Ordeal of Richard Feverel

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A novel by G. Meredith, published 1859.

Sir Austin Feverel's wife has run off with a poet, leaving him with their son Richard. Sir Austin devises a ‘System’ for Richard's education, which consists in keeping the boy at home and in trusting to authoritarian parental vigilance. Richard's struggle for freedom and knowledge forms the underlying theme of the book. Richard and Lucy Desborough, a neighbouring farmer's niece, fall in love and an idyllic courtship ends in the discovery of their attachment. Lucy has not the birth Sir Austin requires for his son. His attempts to break their relationship result in their secret marriage, but Sir Austin cruelly ensures the separation of the young couple by playing on Richard's love and duty. Ordered to await his father in London, Richard earnestly sets about the redemption of ladies of pleasure, succeeding only in falling a temporary victim to the beautiful Bella Mount. Initially Bella has acted at the instigation of the predatory Lord Mountfalcon, who has plans to ensnare Lucy. Richard becomes increasingly overwhelmed with shame at his treatment of his wife, then hears that he is a father and that Lucy and Sir Austin are reconciled. But as soon as he returns to her he learns of the designs of Lord Mountfalcon; he furiously challenges him to a duel and is seriously wounded. In the succeeding fever his confusions are stripped away and he is finally freed of his devouring father. But the shock of events proves overwhelming for Lucy, who loses her mind and eventually dies.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

George Meredith (1828—1909) novelist and poet

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