Alice-for-Short: a dichronism

Alice-for-Short: a dichronism - William Frend de Morgan Now whether by his subtitle De Morgan meant to indicate his subplot set a century before the main Victorian goings-on, or whether he was referring to the Winter's Tale-like chronological split in the middle, between the babyhood and young womanhood of the heroine, he has certainly identified what I found to be something of a problem - namely that the book is all over the place time-wise, without any real distinguishing atmosphere for each. In brief, the plot is that a little six-year-old Alicia (Alice-for-short) is picked up and adopted by a quixotic young middle-class fellow trying to make it as an artist (Charles Heath). Charlie has a sister Peggy, who operates as Alice's female role model. When Alice is still small, Charlie is pursued & won by a foreign adventuress, who subsequently abandons him, lives a life of ill-fame on the continent and does not obligingly die until Alice is in her twenties and Charlie greying. There are mysteries surrounding the house in which Alice's parents meet their end (alcoholism & murder-suicide). Evidence of a much earlier murder is turned up, and it eventually transpires that Alice has a remote connection with this older story. An old woman, Jane, who has been in a state of total amnesia for most of her life, is briefly revived by Peggy's brilliant surgeon husband, and explains this older story. She is also instrumental in finally bringing together Charlie and Alice, who are havering their way through various over-scrupulousnesses and false modesties in the inimitable manner of Victorian heroes and heroines. I found this rather long going at times (De Morgan can be just a tad cute, but he's not immune from that great Victorian sickness, heroine-adoration), but it had some pleasant and original moments, especially when Alice is a child. All of the principal characters in this story see real ghosts from the past, by the way - the more interesting in terms of the obvious attmept to be very "modern" and "realistic' in dialogue and psychology. [These notes made in 1992:]