Belinda by Maria Edgeworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Click on cover to go to Goodreads.
Click on title to go to read this book online.
Available also on Google Books for free (note: it’s not available on Project Gutenberg)
Belinda is my perfect heroine. She is not perfect but is my idea of a perfect heroine. Her character in the beginning was questionable – take into consideration, however, her age, [in]experience, and naivety. We then read her experiences in society as she learnt, grew speedily in maturity and gained such strong sensible noble characters then she definitely becomes one you’d wish for in a friend.
The first few chapters were a little shaky for me as I wasn’t sure if I could handle this kind of heroine then it turned to a little bit of a farce (for me) – a sort of gothic tone which I didn’t care for, until the time that Belinda learnt her lessons and became firm in her values. The love triangle, of course, was actually fantastic. Both men had their own appeals and throughout the book, I just never knew which one she would end up with, if any! I kept on moving from one to the other, back and forth right up to the last chapter or two.
Belinda Portman is a niece of a known mercenary matchmaking aunt. She is sent to stay with Lady Delacour to be exposed to the cream of society and catch a wealthy husband. It is in Lady Delacour’s sitting room that she meets Clarence Hervey, an intelligent wealthy young man. A masquerade, a mysteriously locked boudoir, and a few unhealthy rumours later, found her bound for the country.
Lady Anne Percival is a lady of good sense with a very happy family. In her home, Belinda witnesses what a spouse that you respect can mean in a marriage. This is a big contrast to Lord & Lady Delacour’s marriage (if you can call that a ‘marriage’!). Mr Vincent, a former ward of Lord Percival, fell in love with Belinda in this setting. He was hopeful to win her but then she had to leave…
There are about 3 ‘things’ I didn’t particularly like as I found them to be unlikely however I believe they are written as humorous factors in the book except that it didn’t quite work for me. This includes part of how the plot is resolved but this I can forgive as it allows me to enjoy the ending.
Belinda was published approximately 10 years before Sense & Sensibility and 12 years before Pride & Prejudice. I reckon if you love Jane Austen, you will appreciate this book.
Here are some quotes to whet your appetite:
Belinda’s aunt’s advice to her:
Sir Philip, is not, I know, a man of what you call genius. So much the better, my dear – those men of genius are dangerous husbands; they have so many dislikes and eccentricities, there is no managing them, though they are mighty pleasant men in company to enliven conversation.
For us bookworms:
[Mrs Freke] ‘You read, I see! – I did not know you were a reading girl. So was I once; but I never read now. Books only spoil the originality of genius: very well for those who can’t think for themselves – but when one has made up one’s opinion, there is no use in reading.’
‘But to make them up,’ replied Belinda, ‘may it not be useful?’
‘You, who can think for yourself, should never read.’
‘But I read that I may think for myself.’
‘Only ruin your understanding, trust me. Books are full of trash – nonsense, conversation is worth all the books in the world.’
‘And is there never any nonsense in conversation?’
A discussion still in debate in today’s society!
‘To cut the matter short at once,’ cried Mrs Freke, ‘why, when a woman likes a man, does not she go and tell him so honestly?’
Belinda, surprised by this question from a woman, was too much abashed instantly to answer.
A Moving Moment [I really wanted to include this quote but had to take names out so it’s not too spoiler-ish]:
X’s love was not of that selfish sort which the moment that it is deprived of hope sinks into indifference, or is converted into hatred. Y could not be his; but, in the midst of the bitterest regret, he was supported by the consciousness of his own honour and generosity: he felt a noble species of delight in the prospect of promoting the happiness of the woman upon whom his fondest affections had been fixed; and he rejoiced to feel that he had sufficient magnanimity to save a rival from ruin.