01 August 2019

Margaret Murray Robertson Matrimonial Mystery (& Canadian literature's most tear-stained novel)

Summertime, and the livin' is busy. Many irons in the fire add to the heat, the pressure is on, and I'm enjoying each and every day. This week I finished a Dusty Bookcase review of Margaret Murray Robertson's 1866 novel Christie Redfern's Troubles for Canadian Notes & Queries.

A forgotten bestseller published by the Religious Tract Society, I expect a fair percentage of sales came through purchase as gifts and prizes. My own copy, which I bought last year from a London bookseller, was presented in 1893 to Hattie Seymour, winner of Miss Moore's Prize at the Mall Board School, Brading.

The author herself taught at the Sherbrooke Academy in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Lorraine McMullin, who wrote the the Dictionary of Canadian Biography entry for Margaret Murray Robertson, records that "as a teacher, she was devoted to her pupils, she never called a student by a pet name; instead, she looked to the intellect. Correspondingly, her students revered rather than loved her."

I think of Margaret Murray Robertson as "Miss Robertson." That she never married renders this undated edition curious.

That the scene depicted on its cover does not feature in the novel adds to the mystery.

My thoughts on Christie Redfern's Troubles will appear in the next issue of CNQ. What did I think? Well, I found the  following passages worthy of note. Préparez vos mouchoirs.

Night after night did her weary little head slumber on a pillow which her tears had wet. (15)

Amid a rush of angry tears, there fell a few very bitter drops to the memory of her mother. (22)

Christie did not speak; but the touch of her sister's lips unsealed the fountain of her tears, and clinging to her and hiding her face, she cried and sobbed in a way that, at last, really frightened her sister. (26)

If Christie could have found words with which to answer him, she could not have uttered them through the tears and sobs that had not been far from her all the evening. (39)

The disappointment was a very bitter one; and she turned her face away, that her sister might not see the tears that were gushing from her eyes. (41)

The tears that wet her pillow were very different from the drops that had fallen on it a little while before. (45)

Christie sank down, struggling with her tears. (64)

She was not a demonstrative child, usually; but now she dropped her face upon her father's hand, and he felt the fall of her warm tears. (80).

But she enjoyed the kind greetings and looks of sympathy that awaited them in the kirk-yard, though they brought many tears to Effie's eyes, and sent them gushing over her own pale cheeks. (90)

Her cheeks were crimson, and there was a light in her eyes that bade fair to be very soon quenched in tears. (121)

Her tears fell fast for a moment; but her heart was lightened, and it was with a comparatively cheerful face that she presented herself in the little back parlour, where she found Mrs, Mclntyre taking tea with a friend. (123)

There were tears in Christie's eyes as she raised them to look in Mrs. Lee's face, called forth quite as much by the gentle tones of her voice as by the thought of 'the bairns' at home. (130)

She was very much afraid that if Mrs. Lee were to speak so gently again her tears must flow; and this must not be if she could possibly help it. (137)

It was a troubled, tearful face that Christie laid down on her hands as she said this. (147)

It was only by a great effort that she restrained a flood of tears till her sister had gone. (156)

She went early, as usual, and had time for the shedding of some very sorrowful tears before the congregation gathered. (157)

Turning her aching eyes from the light, she did not, for a moment or two, try to restrain her tears. (166)

In a little while she grew unconscious of the tears she had tried to hide, and her hands fell down on her lap, and her wet cheeks and smiling lips were turned towards the face that her dim eyes failed to see. (169)

It was almost like seeing Effie herself, she told him, amid a great burst of tears that startled the grave John considerably. For a moment her sobs came fast. (191)

His words were light, but there was a meaning in his grave smile that made Christie's heart leap; and her answer was at first a startled look, and then a sudden gush of happy tears. (200)

Christie ceased to struggle with her tears now, but they fell very quietly. (214)

Remembering all they had passed through together, Christie could hardly restrain her tears. (221)

A few tears fell on the leaves of her little Bible; but by and by the former peace came back again, as she felt herself half resting indeed on the only sure foundation. (253)

The letter fell from her hands, and her face, as she burst into happy tears, was hidden by them. (260) Her face was flushed, and the tears filled her eyes, but she spoke very modestly and humbly too. (275)

To say that the surprise was a joyful one would be saying little, yet after the first tearful embrace, the joy of both sisters was manifested very quietly. (315)

Of Mrs. Lee's kindness she could not speak without tears. (317)

She was weak and worn out, and she could not manage to say what she had to say without a flood of tears, which greatly surprised her mistress. (323)

Her first night in the hospital was very dreary. No one can be surprised to hear that she shed some sorrowful tears. (327)
Was it any wonder that many a time her pillow was wet with tears? (332)

It was of no use to try to check her tears. They must flow for a minute or two. (333)

Christie's countenance lighted up with pleasure as he read, and the tears that had been close at hand flowed freely. (339)

Christie's face brightened as she turned her bright, tearful eyes upon him. (342)

Too many teardrops for one heart to be crying, wouldn't you say?

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