This Broadview Edition uses the first edition of 1805 as its copy text, but also includes important variants from the 1810 and 1844 editions. The appendices include contemporary reviews and material expanding on the novel’s themes of women’s education, marriage, slavery, and the tension between feeling and reason.
Mrs Mowbray's father, Mr Woodville, a respectable country gentleman, married, in obedience to the will of his mother, the sole surviving daughter of an opulent merchant in London, whose large dower paid off some considerable mortgages on the Woodville estates, and whose mild and unoffending character soon gained that affection from her husband after marriage, which he denied her before it.
Nor was it long before their happiness was increased, and their union cemented, by the birth of a daughter; who continuing to be an only child, and the probable heiress of great possessions, became the idol of her parents, and the object of unremitted attention to those who surrounded her. Consequently, one of the first lessons which Editha Woodville learnt was that of egotism, and to consider it as the chief duty of all who approached her, to study the gratification of her whims and caprices.
But, though rendered indolent in some measure by the blind folly of her parents, and the homage of her dependents, she had a taste above the enjoyments which they offered her.
She had a decided passion for literature, which she had acquired from a sister of Mr Woodville, who had been brought up amongst literary characters of various pursuits and opinions; and this lady had imbibed from them a love of free inquiry, which she had little difficulty in imparting to her young and enthusiastic relation.
But, alas! that inclination for study, which, had it been directed to proper objects, would have been the charm of Miss Woodville's life, and the safeguard of her happiness, by giving her a constant source of amusement within herself; proved to her, from the unfortunate direction which it took, the abundant cause of misery and disappointment.