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Clarentine by Sarah Burney
Clarentine is the story of a young orphan named Clarentine Delmington, and her transition from childhood into an adult, and, of course, her search for love. The novel is set in England, towards the start of the 19th century. The novel covers 3 volumes and approximately 930 pages.
Young Clarentine, the product of an imprudent and ill-fated marriage, is early orphaned by her young parents, left peniless, and cast upon the mercy of her father's sister, Mrs. Somerset. The first few years of her life are spent with this kindly aunt and her loving cousin, William Somerset, who is about four years older than she. Upon the death of her aunt, however, her uncle, disinterested in caring for the young girl, sends her to live with her father's brother's family, the Delmingtons. It is in this caring and nurturing home that she grows up with her cousins, Harriett, Sophia, Edgar, Frederick, and Emma. Though she is taken from him, her cousin, William Somerset, continues to cherish her and, as he grows into his teenage years, pledges that he will financially provide for her once he becomes of age. As a young man, William becomes a Naval officer, and it is in this capacity that we first meet him, arriving at Delmington house to visit the young Clarentine after so many years separation. The two meet accidentally at first, when Clarentine is nearly run over by the Lieutenant's carriage. Fainting (as our heroine necessarily must), William carries the 12 year old girl back to her aunt, and it is there that they renew their attachment to one another, William acting as a guardian and brother.
Throughout her childhood, a strong bond develops between Clarentine and her elder cousin, Edgar Delmington. To her, this bond is no more than a sisterly affection, but to him, it is one of romantic attachment. A spinster relation of Lady Delmington, Mrs. Harrington, comes frequently for extended stays with the family. This gruff and cold lady instantly recognizes Edgar's love for his cousin, believes it a result of Clarentine's devious design, and makes it her mission to insure that she is removed from Delmington house and separated from Edgar before she can ensnare him. This intelligence is communicated to him through his concerned mother, and, anxious to protect Clarentine and keep her near, he forces himself outwardly to appear cold and distant to her while inwardly his love for her grows.
His plan sustains them for many years. Clarentine, during this time continues her correspondence with the ever-considerate Somerset, makes a lifelong friend in their neighbor, Lady Julia, and--naturally-- by chance comes to find, deliver, and form a relationship with an unknown aunt. As she approaches 17, however, the calculating Mrs. Harrington finally succeeds, and Clarentine is forced to heed the advice so prophetically delivered to her by Somerset before his last voyage, and leave Delmington House to find respite in the home of an elderly minister friend, Mr. Lenham.
Before this removal to London, however, Clarentine travels with the aforementioned long lost aunt to the spend several weeks in the seaside town of Sidmouth. It is there that the love-struck Mr. Eltham, a wealthy cousin of her friend Lady Julia, with whom she was briefly acquainted at Delmington house, follows her and attempts to further their acquaintance. This gentleman is a stark contrast to the pensive and brooding Edgar and the gentle and wise Somerset. George Eltham is flighty, passionate, and bold (and, if I may add, never seems able to take a hint).
It is in Sidmouth also, that we are first introduced to the scheming and devious Mrs. Hertford, who is to cause our heroine so much consternation in chapters to come.
After her time in Sidmouth, Clarentine journeys to London to the care of Mr. Lenham, reluctantly accompanied by the passionately inflamed Mr. Eltham. It is in London that she is reunited with Somerset, recently returned from sea, and, as his father has just died, in possession of his large inheritance. Having no