The lively comedy of this novel in which a young woman comes of age amid the distractions and temptations of London high society belies the challenges it poses to the conventions of courtship, the dependence of women, and the limitations of domesticity Contending with the perils and the varied cast of characters of the marriage market, Belinda strides resolutely toward independence Admired by her contemporary, Jane Austen, and later by Thackeray and Turgenev, Edgeworth tackles issues of gender and race in a manner at once comic and thoughtprovoking Thetext used in this edition also confronts the difficult and fascinating issues of racism and mixed marriage, which Edgeworth toned down in later editions

10 thoughts on “Belinda

  1. Henry Avila Henry Avila says:

    Before Jane Austen and after Fanny Burney (who I have never read ...yet) there was popular, influential Maria Edgeworth, these ladies and others, dominated English literature of the late 18th century and early 19th, women especially young girls enjoyed their novels with stories of improbable romances, even more unnerving adventures with evil villains, high society and all the corruption underneath the facade of gentle, respectable people, doing glamorous things and manners to match the surface. Born in England Miss Edgeworth was raised in Ireland on her wealthy father's estate, in the ruling Anglo minority , who she disliked, that colonized the troubled land...Young Belinda Portman circa 20, is an orphan raised by her aunt Mrs. Stanhope, in Bath, a well known matchmaker, she has married Miss Portman's female cousins to rich men... six in total... nevertheless they are not happy. Her old aunt is tired, ill, wants to retire after getting rid of just one more niece, Belinda, ( with a mind of her own) she believes will not be obviously difficult, so Mrs. Stanhope after giving ...
    plenty of unwanted advice, sends the unsophisticated, however, bright, pretty girl to a friend's house, the notorious Lady of Fashion...Lady Delacour in London to meet eligible bachelors, that is, with money. And recommends to her quiet, obedient niece, so far, a Mr. Clarence Hervey, she saw in town, a man many ladies covet, but never captured his heart, handsome, young, knowledgeable, a delight..
    to listen to his amusing stories and conversations. Belinda, Clarence...
    are very drawn together , at their first encounter, cannot stop looking... sparks fly... Don't need to say he has plenty of cash...but there is a catch, not the marrying kind, with some dark secrets, ( like every main character) in his background he will not reveal. His not very respectable friends make fun of Belinda's aunt, her cousins-
    and she too, at a party they don't see her almost hidden, in an out of the way location...Clarence seems to agree with their mocking views, the shocked Belinda faints on the floor...The excitement entertains the seen it all Lady Delacour, telling her new close friend that she understands, the Lady herself has many acquaintances, but no real friends...a few female enemies...people are disloyal, and love to disparage others. Lord Delacour, her husband despises her and the feelings are mutual , a daughter Helena, they ignore; as she gives extravagant parties to virtual strangers, all to impress society. The witty, beautiful Lady is not content...though. While the resolutions are predictable, and rivals appear, the fun is getting there. A surprisingly modern take on life in general and love in particular for a novel written in 1801, the clever Miss Edgeworth shows the era is quite advanced in thinking and maybe today's civilization can learn much from them...

  2. Margaret Margaret says:

    Belinda made interesting reading as a followup to Sense and Sensibility. Edgeworth was a major influence on Austen, and the contrast between the two main characters in Belinda (the sensible eponymous heroine and her mercurial mentor Lady Delacour) clearly prefigures the theme Austen took up in Sense and Sensibility. Austen aside, though, Belinda is good reading in its own right; although it suffers from Edgeworth's determination to write a Moral Tale rather than a novel (as she specifies in the foreword) and thus from the moral rectitude of Belinda herself, often unsympathetic in her virtue, the characters (particularly Lady Delacour) are generally winning and the writing witty.

    What I found most interesting, though, was Edgeworth's treatment of gender and racial issues. She examines courtship conventions, female independence, and even mixed marriage, which is certainly not a topic I've often come across in novels of the period. A warning: the edition I have is the Oxford World's Classics edition, which uses the text of the second edition of Belinda. Edgeworth edited the novel heavily for the third edition, removing particularly much of her treatment of racial issues (the mixed marriage was entirely removed), so if you're interested in reading Belinda, do seek out the Oxford edition or another that uses the earlier text.

  3. Melindam Melindam says:

    Can be downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg link to free edition
    under the title Tales and Novels — Volume 03 by Maria Edgeworth

    Update 10/12/2017

    Not a full 4 stars (3.75), but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

    Belinda, the heroine, is a big step forward compared to the heroines of Fanny Burney (complete ingenues, always the helpless victims of circumstance, waiting for events to miraculously sort themselves out). While still bordering on the perfect, she has a lot of common sense and prudence and is not afraid to use them.
    I think Jane Austen's Elinor did like this novel, while Marianne probably was partly disgusted with it, as neither Belinda nor her lover were senselessly passionate about each other and also secondary characters featured, who dared to be happy in a second attachment. :)

    A more detailed review to come after some due consideration.

    Update 31/Oct/2017

    Re-reading to see if it stands the test of time.

