The Member's Wife


Short Fiction

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The Story

When her husband resigns from Parliament without even consulting her, Mrs Vickars plots to get her life back. But no matter how conniving she is, her fate ultimately lies in the hands of the opposite sex.

No one is exactly likable in this very short, somewhat amusing story.

Biographical and other notes

The Vickars family in this story may have been based on a real political family - William Shepherd Allen, his wife Elizabeth, and his son William Allen:

Margaret Oliphant's cousin and close friend Annie Walker Coghill (later the editor of her Autobiography) was the stepmother of Douglas Harry Coghill, who was Member of Parliament for Newcastle-under-Lyme from 1886-1892. Around the time of his defeat in 1892 Mrs Oliphant stayed with the Coghills. She may have written this story in response to Coghill's defeat, giving a rather malicious picture of the Allens, who preceded and succeeded Coghill in office. "Mr Vickars" in the story seems to be based on William Shepherd Allen, Liberal MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme from 1865-1886. The Liberal party split in 1886 over Gladstone's policy of Home Rule for Ireland, the Liberals backing Home Rule, and the new Liberal Unionists opposing Home Rule. (In the story Mr Vickars senior disapproves of Gladstone's Home Rule policy and resigns his seat.) "Trotter" seems to be Douglas Harry Coghill, who won the Newcastle-under-Lyme election in 1886 as a Liberal Unionist, but lost in 1892 to Liberal William Allen ("Harold Vickars"), the son of William Shepherd Allen.  [Information from John Stock Clarke, based in part on Oliphant manuscript letters in the National Library of Scotland.]

British publishing information

Periodical:   National Observer   4, 11 Mar 1893

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