Synopsis of Neville Castle, or The Generous Cambrians by Elizabeth & Jane Purbeck
The plot of Neville Castle is lengthy and complex, containing a great number of characters and layers of interweaving narrative. The principal characters, Henry Willmot and Charles Pembroke, are marriageable gentlemen seeking suitable wives. At the start of the novel, Henry is living at Neville Castle in Wales, where he plans to spend the summer with Sir Walter Neville and his sister, Arabella. Charles is travelling around France with his current love, Lady Harriet, but is becoming irritated by her volatility and the attention she is paying to Orlando, the young nephew of a French family they have met. The men correspond frequently with tales of their daily adventures and stories about the people who they encounter. Henry is particularly affected by a visit to the local parsonage, where he is captivated by one of its inhabitants, Miss Lindsay. Sir Walter relates to him the story of Mr Lewis, who also lives there, and his daughter Maria, who was seduced by Sir Charles Parker and died giving birth to his baby. At a ball given by Sir Walter, Henry concludes that he would prefer a woman of intelligence and wit, although not someone who directs her wit against others, like Caroline Herbert.
It is revealed that Charles’s heart still lies with his first love, Sophia Millbourne, who he has not seen since a mis-understanding some years ago, after which he ended their relationship and went travelling. She had rejected his proposal that they elope to Scotland together for fear of displeasing her father, who had arranged for her to be married to Lord Amesbury. Since returning to England, Charles has discovered that the marriage did not go ahead but has so far been unable to locate his former lover. His patience with Lady Harriet has worn thin and she declares she will never see him again after he runs at Orlando with a sword in a fit of jealousy. She later relates to him the story behind her relationship with Orlando, who she reveals is actually a young girl named Lauretta in disguise. Lauretta is the elder daughter of the Marquis Bellemonte, who, preferring his younger child Isabella, had forced her into a convent. She is currently planning her escape following her secret marriage to the Count de Plessis. Later, the Marquis Bellemonte has repents his ill-treatment of Lauretta and reveals that he was so eager for his first born child to enter a convent because he seduced a woman when he was younger and caused her downfall. The family is eventually reunited.
On discovering that Miss Lindsay is actually Sophia, Charles is reunited with his former love and it is revealed that Lord Amesbury had constructed an elaborate lie that she had eloped with a foreigner out of jealousy. Sophia says she will marry Charles after a six-month test of his constancy. However, Caroline Herbert, her pride hurt because she believed Henry was paying her attention, attempts to enlist the help of Harriet to split the two up. Fortunately Harriet condemns Caroline’s behaviour, believing that Sophia and Charles are ‘certainly born for each other’.
Meanwhile, Henry has rescued a young girl, Amelia Bellamour, from a shipwreck and they have formed an attachment to one another. However, her aunt, Lady Maitland, disapproves of the match and wants to marry her niece to a man of higher rank and fortune. Planning to separate the pair, she insists that Amelia accompany her home and Henry is forced to wait for six months before Lady Maitland will agree for the marriage to go ahead. Amelia finds it difficult to keep her promise to her aunt because she misses Henry, but realises her filial duty, especially following Mrs Neville’s story of her disobedience to her parents at a young age and the effects it has since had on her life. Lady Maitland, scheming to prevent her niece’s marriage, tries to trick Amelia into leaving the country with her, but she manages to escape and takes hospitality with the Duke and Lauretta.
The novel ends happily for the women who have endured afflictions, which have turned out to be blessings in disguise. Caroline’s marriage to Sir Charles Parker, however, has ended badly. She is punished for her satirical and haughty nature, and must live with the knowledge that because of it she has lost Willmot to Amelia, who has become his wife. Lady Maitland has repented her behaviour but her evil former friend Lady Milford is forced to leave Bath. Sophia, now married to Charles, rejoices that she has won and will keep her husband by the merits of her own conduct.
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