The Marriage of William Ashe

From its title and the author’s designation of herself as Mrs. Humphrey Ward, readers might expect The Marriage of William Ashe to be a light romance.

They would be wrong.


The Marriage of William Ashe by Mrs. Humphrey Ward

Albert Sterner, illus., 1905, 570 pp (approx.) 1905 bestseller #1. My grade: A


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William  Ashe is a young man of ability backed by a family with money and influence. Until he’s named undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, he’s always pretended not to care whether he appeared successful or not.

The post challenges his talents as nothing has previously done.

William knows he must marry if he’s to have a political career.

His family deplores his choice of Lady Kitty Bristol, who “comes of  a bad stock.”

William loves Kitty because she’s so un-English, so sexy, and so clearly destined to become the prey of a man as undisciplined as herself unless William’s  love can change her life.

William’s problems with his impulsive child-wife may remind readers of Anthony Trollope’s Palliser novels. Unlike Glencora Palliser, however, Kitty is not just interfering; she swings from sleepless, manic hyperactivity to depression that borders on suicidal.

Also unlike Trollope, Ward uses politics merely as the backdrop to the story. Ward couldn’t care less about the Reform Bill. Her interest is in finding out what makes her characters tick.

Today’s readers will find that exploration equally intriguing.

Coming reviews of 1905 novels

The lineup of bestsellers for 1905 contains some fascinating reading. In the weeks ahead, I’ll sort out the best from the lesser ones.

As you scan the list, notice that Katherine Cecil Thurston has two books on the 1905 bestseller list. The Masquerader was a bestseller in 1904 and held on for a second year. The Gambler made its first and only appearance on the list in 1906.

Each of the 10 on the 1905 bestseller list is available to read free at Project Gutenberg. Except for the Masquerader, the links in the list will take you directly to the Project Gutenberg download page.

1. The Marriage of William Ashe by Mary Augusta Ward
2. Sandy by Alice Hegan Rice
3. The Garden of Allah by Robert Hichens
4. The Clansman by Thomas Dixon Jr.
5.  Nedra by George Barr McCutcheon
6. The Gambler by Katherine Cecil Thurston
7. The Masquerader by Katherine Cecil Thurston
8. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
9. The Princess Passes by C. N. Williamson and A. M. Williamson
10. Rose o’the River by Kate Douglas Wiggin

Project Gutenberg

There is some fine reading here, so pay a visit to Project Gutenberg and pick up a couple to read.