“My argument is that 'Mansfield' is a name of generic Englishness, that it is so widely found as to make singling out a reference to Lord Mansfield both untenable and only understandably popular because of its capacity to be exploited in readings of Mansfield Park that bestow upon the novel a twentieth-century political correctness.” -- John Wilshire (link to pdf)
The Heir of Montague follows one English family, the Montagues (not to be confused with the real noble family of the same name). We open with the life story of grandfather Montague, who has one son and two daughters.
One daughter elopes but the unsanctioned marriage ends with the early death of the lovers, leaving their son Frederic, who is the main hero. The other daughter becomes a scolding spinster. In addition to being miserable to her family, she argues about politics--the 18th century version of the culture wars. As her saucy niece Cecelia explains, “Why you know my aunt is a democrat; well, she had been descanting upon rights of man, social happiness, necessary violence, and the blessings of the revolution in France, when I interrupted her, and advised a journey thither…”
Cecelia and her cousin Frederic are raised by her grouchy father, (the one son mentioned above) who has married a nice ladylike woman. Frederic and Cecelia do not fall in love. Although the countryside is shown as the abode of virtue in novels of this stamp, as opposed to the wicked city, here the countryside is also portrayed as being very dull and tedious for Mrs. Montague, Frederic, and Cecelia. Frederic is educated by an exceedingly long-winded vicar, Dr. Evans, who is opposed to all sorts of things, including singing in public, and warns against the many dangers lurking out there in the world to trap the innocent and unwary.
Thanks to the plot device of a carriage accident, Frederic meets the beautiful and principled Emma Nevil, who again, despite sharing her name with a noble family, who comes from a lower social strata than the Montagues. Impediments, hardships, and separations ensue before the pair can be happily united...
A character referred to simply as “Mansfield” appears briefly in the second volume, luring Frederic and his friend George into a drinking party and then to a brothel. Frederic is exposed to temptation in the form of a painted doxy, but recalls his lovely sweetheart in time and escapes. Mansfield is described as “tall and ill made, dark and sallow complexioned, except where pimples gave a disgusting redness, and his address was, at the same time, rough and affected.” Frederic later learns that Mansfield had laid a bet that he could corrupt the unworldly hero, Mansfield drops out of the novel after he has played his part.
The Heir of Montagu features long passages of dialogue in between the actual events of the story. It might be of interest to scholars studying Jacobin and anti-Jacobin novels because the characters discuss the war in Europe, the French revolution, the merits of specific writers and poets, and the dangers and rewards of novel-reading. In the third volume, an anti-republican mob burns the effigies of Thomas Paine and Dr. Joseph Priestley.
The Critical Review gave The Heir of Montague a lukewarm review: “Although the characters in this novel are copies, and the incidents are of the common kind, it may be considered as usefully tending to expose the errors of youthful indiscretion and vulgar prejudices. Much of this, as of most modern novels, is thrown into the form of dialogue, probably from a supposition that it is easy to write in that way…” The review does not mention the character of Mansfield, or indeed any of the characters, or take issue with what they had to say about politics.
The Ward of Delamere: a tale (1815) by Elizabeth Sibthorpe Pinchard
I have only read enough of this novel to understand that the character Mr. Mansfield is a surgeon. He gets involved in spying on the romance between the heroine Magdalena and her sweetheart. “Mr. Mansfield found, that any intelligence he could gain of her, would be extremely acceptable at the different houses where he visited. He was a young man, not long established in his profession; and one of those busy, prying characters, who love better to investigate the affairs of others, than attend to their own.” He liked to “please, by indulging his patients with whatever gossip he could collect, than by studious research, and scientific attainment, to render himself an ornament of a noble profession, and a desirable companion for minds of superior comprehension.”
The Monthly Review was pretty scathing: "The distresses of the fair Magdalena are such as might have been obviated by a little candour and common sense; and they are not terminated by any effort of her own, but by a most extraordinary coincidence, which brings all her relations, who were supposed to be dead or mad, into the same apartment on her wedding-day."
