Violet Rivers; or, Loyal to Duty. A Tale for Girls
This book is unique to the five libraries being explored by the NCCB Project. It appears to be the only book written by the author Winifred Taylor, though it went through a number of editions until at least 1880. In many ways, the book is typical of religious novels aimed at a gendered audience, notable in its inherently good protagonist Violet Rivers who is faithful and stoic in spite of her many trials. However, one of the significant features of the book is its varied focus on the subject of death. Death is the central focus of the book and begins to structure Violet’s life from the death of her father early in the narrative. Violet initially does not understand that her father is dying when he tells her he is going on a journey and she must be a grown up now. He asks her to promise that she will ‘fight bravely, and keep [her] heart firm and strong’ (17). However, her efforts to keep this promise to her father direct her actions for the remainder of the narrative. The narrative voice interjects with meditations on death throughout the book, keeping the subject to the forefront and exploring the ways it changes relationships (169, 171). For example, her mother’s grief at the death of her father meant a change in their mother-daughter relationship, where Violet was required to look after and comfort her listless and grieving parent. Later in the novel, the violent death of her young cousin after an accident where her clothes were set alight, is shown to bring this family closer together. The eventual death of her beloved brother Willie is described as a moment of an unnamed understanding and realisation: ‘But she understood it all by and by, and saw it all without seeing; for her very heart stood still with this sudden awakening’ (288). Before his death, Willie encourages a marriage between Violet and her cousin Herbert, and Willie’s death brings this new chapter in Violet’s life. Interestingly, one important relationship which does emphasise death is Violet’s relationship with her difficult and mean-spirited cousin Gertrude. Gertrude is unkind to Violet throughout until a near-death experience encourages her to become a better person, like Violet.
Place of Publication:
William P. Nimmo
Date of Publication:
vii, , 293,  p., plates : ill. ; 17.6 cm.
Gender, Moral, Death, Religion, Girlhood, Coalmines, London, Urban, Rural, Grief
Pollard Collection - TCD