SUMMARY OF Drelincourt and Rodalvi; or, Memoirs of Two Noble Families.
A novel by Elizabeth Byron (Strutt), written in 1807
The story begins by exploring the deep and loyal friendship between two noblemen, the Italian Marques de Rodalvi and the English Lord Drelincourt. They have been friends since their university days and as each man has married and raised a family they have kept in touch over the years by letter. Lord Drelincourt has just spent six months with the Rodalvi family in Italy for the benefit of his health and it is with sadness that the two old friends prepare to part.
The sadness of separation is somewhat eased by the fact that Edmund Rodalvi, the son of the Marques, is to accompany Lord Drelincourt back to England. The Earl is consoled by having Edmund's company, but the departure of Rodalvi's only son causes great grief to his family, especially to his mother and to his older sister, Everilda.
On arrival in London, Edmund Rodalvi meets Lord Drelincourt's son, Henry, Lord Courtney. Henry's behaviour strikes Edmund as cold and unfriendly, and presents an unpleasant contrast to the warmth of an Italian welcome. However, relationships between the two young men quickly improve when Henry takes his guest down to the family seat at Castle-Drelincourt. Henry introduces Edmund to his three beautiful older sisters and to other members of the Drelincourt family, and he later develops further new contacts for Edmund within a wide circle of friends.
Edmund becomes more settled in England and develops an understanding of the social interactions at Drelincourt, such as the fact that Captain Clayton is courting the very assertive Lady Rosamond, Henry's eldest sister. Edmund himself admires Lady Maria, the middle sister, but eventually falls in love with the youngest, Lady Emma, who happily returns his feelings.
The path of true love does not run smoothly, however, for either Rosamond or for Emma. Rosamond overhears a private conversation between Edmund and Captain Clayton and is so upset to hear herself criticised by the latter for bossiness that she has him sent away from Drelincourt immediately. Emma has to endure Lady Laura Delaney's flirtatious behaviour with Edmund at a ball, and is even more upset the
following day when Edmund rescues Laura from a bolting horse. Emma rightly concludes that Edmund is flattered by Lady Laura's attentions, but fortunately he comes to recognise that his heart really belongs to Emma. His subsequent request for permission to embark on a courtship leading to marriage is granted by a benevolent Lord Drelincourt.
Henry's behaviour in matters of the heart falls short of Edmund's high standards. He meets Mary Macdonald, a young woman with a sweet nature, good looks, a respectable background but almost no social connections. When her widowed father is dying, he asks Henry to take care of his beloved daughter, a duty which Henry takes on with rather too much emotional involvement. Initially, Henry does not take advantage of Mary's innocence, but he puts her reputation at risk by establishing her in a small London residence where he visits her frequently. Edmund is shocked by Henry's action and very concerned on Mary's behalf. She herself is too innocent to realise the possible misinterpretation of her domestic arrangements.
While these events are taking place in London, Captain Clayton is coming to terms with his dismissal from the Drelincourt circle. He is much comforted by the excitement of going on the Grand Tour, and he is soon enchanted by the beauty of Italy.
He performs a daring rescue of two young ladies whose carriage is halted by Portuguese attackers. As a result, he is received at the splendid villa of the two young ladies where he learns that he has rescued none other than the sister of Edmund Rodalvi! The attack was actually aimed at her adopted companion, Claudina, whose brother wanted to reestablish control over her future. Clayton is much impressed by the beauty of both young ladies, but it is Everilda di Rodalvi who wins the heart which Rosamond had so abruptly scorned back at Castle-Drelincourt. Clayton has made an unfortunate choice, however, since it is Claudina, not Everilda, whose true feelings of love for Clayton are fired by his rescue of them both.
Claudina's feminine modesty prevents her giving Clayton any hint of her feelings for him. Thus it is in a state of blissful ignorance that Clayton confides in Claudina the secret of his adoration for Everilda. It does occur to him that her response of sobbing grief might be indicative of some unidentified anguish, but she manages to convince him that she is simply sad to think of losing the companionship of a devoted woman friend. Clayton's experience of courtship is not extensive enough to realise that women do not always say what they mean in matters of the heart.
Soon after this unfortunate conversation, Clayton's sister, Frances, writes to him to tell him that their uncle has died and that he is needed back in England. Clayton is sad to have to leave Everilda but he is confident that on his return to Italy, he can claim her for his bride.
Sadly, Clayton's confidence is totally misplaced. Just as he is about to leave Italy, Henry, Lord Courtney, arrives on his Grand Tour. Naturally, Henry is made as welcome at the Rodalvi villa as Edmund Rodalvi felt at Drelincourt-Castle. The Rodalvi family do not know the circumstances which surround Henry's visit. Edmund had informed Lord Drelincourt of Henry's dishonourable behaviour with Mary Macdonald; he felt he had to take this action for Mary's sake. However, Henry's doting father's response was to send his son to Italy as a form of protection against an unsuitable match. In the glowing approval of the Rodalvi family Henry soon forgets his guilty feelings about the way he bid farewell to a distraught Mary, without telling her the truth of the situation.
