Amelia Beauclerc, The Castle of Tariffa
London: Crosby, 1812
By Donna Wharam, May 1998
The novel is centred around Monimia Beverley, who is the youngest of four girls, two of whom are already married to dignified clergymen. Her father is a prebend and has been a widower for nearly seven years. He is a rather selfish man who, with two daughters married, has the extra provisions to provide well for the two remaining; the extra, however, goes towards furnishing his table with rich food and wine. He has also planned that he will allow one daughter to marry and will keep the last remaining daughter at home to nurse him till his death; however, the daughters do not know of his plan.
Monimia decides to marry a retired admiral of the navy, Sir Harbottle Dareall, after she breaks her engagement from the hero of the novel, Lionel Belville, because she has received a misdirected letter he has written to a French woman named Adelaide. The new bride is taken to her new home, Castle Tariffa, an old castle bought by the admiral because it reminded him of a Moorish castle he had seen on the coast of Barbary during battle.
The admiral was married before to a rich woman he did not love and had a son he did not see for the first twelve years of the boy's life, as the admiral was away at sea. He took his son on board ship but at the first port, the boy ran away and joined the army as an ensign; he was subsequently posted to Ceylon. The mother followed the son and admiral heard that both had died from the effects of the climate.
Monimia finds a child abandoned on the sea-shore whom she adopts and names Emma and who is revealed later as the granddaughter of Admiral Dareall, left on the shore by a woman who soon shows up and claims to be his previous wife. When she does show up, early in the admiral and Monimia's marriage, the admiral collapses in fits and Monimia flees with Laura, her sister, who had joined Monimia after her father's death; with Anna, her servant; and with the child Emma.
Laura has formed an acquaintance with a friend of her father's, Colonel Howard Welford, who turns out to be the admiral's son. He had been pronounced killed in action through a case of mistaken identity; in actuality, another soldier in Welford's regiment had put on Welford's discarded uniform and had then been mortally wounded in battle. Now Colonel
Welford follows Monimia, Laura, Emma and Anna to the Isle of Mull where Monimia hides from the world her shame of being unlawfully wed. She is also followed by Belville in disguise as he meets her again not long after the death of his uncle which left him a fortune and the title of Lord Avondale. On the Isle of Mull, he tricks Anna unto thinking that she is cursed so that he can keep in touch with what is going on with Monimia. Not long after, Welford leaves the army and weds Laura; Laura then reveals the truth about Monimia. He then reveals the truth about himself being the admiral's son and says that Emma is his daughter to his previous wife, who had died in childbirth.
After the story has been revealed, Colonel Welford resolves to visit Admiral Dareall as Laura's husband to discover if the woman is really his mother. Upon reaching Castle Tariffa, the father and son are reconciled with the break between them blamed on the corruption of the mother. Lady Dareall is uncovered as a Mrs Pulford posing as the real Lady Dareall. At the same time as Colonel Welford arrives to unravel the plot, so does the husband of Mrs Pulford, proclaiming that he wants his wife returned. Captain Pulford and Colonel Welford were stationed together in Ceylon and Mrs Pulford nursed Lady Dareall after the death of her daughter-in-law and the news of her son's supposed death. It was then she noticed the likeness between them and realized that if she dressed up, nobody would notice the difference. Admiral Dareall is notified by his son about the woman and they hold a trial after which she is sent away. The trial and upset tolls heavily on the admiral's health and he becomes mortally ill. With the shame of bigamy lifted, Monimia is sent for and returns just before he dies. Colonel Welford inherits his father's estates and name. Belville, after his disguise is revealed, appeals to Laura to help him win Monimia. She notifies him of the admiral's death, and he is reconciled with Monimia. After a suitable period of mourning and they are married, and she can finally sign herself as the Countess Avondale.