The Marriage of William Ashe

From its title and the author’s designation of herself as Mrs. Humphrey Ward, readers might expect The Marriage of William Ashe to be a light romance.

They would be wrong.


The Marriage of William Ashe by Mrs. Humphrey Ward

Albert Sterner, illus., 1905, 570 pp (approx.) 1905 bestseller #1. My grade: A


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William  Ashe is a young man of ability backed by a family with money and influence. Until he’s named undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, he’s always pretended not to care whether he appeared successful or not.

The post challenges his talents as nothing has previously done.

William knows he must marry if he’s to have a political career.

His family deplores his choice of Lady Kitty Bristol, who “comes of  a bad stock.”

William loves Kitty because she’s so un-English, so sexy, and so clearly destined to become the prey of a man as undisciplined as herself unless William’s  love can change her life.

William’s problems with his impulsive child-wife may remind readers of Anthony Trollope’s Palliser novels. Unlike Glencora Palliser, however, Kitty is not just interfering; she swings from sleepless, manic hyperactivity to depression that borders on suicidal.

Also unlike Trollope, Ward uses politics merely as the backdrop to the story. Ward couldn’t care less about the Reform Bill. Her interest is in finding out what makes her characters tick.

Today’s readers will find that exploration equally intriguing.

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Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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