The author also wrote books for children, which--naturally--were of an improving nature. Her novel Mystery and Confidence (1814) is about a farmer's daughter who marries an Earl (an Earl who is accused of murdering his first wife) so that might be fun to read sometime and it looks to be, like Emma, an early example of a mystery novel: The Critical Review reported: "Though these volumes come before us in an anonymous guise, yet we have found in them something superior to the productions of many fair attendants in the literary vineyard; who bring forth their fruits under sweet-sounding names, followed up with a list of former labours. This tale is naturally told, and it also possesses the advantage of being disencumbered from episodes, under plots, and counterplots, which, of late years, chilling thought! seems to have become necessary to eke out five or six volumes of novel or romance."
The title suggests a Gothic thriller, but The Prison of Montauban, though published in 1810, returns to the times of the French Revolution, and combats the pernicious scourges of vice, republicanism and atheism. "Mr. Mansfield" is simply a convenient name for a very minor character, an elderly family friend who helps the heroine, Isabella Montford, sort out her affairs after she is orphaned. This could not be a representation of Lord Mansfield because his family name is Murray, not Mansfield.
Isabella de Montford is the only child of the Baron de Montford. The novel goes over her education, a popular and enduring theme for novels of this time. She grows up with a young man named Dubois, a ward of the baron. She does not fall in love with him, but the baron decides that he'd make an excellent husband anyway. Let's turn to the Critical Review for the rest: "The baron, who is much prejudiced in the young man’s favour, destines him for the all-accomplished and virtuous Isabella, the stay and the solace of his remaining days. Isabella consents to her father’s wishes; and Dubois is admitted as a candidate for her favour. He expresses his gratitude with formal complacency, is extremely easy on his approaching happiness, and takes every thing that comes in his way with perfect coolness. Before the time is fixed for their marriage, the baron and his daughter are seized by municipal officers and dragged to different prisons in France. The horrors of the prison in which Isabella was placed, urged her to importune the goaler [sic] to give her ‘any hole but where she was.’ He takes her by the arms and drags her through dark places and strong doors to a kind of cell, saying, as he enters, ‘I have brought you a nice companion, young citizen, and closed the door upon her. A tall male figure traversed the apartment,’ This tall figure proves to be the Marquis de Villeneuf, who had frequently visited at Mont Cassel, and became enamoured of Isabella, but his addresses are refused in favour of Dubois, her father’s ward. This young nobleman is described as possessing many and great virtues, but of very free notions. He thought it safe to wander without a guide to the edges of precipices and ravines, as to walk in a narrow and secure path. He had given but little thought to the more serious subjects of morality and religion, and therefore it falls to the lot of Isabella to fix his faith in the latter, and strengthen his resolution in the former. This she does with much good sense in the prison of Montauban, where they spend some melancholy time in the expectation of being led to the guillotine.”
“The respect and delicacy which the Marquis shows to Isabella in this trying situation, for they have but one room and a small recess for a bed which he gives up to her…. [and] he refrains from speaking of his passion and suffers not a look nor a word to embarrass her. The door of her prison is at length opened by her destined husband [who] does not at all relish the idea of Isabella’s being domesticated with the Marquis in the prison, though she assures him of his upright conduct and undeviating delicacy.” Because of his suspicions, DuBois can’t bring himself to marry Isabella, so she is free to receive declarations of love from the Marquis “which, after a proper time, are accepted.”
One aspect of interest with this novel is that the authoress uses her foreword to call out and condemn the indecency of the writings of Sydney, Lady Morgan, author of the best-seller The Wild Irish Girl (1806). “I have only, by accident, cast my eyes upon one of this young Hibernian’s productions, and am resolved no other shall pollute my mind.”
The Prison of Montauban is not described as a "novel," but as a "reflective tale." Smith insisted “it is not a novel, since it contains neither of swoonings, idolatry, or seduction; nor of expressions, and situations bordering upon blasphemy and indecency.”
The Feminist Companion to Literature in English describes Smith as a "conservative" but has no biographical details or dates for her.
Thanks to the invaluable British Fiction 1800-1829 website for the reviews I've quoted.