After the death of her mother, Lucilla Marjoribanks' dutiful purpose is to be "a comfort to dear papa". But all is not what it seems in this amusing novel in which a bright, lively 19-year-old is determined to create an interesting life for herself, despite the narrowness of Victorian expectations for women. Her father muses: if she had been a male, she could have joined his medical practice, or have gone into Parliament.
Lucilla is determined to find outlets for her ambition and creativity; and she decides to begin by rejuvenating local society. While implementing her various projects (including putting up a candidate for Parliament), she does keep an eye out for an eligible husband - someone interesting, whose position would provide her with greater scope for her abilities. By story's end she will have recognized who or what she needs in order to combine ambition with genuine affection.
Margaret Oliphant's dry and ironic humour reaches new heights in this very funny novel. Though some readers find Lucilla too cold-blooded, many others become increasingly fond of her as the story progresses - as did Mrs Oliphant herself.
Miss Marjoribanks is the sixth of seven works set in the delightful country town of Carlingford.
(Fyi: Marjoribanks is pronounced "Marchbanks"!)
British publishing information
Periodical: Blackwood's Magazine Feb 1865 - May 1866