The Mettle of the Pasture by James Lane Allen combines two of life’s most essential themes— love and ethical behavior — into an incredibly forgettable novel.
The plot pivots on the question of whether it is ethically necessary for a couple about to marry to reveal their moral lapses to their intended partner.
When he proposes to Isabel Conyers, Rowan Meredith decides that he must reveal his dark secret.
She would rather not have known.
Knowing, Isabel sees no option open to her but to uphold her virtue by refusing to marry. For Rowan’s sake, Isabel attempts to conceal the reason for the break-up.
Her grandmother, an accomplished scandalmonger, makes a shrewd guess.
Allen clearly wants readers to admire Rowan and Isabel for their “mettle.” Readers might admire Rowan if his honesty were accompanied by a realistic appraisal of the situation.
Rowan, however, doesn’t see having sex outside marriage as in any way immoral. He expects Isabel to regard it as unfortunate at worst — which shows how little he knows Isabel.
Rowan comes out looking like a fool.
Isabel is not much better.
Her high moral standards generally take back seat to her high regard for her own social standing. She (and Allen) may wish to believe her acquaintances respect her, but from what Allen shows, I believe that, like her grandmother, her acquaintances fear Isabel’s tongue.The Mettle of the Pasture by James Lane Allen 1903 Bestseller #7 Project Gutenberg eBook #12482