The Beautiful Soul
First published in the United States in 1894, The Beautiful Soul is accurately described the The Glasgow Herald as “romantic, but slight”. The fairly unsensational tale is, however, considerably enlivened by the rather vivid description of a leg amputation. The Academy summarised the plot quite succinctly:
A very pretty story…appears from the pen of Florence Marryat. The chief character is Felicia Hetherington, a wealthy spinster of thirty-five, whose plainness of personal appearance is more than compensated for by the sweetness and charm of her nature. Public opinion will pronounce her to be a great deal too good for Mr. Archibald Nasmyth, a penniless and lazy young journalise of four and twenty, who, having succeeded in winning her affections and been accepted as her engaged lover, proceeds to make violent love to Miss Mab Selwyn, aged nineteen. The backslider, however, subsequently repents, and matters are arranged to the satisfaction of both parties.
The Glasgow Herald singled out the character of Mab Selwyn as the target of their wrath:
[She is] nothing if not modern. Her manners and opinions suggest some of the least desirable features of the New Woman, but she takes as much pleasure in love-making as an old-fashioned daughter of Eve.
Marryat employed similarly unpleasant female characters in her earlier novels, so it is by no means certain that she was criticising the New Woman.