THE RISE OF MR. WARDE by Duncan Sprott


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 The tragicomic tale of a Victorian gentleman fallen prey to sexual lust--an eccentric and very amusing first novel, based on a true story, by an English writer. They appeared to be the quintessential English upper-class couple--Mr. Warde, a country squire whose vast estates were equaled in splendor only by his large stature and golden good looks, and Mrs. Warde, whose meek demeanor and religious fervor were all that could be required of a Victorian wife. When the countryfolk around Stratford-upon-Avon glimpsed the Wardes flying along the roads in their carriage full of blue-eyed children, they stopped to smile and wave--that is, until the first hint of unnatural goings-on surfaced in the summer of 1846. That summer the town learns that Mrs. Warde is preparing to desert her husband, and the reasons for her departure soon leave Stratford awash in outrage. As the Wardes battle viciously through a separation, divorce, and custody trial- -each paying the local commoners to testify against the other--Mr. Warde's base behavior is described in lurid detail. Accounts of his beating his wife, swearing in front of his children, refusing to attend church, and having intercourse with loose women shock the local gentry and result in the loss of Warde's wife, children, and reputation. Though Warde the Magnificent has been transformed into Warde the Infamous in the public eye, he maintains his usual genteel facade as he proceeds to take a mistress and sire three daughters with her. When the mistress in turn sues Warde for support, revealing in court his predilection for physical abuse, blasphemy, and sexual perversion, the squire seems at last done in. He takes to his bed, tended only by a scullery maid, and dies spurned and taunted by all the women of Stratford--an ignominious end for one who began life so well. For those who like their humor very dry--a bizarre literary treat.

Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 1992
ISBN: 0-312-06932-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1991