['H. E. H.'] A melodramatic murder story, written for Blackwood's Magazine but unpublished, entitled 'Recollections of a Governess | My first Friend', and purporting to be the work of 'Emma', daughter of 'Henry Darrel [...] an Officer in Dragoons'.

'H. E. H.', soi-disant daughter of 'Henry Darrel [...] Officer in Dragoons' [Blackwood's Magazine, Edinburgh]
Publication details: 
Place and date not stated. [England; 1840s.]
SKU: 15451

56pp., 4to. On wove paper watermarked 'E & S | 1840'. In ruled notebook, in contemporary brown calf half-binding, with marbled boards. In very good condition, lightly-aged and worn. Neatly written out, with a few emendations in pencil. Signed at the end 'H. E. H.' (either the initials of the author or of the narrator 'Emma'). Clearly the work of an educated individual: the author employs the long s, and beneath the title is a quotation from Virgil's Bucolics: 'Est mihi namque domi Pater; est injusta noverca.' The narrator claims to have been 'emboldened [...] to offer the fruits & flowers, gained by the experience of many a weary year, to the Editors of Blackwood's Magazine.' The story is set in the Regency period (see the reference to the Polish general Jan Henryk Dombrowski). It purports to be an autobiographical account by 'Emma', daughter of the late 'Henry Darrel, [...] an Officer in Dragoons', who is sent at the age of seventeen to be 'Governess in the Family of Sir Harcourt Dalrymple, [...] a relation of my deceased Father'. (The characters described are all clearly fictitious.) After the death of her best friend, Sir Harcourt's daughter Hermione (half-Polish daughter of his first wife), and of her betrothed, the Polish Count Lamska ('found in the River shot thro' the Head, and his Horse drowned with him'), Emma realises that the second Lady Dalrymple is behind it all, as she had observed her instructing her maid Diana to tell her brother the gamekeeper to 'fire at all Persons who may be seen lurking about the Premises after nightfall' ('There was a look of sinister import in Diana's face'). Emma realises that she must herself be 'the unworthy instrument employed by Heaven to work the ends of justice'. She leaves the Dalrymple home in search of Hermione's brother Cassimir, with whom she has a highly-charged interview: '"And is she dead["] he asked with gasping eagerness. My tears & silence rendered further inquiry needless. "Oh God! Oh God! I might have been spared that blow." he buried his face in his Hands. His silence did not last long. "But Lamska, Ronald Lamsk[a] - What caused his Death? Was he? Was he?" And he seemed to tremble at the thought that flashed across his mind. "He was murdered" I replied. Cassimir sprang forward, and grasped my arm with a violence that nearly made me scream. "But by whose instigation" asked he, in a voice so intense, & low, as to be barely audible. "By Lady Dalrymple's." "Then by Heaven above, and Him who reigns thereon! They shall be avenged," shouted the furious Brother with a vehemence that beggars all description, and made the Roof ring again.' Lady Dalrymple is disgraced and driven from her home, and Emma receives from Cassimir 'a check for 1000£, a miniature of Hermione, & a letter expressing "the deepest sense of gratitude for the exertions I had made in his sisters cause, both before & [after] her Death'. The tale concludes: 'Cassimir fell in Italy fighting bravely among the Heroes of Dombrowsky's Polish Legion. | ---- | I see by the Papers that - "the Honorable Lady Dalrymple expired lately at Lisbon." From the point of view of social history, the beginning of the tale is of some interest, as it provides an interesting if gloomy overview of the governess's position in society: 'Recollections of a Governess! the very title has an ominous sound; the younger part of the community regard "the Governess" as a Task Master, the origin of all their little sorrows, the older, too often view her as "a Bore." There may be some happy exceptions to this rule, but I speak of my Fellow labourers, en masse. It is therefore with feelings of diffidence that I sit down to write the History & adventures, of one member of a Race, far more sinned against than sinning. The Governess as alone amid a crowd, a sojourner in a strange land, none of her Family are near to sympathize in her many trials, no Friend is at Hand to soothe and advise her. The Oasis of her Future is dimly visible thro' a long vista of years of toil and sorrow. Perchance her Childhood was happy in the unconsciousness of her destiny, then Alas! the recollection of its bright sunny Hours will render the darkness, darker still. Perchance Hers was a Youth of Labour, of mental and bodily suffering, [added in pencil: 'a foretaste of her coming trials'] if so, the Retrospect of the Past is even more gloomy than the Prospect of the Future. Rely on me Reader, the work of a Slave at the Galley, of a Convict at the Hulks, is not more toilsome and thankless than the labours of "the Governess."'