Karen Rogers: Elizabeth Bonhote, The Rambles of Mr Frankly (1772)
There is no formal introduction to this novel, although it begins with a brief passage commenting upon the shortness of our time on this planet. The story begins as Mr Frankly, a country parson, leaves his family one morning in an ill humour to spend the day walking through Hyde Park and the surrounding area. On the way he meets and makes observations about many different members of society, from the royal family and aristocracy, to traders, and to beggars and thieves. Finally, after a long day, he returns to his wife and son with his good spirits restored.
This volume sees a continuation of the concerns of the first as Frankly acknowledges and chides himself for his faults (such as the pride he feels returning from St Pauls at being above some members of society though he is aware that there are a number above him). This time Frankly goes on three rambles, each lasting several days. He is joined on the final excursion by his wife. The plot is further developed as characters from one excursion reappear in another. Frankly intervenes in a number of situations and is able to assist in the reunion and marriage of one young aristocrat and the young lady he caused to fall from grace. Due to the death of an uncle overseas Frankly inherits a large sum of money. He leaves in search of more "miserable characters" to assist, and is able to give some generous gifts to family and friends.
Frankly and his growing family are now settled in a new home that is more suited to their improved situation. He and his wife resolve to experience all that society has to offer, but to remain virtuous and humble by avoiding its excesses. Their eldest son, Charles, immediately follows their example, saving a poor woman from the callous treatment of the family’s new servants.
Mr and Mrs Frankly receive many fashionable visitors, and mingle with other members of society in excursions to the tombs in Westminster Abbey and at a Masquerade Ball. They see how great wealth and noble heritage do not guarantee moral superiority, and note the dangerous consequences of marrying only for financial gain.
Frankly encounters a number of people in need, and applies for aid on their behalf to a number of his genteel new acquaintances. But once again he finds that wealth and luxury do not necessarily guarantee generosity. Frankly and his wife form a lasting relationship with Sir William Selby, one of the masqueraders from the previous volume. They are happy to assist in the growing relationship between Sir William and a Miss Conyers, as both young people had recently suffered romantic disappointments.
To pass the time before the renovations on their new home are complete, the Franklys, Sir William and Miss Conyers take another ramble around Eastern England, travelling to Great Yarmouth and Scarborough. Along the way they encounter a violent husband and his virtuous wife, peddlers and an exotic fortune-teller at a village fair, poor and disabled characters along the roadside, a shipwreck, and a calculating young woman, happy to prostitute herself in marriage to a wealthy man fifty years her senior.
The novel’s conclusion sees Mr Frankly and his wife peaceful and contented in old age, despite the loss of two of their six children. The novel ends with a number of "Rules and Maxims", recommending the preservation of health and virtue, observance of the Sabbath and avoidance of politics.