    I have vague memories of it being OK, but not coming anywhere close to my beloved Jane Austen.

    We shall see.

  4. Issicratea Issicratea says:

    I read Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda (1801) as part of my occasional series of female predecessors of Jane Austen, following a very successful encounter a few years ago with the splendidly dashing Fanny Burney. I didn’t enjoy Edgeworth’s novel as much as Burney’s Evelina (1778)—at times, frankly, it dragged—but I’m glad I eventually made my way through.

    The plot (as you may not be surprised to learn) concerns the sentimental education and path to marriage of an attractive young girl from a respectable, though not over-moneyed, background. As the novel opens, our heroine, Belinda Portman, ‘handsome, graceful, sprightly, and highly accomplished’, is sent to London as a kind of husband-seeking missile by an unscrupulous aunt, Mrs Stanhope. Belinda’s host is the louche and cynical society hostess Lady Delacour (the most original character in the novel, and, for me, the most attractive), in whose company she meets the seductive young wit Clarence Hervey. Amorous intrigues unspool from there, involving both Clarence and, later, Augustus Vincent, the ‘remarkably handsome’ planter son of an ‘opulent creole’, and heir to a great Jamaican estate.

    One interest of the novel for me was the way in which it seems to track the transition between eighteenth and nineteenth-century fiction. Lady Delacour incarnates the rakishness of the eighteenth century, with her rattling wit, her sexual forthrightness, and her outrageous past, which encompasses an all-female duel. Belinda, by contrast, is a Victorian heroine in the making: not a prude, exactly, but certainly a paradigm of prudence, and an ardent spokeswoman for the pleasures of a well-regulated domestic life. It’s fairly clear from the outset which set of values will triumph, but it’s also interesting to see the starkness of this moral contrast in Belinda, which we see only in a much-attenuated version in Austen--say with the Mary Crawford and Fanny Price of Mansfield Park.

    Allusions to the West Indies, and, implicitly, to slavery, are another connection between Belinda and Mansfield Park (Sir Thomas Bertram, in Austen’s novel, has an estate in Antigua, from which, it is implied, he derives his wealth). One of the most unexpected minor characters in Edgeworth’s novel is a young black servant of Augustus Vincent’s, Juba, presumably a former slave, whom we see marrying Lucy, a white, servant-class girl on the estate of Yorkshire estate of Mr Percival, Vincent’s guardian. I was intrigued by this early mention of an interracial marriage, especially since it is introduced rather casually, as if it were nothing to be remarked on. (Depressingly, as I learned from Kathryn Kirkpatrick’s excellent introduction to the Oxford World’s Classics edition, Edgeworth expunged this episode from the 1810 revised version on the advice of her father, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, who, according to a letter of Maria’s, had ‘great scruples and delicacies of conscience about encouraging such marriage’).

    The type of constraining moral pressure embodied in this comment of Richard Edgeworth’s probably goes a long way to explain the more unsatisfactory elements in Belinda. A rather heavy-handed and schematic morality shapes the plot of the novel at points, to artistically deadening effect. The lesson of the tale Edgeworth seeks to teach is not so different from that of Austen in Sense and Sensibility, but, where the lighter-footed Austen trusts her readers to deduce their lessons from her fiction, Edgeworth likes to trudge in and tell us what to think.

    Edgeworth's moral superego doesn’t succeed in killing off the charm of her novel entirely, however; I agree with Kirkpatrick that the antic Lady Delacour ‘is not entirely contained’ within the novel’s moral frame. It’s true, also, that some of the moral-philosophical elements in Belinda have a certain historical interest in themselves (I’m thinking particularly of the bizarre subplot of Clarence Hervey’s grooming of the beautiful child of nature Virginia: preposterous as a plot-point, but interesting as an episode within the Anglophone reception of Rousseau).

  5. Wealhtheow Wealhtheow says:

    Belinda is a silly, naive girl who is sent to stay with the glamorous Lady Delacour. Her worldly aunt wants her to find a rich husband, Lady Delacour wants her to be entertaining, and Belinda just wants to fall in love. She is initially dazzled by the high-flying life of the Delacours and the rest of the Ton, but rapidly sees the dark side to the sparkling diamonds and scathing witticisms.

    Although the novel was published in 1801, this is a very readable book, with dialog that still scintillates to the modern ear. Alas, Edgeworth lost her nerve half way through this fascinating novel. Abruptly, everything becomes black or white. Belinda becomes a paragon of such utter virtue that she never puts a foot wrong, and thus loses all individuality. The battle between the ideals of Harriet Freke (a proto-feminst character) and the perfect Percivals is never truly joined, because the author explicitly calls one side monstrous and the other virtuous. Edgeworth also doesn't trust the reader to judge rightly which love interest Belinda should marry--she suddenly writes one as though all he does is rescue curates and innocent girls, and the other as an inveterate gambler and liar. The only character who survives this reformation is Lady Delacour, whose courage and satiric mind remain undimmed despite her adoption of a more domestic (and thus, virtuous) lifestyle. Lady Delacour is a character for the ages, as witty as Wilde's and as emotionally complex as Woolf's. For her alone, this book is worth reading.

