A Lady of Quality

Frances Hodgson Burnett

10 April 2014
230 pages


Although best known for Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett was considered one of the leading writers in America on the strength of her adult novels, which made her name in the 1870s and 1880s. Ripe for rediscovery, Bello is proud to bring a select group of these classic novels back into print.

First published in 1896, A Lady of Quality may have had its beginning "in a dark back chamber, revealed at the end of one of the corridors by the chance scratching of a match" in Portland Place, where Frances Hodgson Burnett was living. The house had a large basement area with long underground passages leading out to the Mews behind, about which Burnett is said to have remarked, "What a place to hide the body of a man you had accidentally killed."

Thought of as a departure from her previous work, and set in the early Eighteenth Century, the body in question turns out to be that of Sir John Oxon, killed with riding whip by the book's heroine, Clorinda Wildairs:

"Uncivilised and almost savage as her girlish life was, and unregulated by any outward training as was her mind, there were none who came in contact with her who could be blind to a certain strong, clear wit, and unconquerableness of purpose, for which she was remarkable. She ever knew full well what she desired to gain or to avoid, and once having fixed her mind upon any object, she showed an adroitness and brilliancy of resource, a control of herself and others, the which there was no circumventing. She never made a blunder because she could not control the expression of her emotions; and when she gave way to a passion, 'twas because she chose to do so, having naught to lose ..."

A Lady of Quality is a novel about the invincibility of the human spirit, the refusal of a woman to be mild and submissive, the acceptance of all experience, and courage born of adversity.