17-year-old Susan and her brother 22-year-old Horace live a lonely life on Lanmoth Moor in Cumbria. Their mother died long ago, and their father Mr Scarsdale is a bitter, controlling recluse who shows them no love. Susan retains her sweet nature, but Horace bears bitterness and hatred towards everyone - though he hides it to some extent in order to manipulate others. Mr Scarsdale is bitter about a will, but the details are not disclosed until later in the story.
Other characters include Roger Musgrave, whose godfather has recently died, leaving Roger penniless. He and Susan are shyly attracted to each other. When Susan and Horace's Scottish uncle, Colonel Sutherland, arrives for a short visit, he offers help to all three young people. But Horace leaves home to work for a dishonest attorney, and later experiments with blackmail, and even perhaps with murder.
Biographical and other notes
This novel was begun in 1859 while Mrs Oliphant's husband was dying, and finished while she was in mourning. In a preface to the reader, she apologizes for any flaws, saying that the book ". . . was overshadowed and interrupted by the heaviest grief . . . ."
The House on the Moor marks the chronological end of Oliphant's early period. The book was written in 1859-60, but published in 1861 - the year that Mrs Oliphant found her mature voice, while writing the first two stories of the Chronicles of Carlingford.
British publishing information
First edition: Hurst and Blackett 1860 (1861 on title page)