Wednesday, 7 April 2010

A review of Piers De Gaveston, by E.e.c.

This novel was originally published in 1838. It has been re-published by General Books using OCR software. I suspect E.E,C. is a woman, but there is no identification of the author. In the preface, the author gives nothing away, and continually refers to himself or herself as ‘the author’. This happens throughout the novel as well. The author ‘shares’ commentary with the main characters in the book, inviting them to tell their story, and then taking over for them. It becomes annoying when the author says he/she will leave the character to dwell on what has happened to them, and not intrude on their private thoughts.

The main focus of the novel is Margaret de Clare, Edward II’s niece. Margaret is a mature 17 at the start of the novel – not the ‘child bride ‘ of Piers. She is ‘hopelessly in love’ with Hugh Audley, and despite her status she has promised herself in marriage to him. All this has been done in secret because her brother would not approve. Then along comes Piers Gaveston, who falls in love with her, and asks Edward II for her hand in marriage. Margaret has taken a dislike to Piers, who, although very handsome, is haughty and proud – no surprise there! Margaret refuses to marry Piers, and it’s a case of being ‘forced’ by her family to do her duty. She reluctantly marries Piers, and, because of her family honour, acts the dutiful wife.

When Piers is banished to Ireland, Margaret dutifully promises to follow him, but is concerned Piers doesn’t want her to follow him. When she gets to Ireland, she founds out the reason why. Her husband spends hardly any time with her, and Margaret is shocked to find out he has a long-term mistress – the French-born Adele. Adele has been dishonoured by Piers – he persuaded her to elope with him, before he met Margaret, and she has followed him around as his mistress. The author says she has been ‘degraded’ and brought shame on her family. She loves Piers and cannot help herself. Margaret discovers that Piers has tired of her, and to gently cast her off, has asked Edward to declare and interest in her and take her as his mistress to free Piers of her. I know Edward is devoted – but really! Adele is horrified, and Margaret resolves to send her home to her family, away from the womanising Piers! This she manages, and of course, by then, Piers realises he really does love Margaret. There has to be a however – because it’s not long before Piers is tempted again by a lady of the court – in between cheating at cards at court. He has to cheat at cards because he and Edward have no money, and HE has to bankroll Edward – how sweet! The lady concerned is whisked away from court by her brother – one of the leading nobility who swears revenge on Piers.

The villain in this novel is ……Pembroke! How’s this for a twist? He has married Adele! So when Piers is ‘captured’ by Pembroke, Adele tries to help him to run away with her. But Piers is now once again devoted to Margaret, and faces his fate.

Margaret is the heroine of the novel – the author makes much of her obedience to her husband, which grows into love. Piers is called ‘our hero’ throughout, and is re-deemed by his love for Margaret. Margaret swoons quite a bit and is of course very brave. The author informs us that Adele realises she has led a life of vice and dies ‘by her own hand’. This is quite a charming novel, a novel of its time, and not to be taken seriously.


Susan Higginbotham said...

That one sounds quite entertaining! I'll have to look it up.

Kathryn said...

Thanks for this review, Anerje! I've downloaded a copy onto my computer, and intend to read it very soon. ;)

Anerje said...

Yes, Piers as a rather rakish womaniser is entertaining! As well as the 'moral codes' for Adele and Margaret.