Proud Maisie – Bertha Thomas


Title: Proud Maisie: A Novel
Author: Bertha Thomas
Sampson Low & Co
Year: 1877

A novel of complicated relationships among five people: “… five lives were at stake—Hilda’s, Jasper’s, Leopold Meredith’s, Sophie’s, and mine” … Hilda was married to Jasper, but was in love with Leopold Meredith. Meredith was married to Sophie, but, without being in love with Hilda, was quite ready to run away with her, merely to disgrace her because she had previously rejected him for a wealthier suitor. Jasper was in love with the heroine, and had found out what a mistake he had made in jilting her when he had married Hilda. The heroine, Proud Maisie, was in love with Jasper, and was watching with a spiteful eye the unhappy life that he and his wife were leading. Besides this a famous old German musician, and a young opera singer who was rising into fame, were both in love with Maisie also.

Bertha Thomas was born in 1845 in Shelsley, Worcestershire, the daughter of Canon John Thomas (d. 1883). She trained as an artist before turning to literature, writing seven novels, many of which were serialized in London Society. From the 1880s, she lived in London, sometimes with her unmarried sister Frances Olivia, a musician. She never married and died in 1918. The hybrid and the outsider are common themes in Thomas’ work but also issues of gender, the role of women and differences between class structures in Wales and England. She has a cultural significance as a feminist and an atypical member of the ‘New Woman’ movement of writers, and for the Anglo-Welsh cultural sensibilities she brought to her works.

Bertha Thomas has cultural significance as a feminist, a “new woman” of the 1890s, whose narratives explore the personal and emotional conflict experienced by people torn between multiple ethnicities or between different social and national groups. Keenly observed her characters have a sharp eye for the humorous and satirical and stories are by turns Gothic, romantic, humorous, fantastic, and satirical, but always engagingly written.

This book is twinned with Levels by Far Awayaa, Sogol Sur and Joe Caplin (pub. 2017) read more about it here.