daughter asserts that Barclay "had no eye to the literary connoisseur, the seeker after mere artistic effect" (242). Yet many of the revisions made by Barclay in this draft suggest that she cared much more about the art of her work than the biography claims. Altered words often reflect the author's stylistic refinements, seeking a more accurate or elevated word in place of the original (e.g., "empty" changed to "desolate"). Other changes show a focused eye for paring down. For instance, "she poured out the doctor's tea" and "passed it across the folding tea table between them" has been changed simply to "handed it to him." These decisions reflect more than a desire to "supply them [her readers] with that they wanted" (242): they show an author spending hours refining her craft.
A manuscript offering the opportunity to research further into the working process of a major popular romance writer — a topic that has thus far been rarely recorded or studied.
Read more: Anderson, The Purple Heart Throbs; Life of Florence Barclay: A Study in Personality by one of her daughters; Putnam, Memories of a publisher, 1865-1915, 409.
n.p. n.p, [no later than 1910]. 9'' x 6.75''. 386 individual lines sheets, thread-bound by hand with pink ribbon, filled out in pencil on rectos only. Text begins with Chapter I, "On the terrace of Shenstone," and ends with the phrase sentence of the final chapter, "Mrs. Jim Airth," in larger script (an effect reproduced in the printed final). Editorial markings throughout. Housed in later waxed canvas wrapper with two printed labels ("The Mistress of Shenstone") and one handwritten annotation, "1st M S of Mistress of Shenstone." Provenance: by descent from author's family.
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