And now for something a little different. I think all my 'lost in the stacks' choices have been twentieth century novels or memoirs, but I've found a new to me Victorian author who has come recommended by a coworker. Yesterday I was chatting with one of our librarians who used to teach Irish Literature and one thing lead to another (I think she first spotted the Mollie Panter Downes book I'm reading on my desk and we just meandered from there), which resulted in me writing down several authors and titles.
I'd never heard of George Moore (1852-1933) before, but he was a prolific Irish author, part of the landed gentry. Apparently he had planned to be a painter and studied in Paris in the 1870s, but ended up as a writer instead. While in France he was part of a group of artists and writers that included Emile Zola, who influenced Moore's work. Moore in turn had an influence on James Joyce. Moore created quite a stir with his early novels, which were written in the realist style. Circulating libraries, which were hugely popular in England, banned his works due to the questionable morality of his stories. Of course this makes them all the more interesting and appealing.
Although he's probably best known for his novel (which is still in print in a lovely Oxford University Press edition) Esther Waters, I decided to bring home A Drama in Muslin. Originally published in 1886 Moore modified the title to simply Muslin in the 1915 edition as he believed it to be "the vulgar one among the titles of my many books". He also made some other unfortunate revisions in this edition, which is a pity, as it apparently loses some of the punch it packed. I'm curious to read the introduction and see what the author has to say about the changes he made.
The story is set during the 1880s Land War in Ireland, and is a satiric work concerning the daughters of an upper class landowner and their mama's desire to see them married off well. There is a pretty daughter and one not so pretty and you'll of course know which daughter gets the attention. Mrs. Barton tries to arrange an aristocratic marriage for the attractive Olive, while Alice (who is the focus of the story) tries to arrange a life of independence so as to avoid the crushing weight of spinsterhood. The drama of the marriage mart is set off against the poverty of rural Ireland.
If you're curious about George Moore a number of his works are available for free through Project Gutenberg, though they offer the revised novel Muslin rather than the original A Drama in Muslin. If you are not already familiar with The Hathi Trust, it is another excellent source of online (though only some books are available full text) literature--alas, not to be loaded onto a portable device. You can find A Drama in Muslin there!
I've only read two novels set earlier than the twentieth century (and one of those was published in 1899!) this year. Perhaps I need to make this winter my season of Victorian (or earlier) literature? Well, we'll see.