Synopsis of Modern Faults: a Novel founded on Facts by Anne Ker
During a storm, Rosalie de Clerimont flees from her home, the Castle of Luneville, with her children, Selima and Frederic, and their nurse, Margaret, because although she loves her husband, he mistreats her. They start a new life in the forest of St Amiens and pretend to be poor country people. Rosalie pretends to be a widow and calls herself Irza Dorival, Selima becomes Astasia, Frederic is called Henry and Margaret pretends to be Rosalie's mother.
The novel is epistolary as Rosalie corresponds with her friend Frederica de Villeroy and describes her life story and the events which precipitated her leaving her home. She was an only child of the Count and Countess St Albe. When she was ten her parents took in a girl of five, Nicolina. Rosalie married the Count de Clerimont and took Nicolina to live with them. The Count's relationship with Nicolina deteriorated, but Rosalie was being deceived as they had been having an affair. Nicolina was expelled from the castle whilst the Count was in Paris. Rosalie was duped again. She was told by the Baroness de Valmont that the Count had furnished a house for his mistress and would not let her out of his sight. The house was always full of "gamblers, libertines and drunks" (Ker 1801: 127). She received a letter from the Count telling her that he is in love with Nicolina.
During the Count's absence, Rosalie was visited by the Count's friends the Duke D'A_ (a prince) and the Marquis D'Aubigny who constantly mentioned the Count and Nicolina. She was warned not to go to a party as the Duke wished to abduct her and take her to his house to be his mistress. She did not go and later he confessed that he loved her, which caused her to flee to the forest of St Amiens.
Margaret is often dispatched to the Castle to retrieve letters and she collects a letter from the Count four years later stating that he has returned to the castle and acknowledges the blame for their failed marriage. Rosalie still loves him. The children find an injured man in the forest who turns out to be the Count. After fainting, Rosalie thanks heaven that he is there.
Rosalie and her children conceal their identities from him. He writes to the Marquis telling him that on his way to England he was robbed in the forest of St Amiens and has fallen in love with Irza and repents his sins. He tells Irza everything, including how Nicolina blackmailed him to have an affair with her. He was resigned to live with her and turned to alcohol. The Marquis disapproved of the affair. The Count found Nicolina in bed with the Count D'Estelles and wounded him in a duel after he said that most men had slept with her. The Count hates Nicolina and she runs away with his money and his servant. She brought the servant a commission in the Navy at Lyons and married Captain Delmonte. The Marquis tells him that Rosalie is dead.
The Count tells Irza that his wife is dead and that he repents his sins. She removes her cap and changes from her mourning clothes to a white dress. He begs for forgiveness after realising that she is his wife. She introduces him to his children.
The Marquis writes telling them about his sister, the Countess Auletz and her husband who took in a girl, Adela Montfort. The Count Auletz began an affair with her, whose real name was Theresa de Salons, "the most abandoned character that ever existed" (Ker 1801: 206). The Countess' diamond jewellery was stolen and the Count left to live with Theresa. After discovering that Theresa stole the jewellery, he attempted to shoot her, but accidentally killed himself. Theresa confessed and committed suicide.
Rosalie and the Count Clerimont return to Luneville as a happy family. Nicolina squandered her fortune and Delmonte deserted her five years later. She died in a poor house.