The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.

XIII. Lesser Novelists

§ 13. Mrs. Henry Wood

Trollope’s Barchester was fruitful in suggestion to other novelists. Mrs. Henry Wood’s Helstonleigh, a re-creation of Worcester, is on a smaller scale; the cloisters and the choir-boys, Bywater and the rest of them, help out many of her stories. The setting is described with a keener vision in Margaret Oliphant Oliphant’s Chronicles of Carlingford, one of which, Miss Marjoribanks (1866), depicts with engaging humour the campaign of an ambitious young girl for social leadership. Mrs. Oliphant gave the surest proof of genius in Salem Chapel (1863), the second of the Carlingford series. The sensational part of the story is naught; the penetrating, not altogether satirical, delineation of the dissenting chapel is masterly; the tyranny of an antiquated fashion of piety; the stuffy moral atmosphere; the intolerance of the congregation for culture and thought; the singular modes of entertaining; the revulsion of the young pastor from the sordid and contracted world into which he is thrown—all this is confirmed in the works, at a later date, of “Mark Rutherford,” closest of all observers of the dissidence of dissent. The butterman Tozer and the pastor’s heroic little mother Mrs. Vincent might pass unchallenged from the pages of Salem Chapel to those of The Autobiography of Mark Rutherford (1881).