This is of a genre reduced in frequency: How to Die Well, also how to accept a good death. There must have been an even more heartrending genre about having a beloved die outside the state of grace. especially in any theology that requires specific acts from a consecrated hand. I can't think of any examples, though.
Yonge tends cautiously against the novelistic convention of virtue belonging to the gently-born. The characters most virtuous under duress in this story are petty village shopkeepers and a foundling.
The Lances of Lynnwood,
Medieval adventure, suitable for youths and gently nurtured females to read. I liked it much better than The Little Duke, because the eventual success of the fatherless hero depends on his virtue and cleverness and that of his friends, not on his virtue and the unvirtuous cleverness of his friends.
It's a little interesting to see what set a 'medieval' scene for Victorians. Horses don't interest them much: horses were still normal to them, as were peasants, I suppose. Windows without glass or curtains come up in Yonge a lot; so do unrefined table manners. I would expect the details of religious observance to be more titillating. but Yonge doesn't describe them with anything like the detail in Friarswood Post Office. Maybe she would then have been walking the fencerails between being too fond of ceremony, and therefore Papist, or too scornful of them and therefore Non-establishment.
Abbeychurch: or, Self-Conceit and Self-Control,
Ah-a; he first novel in which I could guess why a friend of mine is a Yonge fiend. It's roughly equivalent to Little Women. Most of its charm is in the affectionate mutual pestering of sibs & cousins, one of whom is clearly our Authoress in youth. They are startlingly fond of telling over historical precedents to each other, especially those of virtuous knights, and in the original language. I see that Yonge's medieval romances may have been written for girls, not boys.
The morals of self conceit and self control are still usable, allthough the boundaries one tries to keep one's self in have changed. I couldn't enter in to the view of obedience to authority as a higher virtue than any other: it clearly made it too easy for those with the authority to make of their errors and internal contradictions into other people's problems.
Even on a more frivolous level, I don't understand Younge's theology. There is one scene with an unacceptable embroidered cushion which horrified all the well brought up characters but made no sense to me. I couldn't tell if St. Augustine was wrong, or cross stitch was unacceptably not Early English, or if sitting on an image of a saint was wrong, or what. I wonder what it meant to Yonge's original readers.
The Young Step-Mother: or, A Chronicle of Mistakes ,
Lots of vicars, who are a genre of their own in Vic. lit.
My ability to swim along in the mores of a different time did not survive a clear description of an abusive marriage without any belief that the sufferer's family should or could help her:
'Does her affection hold out, do you think?'
'Oh, yes, the spaniel and walnut-tree love, which is in us all, and doubly in the very woman. It is very beautiful. She is so proud of him and of her gilded slavery, and so unconsciously submissive and patient; but it is a harder life, I guess, than we can see. I am sure it must be, for every bit of personal vanity and levity is worn out of her; she only goes out to satisfy him; dresses to please his eye, and talks, with her eye seeking round for him, in dread of being rebuked for mistakes or bad French.
The reference is, "A women, a spaniel, a walnut-tree: the more you beat them, the better they be."
So wrote clew in
Fiction (19th c.).