Heartsease or Brother’s Wife is about a very young, timid, but highly principled and religious girl from a large and humble family is taken into a rich, upper-class household, whose money comes mainly from large estates in the West Indies. In this cold and formal family, she is neglected, snubbed, and often made to feel like a vulgar and uneducated outsider, especially by the beautiful but passive lady of the house, by a self-possessed daughter of the house – and most of all by a spiteful, hostile, and mercenary aunt. One of the two sons shows her great kindness, but all the same, she suffers greatly through a number of trials, and is often unwell. She is brought into direct rivalry for the affections of her beloved with a richer, livelier, and better-known young woman. Eventually, after a series of family disasters, her strict adherence to her own ethical code places her as the moral center of her household, a household that is made more humane by her central role in it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Charlotte Mary Yonge (1823–1901) was an English novelist who wrote to the service of the church. Her books helped to spread the influence of the Oxford Movement. Her abundant work is mostly out of print.
She was born into a religious family background, was devoted to the High Church, and much influenced by John Keble, Vicar of Hursley from 1835, a near neighbour and one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement. Yonge is herself sometimes referred to as “the novelist of the Oxford Movement”, as her novels frequently reflect the values and concerns of Anglo-Catholicism. She remained in Otterbourne all her life and for 71 years was a teacher in the village Sunday school. She lived in a house called Elderfield (which became a grade 2 listed building in 1984).
In 1868 a new parish was formed to the south of Yonge’s home village of Otterbourne; the parish was to contain the villages of Eastley and Barton. Yonge donated £500 towards the parish church and was asked to choose which of the two villages the parish should be named after. She chose Eastley, but decided that it should be spelt Eastleigh as she perceived this as being more modern.
Yonge died in her home town of Otterbourne on 24 May 1901.