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Bessy Rane

by Mrs. Henry Wood

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"Unlike Dickens, who crusaded against a variety of abuses in his fiction, Mrs. Henry Wood was not a reformer; she was a disapprover. She does not suggest that any change in society can overcome the ills of the age, only a stricter adherence to the dictates of the individual conscience. Mrs. North is not evil because of anything that has happened to her, but only because she chooses to be. The trade unions exist, in Mrs. Henry Wood's world, not because workers are badly paid, but simply because workers sometimes become rebellious, seduced by greed and avarice. She never questions that the rules of society should forbid marriage between a member of the gentry and the offspring of a convict, however virtuous the offspring; it goes without saying that social status is more important than character. Although this may make terrible social policy, it also makes for tragic and hence exciting fiction. . . ." -- From Martha Bayless's introduction to Bessy Rane



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