  6. Sotiris Karaiskos Sotiris Karaiskos says:

    A book that at first seems to be one of many of those times that describe the marriage game, but in the process, the author deals with many of the issues of her era, especially those about women. The heroine of the book is a young woman trained at the marriage game from very young, bringing together all these qualities that would help her attract the right man who could provide her with a comfortable life. But coming in contact with the world and having the necessary sensitivity understands how silly this pursuit is and how it does not always lead to happiness.

    From her own perspective, the author leads us to the world of women of that time and in satirical mood talks about the upbringing of girls, the anticipated behaviour of women, the social pressure, the conservative but also the protofeminist perceptions that came to conflict. Together with all this, she also tells us a nice story, introducing us some very remarkable characters expressing their opinions by representing specific concepts or taking the role of example for what the writer wants to say. With these things I leave this book definitely pleased.

    Ένα βιβλίο που στο ξεκίνημά του μοιάζει να είναι ένα από τα πολλά εκείνης της εποχής που περιγράφουν το παιχνίδι του γάμου, στην πορεία, όμως, η συγγραφέας ασχολείται με πολλά από τα ζητήματα της εποχής της, ειδικά αυτά που απασχολούσαν τις γυναίκες. Η ηρωίδα του βιβλίου είναι μία νεαρή γυναίκα που εκπαιδεύτηκε από μικρή στο παιχνίδι του γάμου, συγκεντρώνοντας όλα αυτά τα προσόντα που θα την βοηθούσαν στην προσέλκυση του κατάλληλου άνδρα που θα μπορούσε να της προσφέρει μία άνετη ζωή. Ερχόμενη, όμως, σε επαφή με τον κόσμο και έχοντας την απαραίτητη ευαισθησία καταλαβαίνει πόσο ανόητη είναι αυτή η επιδίωξη και πως δεν οδηγεί πάντοτε στην ευτυχία.

    Μέσα από τη δική της ματιά η συγγραφέας μας οδηγεί στον κόσμο των γυναικών εκείνης της εποχής και με σατιρική διάθεση μιλάει για την ανατροφή των κοριτσιών, την αναμενόμενη συμπεριφορά των γυναικών, την κοινωνική πίεση, τις συντηρητικές αλλά και τις πρώτο-φεμινιστικές αντιλήψεις που έρχονταν σε σύγκρουση. Μαζί με όλα αυτά, όμως, μας αφηγείται και μία ωραία ιστορία, συστήνοντας μας μερικούς πολύ αξιοσημείωτους χαρακτήρες που εκφράζουν τις απόψεις τους εκπροσωπώντας συγκεκριμένες αντιλήψεις ή παίρνουν τον ρόλο του παραδείγματος για αυτά που η συγγραφέας θέλει να πει. Με αυτά τα πράγματα αφήνω αυτό το βιβλίο σίγουρα ευχαριστημένος.

  7. Marquise Marquise says:

    A lovely story, very reminiscent of Austen, but far more moralistic and patronising at times, and with a heroine not nearly as enjoyable to read about. I loved the counter-point character of the flightly, temperamental and sometimes abrasive Lady Delacour way more than I like the main character, who suffered from being sanctimonious and too perfect to be relatable. Plus, the ending was rather disappointing.

    On the other hand, Edgeworth is as witty as Austen, and can be as funny, but she's mostly more serious and more interested in setting up a good example than the other author, which is why I didn't enjoy this as much as I could've.

  8. Anna Kļaviņa Anna Kļaviņa says:


    Belinda was written in a time when most people thought that young women reading books is a waste of time.

    Jane Austen mocked this notion in Northanger Abbey and so does Edgeworth but in less noticeable way.

    Most important thing about Belinda is that it isn't a novel, it's a moral tale. As such Belinda, our heroine, is intentionally Mary Sue and the story suffers for it. That's said the story is interesting enough and Edgeworth's talent shows. One could only wish she wouldn't had well intending father who gave her useless writing advices. It was him who encouraged Edgeworth to write moral tales and not novels.

    And I would highly recommend Moore's How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain's Most Ineligible Bachelor and His Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate the real story behind Clarence Hervey and Virginia.

  9. Sarah Sarah says:

    I actually enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. I found myself actually enjoying the story and really getting into it but then it started to drag out and I got impatient. I can handle a little bit of unimportant waffle in a book but this book had so much waffle!! It did not need to be so long! I'm also glad that we talk differently nowadays as their talk also drove me crazy at times. I'm not doing a long review because I'm so sick of analysing this for college!

  10. Joanna Loves Reading Joanna Loves Reading says:

    I think if I had read this rather than listened this maybe a four star read. Unfortunately, some of the narrators on Librivox were subpar and I know that I missed some details. What I did catch was entertaining and filled with interesting characters. Lady Delacor was a piece of work - I just loved her. You can see the influence on Austen. It got a little weird at times, and it was by no means at Austen's level, but she did have some well-worded sentences and quotes.