The Fall of Somerset V1 (1877)

The Fall of Somerset V1 (1877) - William Harrison Ainsworth [These notes were made in 1984. I read this in the London: Tinsley, 1877 edition]. Looks like a first edition - dedication dated 1877. A late one, and it occasionally reads like a history text-book - that is, if a historian could ever get away with so many sentence-fragments! The style is lamentably close to penny-dreadful at times: the one-sentence paragraph reigns supreme, and there is a curious though familiar monotony in the sentence structure. The titular hero, Edward VI's elder uncle and first Regent, is treated with all historical fairness, being neither attacked nor beatified. But Ainsworth moves the emotional centre of his novel (such as it is) to Sir Augustin Stewart, whose fictionality (I presume) is what saves him from the devastating fate of all the others in Somerset's camp. Certainly he seems to come and go between parties according to an entirely different set of rules. Margaret Flowerdew's insistent refusal to marry him provides what little suspense there is in the plot (after all, we all know what's going to happen to Somerset), and the resolution of that one - she's dying of consumption - somehow fails to please. Edward's just a 12-year-old kid, and Ainsworth seems to have remembered that - sometimes. The portrait of Mary Tudor is surprisingly sympathetic, and there seems to be at least understanding, if not downright acknowledgment, of the plight of the Norfolk rebels. It is, I think, this modicum of genuine breadth of understanding which saves Ainsworth's effusions from being utter trash.