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Corvey 'Adopt an Author'

Susan Edmonstone Ferrier

The Corvey Project at
Sheffield Hallam University

 

Synopsis of The Inheritance by Susan Edmonstone Ferrier by Lucy Burnett

Thomas, a member of the wealthy, upper class St. Clair family, marries below his station to the poor yet beautiful Miss Sarah Black. His family is enraged as they feel disgraced by the marriage, and they consequently disinherit Thomas. Instead the inheritance will go to the coupleís first child. The couple proceeds to France where Mrs. St. Clair gives birth to a daughter, Gertrude.

Several years later Thomas St. Clair dies and following the advice of Thomasís brother Lord Rossville, Mrs. St. Clair and Gertrude return to Scotland. Lord Rossville intends for a marriage to take place between his nephew, Delmour, and Gertrude. However, Gertrude falls in love with Delmourís younger brother, Colonel Delmour, instead. As Lord Rossville has no children of his own, Gertrude is successor to the Rossville estate. Lord Rossville threatens to disinherit Gertrude but dies before the threat can be fulfilled.

Gertrude, on becoming Lady Rossville, moves to London where she and her mother live extravagant and frivolous lifestyles. Gertrude is influenced by both Colonel Delmour and Mrs. St. Clair. They persuade her to give her cousin, William Leslieís intended living, to someone else.

It is revealed, through an American named Lewiston, that Gertrude was in fact adopted in infancy, by Mrs. St. Clair. Gertrude is in fact the daughter to Lewiston and Mrs. St. Clairís maid. Gertrudeís real mother has since died. Lewiston blackmails Mrs. St. Clair with the information. Mrs. St. Clair orders Gertrude to borrow five hundred pounds to pay Lewistonís demands. In response to the new found knowledge of her true identity, Gertrude casts off all claims to be heiress and Colonel Delmour, after the death of his brother, becomes the new Lord Rossville. He refuses to marry the destitute Gertrude on account of her low birth. He marries the Duchess of St. Ives instead.

Gertrude is befriended by the eccentric Uncle Adam who chooses to live in a small house without servants, instead of Bloom Park. Uncle Adam is drawn towards Gertrude due to the striking resemblance between the girl and her grandmother, Lizzie Lundie, with whom Uncle Adam was once in love.

Lewiston, after receiving a payment from a man named Edward Lyndsay, admits to actually being the cousin to Gertrudeís father who was thought to have drowned twenty years previously. Gertrude eventually becomes mistress of Uncle Adamís estate and realises that she is in love with Edward Lyndsay, who has offered her his friendship and support throughout. Gertrude marries Lyndsay, who is now Lord Rossville, to become Lady Rossville once again.

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