When Blanche Fontaine announces to her parents that she needs to spend the season in Paris studying art, her parents are aghast. To be alone in Paris, surrounded by all sorts of undesirable types, is to their minds unacceptable. While this debate goes on, Blanche confides frequently in her friend Mr Dewsbury - a closeness which leads to predictable results. Now even more uncomfortable at home, Blanche considers running away to Mr Dewsbury's parents - about whom she knows very little.
Biographical and other notes
The phrase "girl of the period" referred to a certain type of the "New Woman", an independent self-assured young woman who spoke slang, wore the latest styles, and even dyed her hair and painted her face - at least according to Eliza Lynn Linton in her 1868 article (reprinted here in a collection of essays). When the term was used in a positive sense, it referred to a fashionable, independent modern girl. As for the supposedly shocking idea of a young woman staying alone in Paris to study art, Mrs Oliphant had sanctioned her own niece Denny's six month stay in Paris (1888-9) to study at an art studio.
Readers of the Chronicles of Carlingford will be amused to learn (in a passing reference in this story) that Mr Lake the drawing-master is now an RA (Royal Academician), the highest honour awarded by the Royal Academy of Arts.