Illuminated initial N

ote how the omniscient narrator of Robert Elsmere describes Rose apparently through the consciousness of her older sister, the saintly Catherine (about whom Langham thinks, “She is the Thirty-Nine Articles on the flesh!”). I write “apparently” because nothing in the novel suggests that Catherine would know much about Thomas Gainsborough, William Morris's Earthly Paradise, or the paintings of James Tissot, much less think of characterizing her sister in terms of them.

Catherine meanwhile sat watching her sister. The child was more beautiful than ever, but in other outer respects the Rose of Long Whindale had undergone much transformation. The puffed sleeves, the æsthetic skirts, the naïve adornments of bead and shell, the formless hat, which it pleased her to imagine 'after Gainsborough,' had all disappeared. She was clad in some soft fawn-colored garment, cut very much in the fashion; her hair was closely rolled and twisted about her lightly balanced head; everything about her was treat and fresh and tight-fitting. A year ago she had been a damsel from the 'Earthly Paradise'; now, so far as an English girl can achieve it she might have been a model for Tissot. In this phase, as in the other, there was a touch of extravagance. The girl was developing fast, but had clearly not yet developed. The restlessness, the self-consciousness of Long Whindale were still there; but they spoke to the spectator in different ways.

These are the thoughts, the associations, of Mrs. Mary August Ward, who before her marriage was Mary Augusta Arnold, the niece of Matthew Arnold — a woman who grew up at the center of English intellectual life and as quite up on the aesthetic fashions of the day.


Ward, Mrs. Humphry. Robert Elsemere. Ed. Clyde de L. Ryals. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1967.

Ward, Mrs. Humphry. Robert Elsemere. Boston: DeWolfe, Fiske & Co., n.d. Project Gutenberg E-Book produced by Andrew Templeton and David Widger. Last Updated: February 7, 2013. Web. 20 July 2014.

Last modified 20 July 2014