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date: 09 August 2022

East Lynne 

The Oxford Companion to English Literature
Dinah BirchDinah Birch

A *sensation novel by Ellen *Wood (Mrs Henry Wood), published 1861. It tells the story of Isabel Vane, a refined lady who, finding herself unprotected in the world, marries Archibald Carlyle, a rising lawyer. Her marriage is unsatisfying, and she imagines that her husband loves a neighbour, Barbara Hare. In a moment of undisciplined passion, she runs away with Sir Francis Levison, an unscrupulous seducer, who abandons her and the child born from their illegitimate union. Having divorced Isabel, and mistakenly assumed her to have been killed in a railway accident, Archibald marries Barbara. Isabel, rendered unrecognizable by disfigurement resulting from the accident, returns to the household to act as a governess to her own children, to watch helplessly as her delicate son dies. Worn down by remorse and sorrow, she too dies, after being recognized and forgiven by her worthy but ponderous husband. The novel was a phenomenal best‐seller, and was rapidly adapted for the popular stage, where it persisted for many years as staple of the repertoire (the line ‘Dead! Dead! And never called me mother!’ belongs to a stage version, not the novel). More recently, it has attracted notice for its analysis of changing social conditions, and for the ambivalence of its treatment of Isabel, who is the object of both vigorous condemnation and heartfelt sympathy from the narrator.... ...

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