However shallow Henry's behaviour might seem, he does think of Mary and wonder why she has chosen to break off communication with him. He is reluctantly drawn to Everilda over the following weeks, lured by her attentiveness to him. In contrast to this encouraging response to Henry, Everilda demonstrates an increasing irritation with the devoted Clayton, who is saddened to have to leave her to return to England.
Much to everyone's consternation, the pregnant Mary suddenly turns up at the villa and is led towards Henry's presence by Claudina. Mary faints before being united with her lover and everyone is shocked when, on regaining consciousness, she declares that Henry has been led astray from his duty to her. Mary then returns to Florence and Henry accompanies her, his reputation seriously impaired by what has happened. Henry's tutor takes charge of Mary's approaching confinement while Henry returns to a cool reception by the Rodalvi family.
Paradoxically, her parents' disapproval of Henry's actions serves as a catalyst to increase the intensity of Everilda's feelings for Henry. Mary's illegitimate child is born in Florence and Henry feels overwhelmed by guilt when Mary sadly releases him to return to Everilda. Mary nurtures her baby with devotion, supported by Henry's tutor, but the child dies and Mary develops brain fever. Meanwhile Henry and Everilda, accompanied by a disapproving Claudina, have eloped to Bologna where they announce their marriage by letter to both sets of parents. Edmund, hearing this news in England, is full of concern for his sister Everilda since Henry's treatment of Mary has demonstrated an evident disregard for honourable behaviour.
However, once the young couple arrive at Castle-Drelincourt, Everilda's charm and beauty soon win universal approval and Lord Drelincourt swallows his disappointment that Henry has forfeited the chance to marry his ward, Lady Harriett Parkhurst, a young lady poor in intellect but very rich in property. Lady Harriett herself seeks consolation by eloping with a local suitor, Mr Dunderton. The suitor's father, Lord Dunderton, supports his son financially in this venture because he is pleased that Harriet's fortune will be diverted from the Drelincourt family to his own.
Everilda's considerable impact on her new social world does not extend to Ireland where Sir Edward Clayton, formerly her suitor Captain Clayton, has fled to his small Irish estate, accompanied by his sister, Frances. It is a delight to Clayton that his sister meets and marries an Irish baronet, but he is still hurt by Everilda's treatment of him and is in no hurry to return to England.
Meanwhile, Claudina is upset to notice that Everilda has antagonised Lady Rosamond, Henry's sister, and is generally not establishing herself in a good light. Everilda's brother, Edmund, also feels uneasy about her behaviour and shares his concerns with his beloved Emma. The situation is made worse when Everilda is reckless with her own health and loses her first pregnancy in consequence. Whatever disapproval Everilda is amassing, none of it comes from Henry, who simply adores his beautiful young wife. Even Henry's father is never cross with Everilda for long and she cannot help being the centre of everyone's attention. Sir Edward Clayton asks to visit the couple and overcomes his wounded pride by enjoying their warm hospitality. Claudina finds his visit painful because she still loves Clayton, but Rosamond does not have designs on any man except Mr Fletcher, since she is aware of Claudina's secret love for Clayton.
Unfortunately, Everilda shows no such sensitivity and she soon becomes infatuated with Clayton, and he with her. Surprisingly, Clayton again confides in Claudina about his rekindled love for Everilda and he is touched by her sympathetic response to him. Henry, however, is enraged by Clayton's attentions to his wife and challenges him to a duel. As a result, Henry is gravely wounded in the hip and Everilda is overcome by guilt and love for her dying husband. Henry himself regrets his sins and the way he has thrown away his life. He takes sad leave of his distraught family before he finally expires.
Henry's father has great difficulty in coming to terms with his son's death, and Everilda feels that she is to blame for the tragedy. She persuades Claudina to accompany her in her flight from Castle- Drelincourt and leaves a letter, written in Italian, explaining that she must repent of her sins in exile as she awaits the birth of Henry's child. The disappearance of the two young women causes additional heartbreak to the family and in particular to Edmund, who is very anxious for his sister's safety. When news of all these tragic events reach Edmund's parents in Italy, they, too, are distraught, and travel at once to England.
The reunion between the two fathers is a sad one, and there is a long period of grief and tension before news finally arrives from Clayton to say that the women have been found in a small Welsh village. Sadly, Everilda's health is failing but Clayton hopes that being reunited with her family will save Everilda's life. He himself plans to leave England as soon as the family can make their way to Wales. He feels full of remorse for his part in the family's tragedy.
It is with great haste that the family plunges out on the journey to Wales and there is an emotional reunion with Everilda and Claudina before Everilda dies, holding her beloved baby son in her arms. The grief-stricken family eventually begins to recover from the tragedy of their losses, and there are consolations to link the Drelincourts and Rodalvis in happiness. One is the blessed marriage between Edmund and Emma, and another is the employment of Mary Macdonald in the nurturing of the beloved orphaned baby boy. Happily for Claudina, she is at last united with Clayton and their marriage also proves to be a very happy one. The life-long friendship between the Drelincourts and the Rodalvis survives the agony of their young people's deaths, and there is hope for the future in a new generation which is nurtured in an environment of forgiveness and love.