Synopsis of Clara de Montfier by Elizabeth Le Noir
The novel opens with a short introduction from the narrator. A brief history of the Baron De Montfier, one of the central characters, is given. The narrator tells of the good that the Baron has brought to the once neglected and remote village of Montfier. It is now an idyllic setting, prosperous and beautiful.
The Baron has one daughter, Clara, and two sons, Basil and Isadore. The novel charts the life of Clara, the eldest, and portrays her development from dutiful daughter to her marriage at the end of the novel. The strong father-daughter relationship between the Baron and Clara is a major focus of the novel, Clara is utterly devoted and obedient to her father. He offers her moral guidance throughout the novel, and the story concludes with her marriage to her father's close friend Mr. Forrest, an Englishman. He has loved the beautiful Clara from afar throughout the novel, fearing himself unworthy of such a match. It is a marriage of obedience on the part of Clara, prompted at first only by the wishes of the Baron, but later turns into one of mutual love.
The novel also follows the lives of the Baron's close friends, mainly that of the Chevalier du Plessis, nephew of the Curé du Plessis, the parish priest. The Chevalier is the hero of the novel, honourable in every respect, and held in great affection by both Clara and the Baron. Early on in the novel it is implied that he and Clara will marry.
The Chevalier, a soldier, leaves Montfier in volume one for St. Domingo. Whilst out there, he is forced by the orders of his father to marry the wealthy Adelaide d'Alphonse. The marriage is not a happy one, Adelaide turns out to be selfish and demanding, and comes to revel in the attention shown to her in French society. She shows no interest in their only daughter, Constance, prompting the Chevalier to take Constance to Montfier to be brought up by Clara and the Baron.
Adelaide's character undergoes a transformation in volume three, when she is struck down by small pox. The disease disfigures her once beautiful appearance, and she is sent to recuperate in Montfier. After her stay here she slowly becomes a loving mother and wife, and she and the Chevalier finally find happiness in their marriage together.
A villager, named Louisot, who left Montfier in volume one as a direct result of his hopeless and unrequited love for Clara, gives rise to a subplot of mystery and intrigue. Throughout the novel strange incidents occur. Clara is the victim of a failed kidnap attempt, Forrest's horses are stolen and Jeanette, a girl from the village, disappears. These incidents, amongst others, turn out to be the actions of banditti, living in a secret and hidden location near the Baron's castle. Louisot is forced to join the gang in order to survive. The captain of the gang turns out to be an honourable man, who looks after Louisot.
A failed robbery on the Baron's carriage results in a struggle, and Clara is wounded by a shot fired accidentally by Louisot. He is distraught at his action and leaves the gang, begging the Baron and Clara for forgiveness. They forgive him, and he is taken back to Montfier by the Baron. Louisot is welcomed back to the village, and repentance of his crimes celebrated. He marries a girl chosen by Clara, and goes on to live a happy and contented live in Montfier. The Baron mounts a campaign to capture the banditti, but on arrival at their dwelling they are found to have already disbanded. The captain of the gang reappears late in the novel and confesses his crimes to the Curé. Du Hamel, his real name, repents, and lives a quiet and solitary life in the village.
The narrator comes into the novel in the penultimate chapter of the book, and brings the story to a close. We are told that the Baron lived to an advanced age, living with Clara and her husband. Basil later married Constance, and the Chevalier du Plessis went on to take his seat in Paris on his father's death, but continued to return to Montfier. The narrator also goes on to say that the revolution eventually forced them to leave France and settle in England.
The closing chapter is devoted to the story of Du Hamel. The narrator reveals that he kept the story of his unhappy life a secret, but wanted it made public on his death so that others could learn from it. The novel concludes oddly with this moral from Du Hamel, a character of minor importance in the novel.