The Miser's Daughter: A Tale (1848)

The Miser's Daughter: A Tale (1848) - William Harrison Ainsworth [These notes were made in 1985; I read the 3rd ed., Parry & Co., 1848:]. If, as it is all too easy to do, we divide Ainsworth's historical novels into "historical" and "novels," this one falls into the "novels" category. It is true that the Jacobites are dragged into it, but any illicit secret society could be substituted without harm to the plot, which is standard boy-gets-girl. Randulph Crew is the unusual appellation of the young hero. Hilda Scarve is the miser's daughter of the title. The resolution of the plot hinges on the making of wills and succession of property, and there is a secret love affair (between Randulph's uncle and Hilda's mother) brought out of the past. I feel that perhaps Ainsworth has not created quite so repulsive a miser here as he thought he had - giving him a passion for a woman detracts from the "everything is money" attitude he's supposed to have; and although his death is gruesome & moralistic (he dies in the cellar scrabbling for nonexistent moneybags) the insanity which leads to that scene is touching rather than otherwise. Randulph comes into his inheritance and his bride through a series of fortunate (for him) deaths, one of which is on his own head. His claims to virtue are based largely on his resistance to Jacobitism (since he's definitely a bit of a rake & a flirt), but he's not an unattractive creature. The 'beau monde' is introduced, but not with a great deal of relish; and the comeuppance of the valet who imitates his master is predictable enough, as is the eventual union of secondary characters Peter Pokerich and the Fair Thomasine. A middling effort.