Here’s a little post about one of my favourite Victorian authors: Mrs. G. Forsyth Grant.
Largely forgotten now, she wrote five mawkish and sentimental novel length boy’s school stories that were quite popular in their day: The Boys of Penrohn (1893); The Hero of Crampton School (1895); Burke’s Chum: a Story of Thistleton School (1896); Chums at Last (1898); and The Beresford Boys (1906).
A contemporary review in the Spectator said of The boys of Penrohn that ‘boys and girls, except the hysterical ones, could only laugh at the excessively feminine idea our author has of the young men and the way they behave’. To some extent I would agree with this statement, and there are indeed some flaws: her descriptions of cricket matches and sporting events are both naive and inaccurate. She also depicts a surprisingly large number of sensitive boys in her works, and she places too much emphasis on their looks.
The novels are set in fictional British boarding schools with classrooms that abound in romantic friendships. This is evident in dialogue such as ‘Jolly little fellow. Hasn’t he got a jolly little face. Look at his hair … isn’t it pretty and curly’, and in soppy descriptions like ‘Arnold was exceedingly pleasant looking, a nice mannered boy, who was very much liked and respected’, and ‘Burke had a sort of secret admiration for Arnold – an admiration suppressed and hidden’. Be this as it may, her books also have merit. She creates many enjoyable boyish adventures with ‘moral dilemmas and their consequences’ that are aptly suitable and interesting for young readers.
There is something quite beautiful about her quaint and tender-hearted novels, but after reading all five of them, I am definitely left wondering if Mrs. Grant ever met a real boy!