Contemporary Reviews of Wood's Books

This section is still under construction. Substantial additions are scheduled for the next few months.

Danesbury House

From The Athenaeum, 24/3/1860
It is the story which was successful in obtaining the £100 prize which had been offered by the Society for the best tale "illustrative of the injurious effects of intoxicating drinks, the advantages of personal abstinence, and the demoralising operations of the Liquor Traffic." A tale written on these conditions would naturally be under difficulties, which might well quench the "genial current" of the most vivid imagination…'Danesbury House' gets over the natural difficulties of the task extremely well; the story, as a mere story, is interesting, and there are occasional spirited delineations of life and character, which indicate that the authoress might write a very good novel if left to follow what whist-players call an "original lead".
            The sketch of Lord Temple is about the best in the book, and the account of his life and embarrassments and good resolves, and how he happens to break them without intending any harm, is given in a human, natural way, as though the authoress had sought to be true rather than didactic…
            The style is hard and not pleasing, but the story has the aspect of truthfulness and reality, which give it the air of being, in many particulars, a real narrative: - things do not fall so smooth and easy as in tales they often do. It is a good, wholesome story to put into the hands of a young man or boy, and the maxims and examples about temperance arise naturally, and as they would be likely to do in actual life.

From The Critic, 7/7/1860
We are informed by the preface that this is the result of a competition incited by an offer of £100 for the "best temperance tale, illustrative of the injurious effects of intoxicating drinks, the advantages of personal abstinence, and the demoralising operations of the liquor traffic." It is cleverly written, and is constructed with as much ability as works produced under such inspiration usually are. The misfortune, however, is, that such works do no good, for the simple reason that they are liked only by those who do not need to be convinced; whilst to those who require conversion they convey no faith. To take individual cases showing the evil effects of the abuse of liquor, and lay then before a drunkard, is to tell him nothing he is not already acquainted with. None knows better than he the horrors of the pit into which he is plunged, and for every harrowing tale you can lay before him his own heart will supply fifty personal experiences more agonising to him, because closer to him…

East Lynne

From The Athenaeum, 12/10/1861
This is one of the best novels published for a season. The plot is interesting, intricate and well carried out; the characters are life-like, and the writing simple and natural. There is nothing forced, nothing disjointed or unfinished about it; no discrepancies in the story…
            There may be a little too much repetition of the trial scenes - a little fine-drawing and attempt at melo-drama in the third volume; but the book is a good book, and will be, no doubt, a successful one.

From The Saturday Review, 15/2/1862
This is a really good novel. It is not, indeed a novel of much pretension, and is unmistakably a novel of the second class. There is no wit in it, nor any powerful play of passion, nor any subtle analysis of character. It merely flows on with a good plot carefully worked out, with clear, clever sketches of ordinary people, and in a pleasant, natural style. It only does this, but then very few novels do half as much.
            It is so interesting that the interest begins with the beginning of the first volume, and ends with the end of the third. The faults on which criticism fastens most naturally are all, or almost all, avoided. It is not spun out, it is not affected, or vulgar, or silly. It is full of a variety of characters, all touched off with some degree of point, finish, and felicity. It bears unmistakable signs of being written by a woman, but it has many more of the excellences than the weaknesses of women's writing…
The general reader may gain some notion of what we conceive to be the value of East Lynne, if we say that appears to us to be a story of about the same literary merit as Heartsease [by Charlotte Yonge] - which we consider very high praise - but that it pleases us more, because it applies a truer scale to measure the importance of the events of life.
            Genius can, to a degree, dispense with plot when it takes to writing a story…But writers without genius must have a good plot if they want to succeed. It is because the plot of East Lynne is so good that it rises to the height which it attains. Mrs. Wood has hit upon and managed very skilfully to combine two great sources of interest. In the first place, she has got a capital murder…This is a very considerable success, for a murder is a difficult department of art. It is hard to make it at once obscure, probably fruitful of results, and not too horrible or ghastly…What is more wonderful is that the legal proceedings taken, when the murder if finally discovered, are all, or almost all, right. There is a trial, with its preliminary proceedings, and a real summing-up, and a lively cross-examination. There is no knowing what ladies will do next. Mrs. Wood has an accuracy and method of legal knowledge about her which would do credit to many famous male novelists…
            But this murder is not the main incident of the story. The chief place is reserved for the sorrows of an erring wife. This is a hackneyed theme, but Mrs. Wood gives quite a new turn to it. There is, we believe, either in fiction or fact, some foundation for the plot, but the method of dealing with it is entirely Mrs. Wood's own, and shows a very remarkable and unusual skill…
            The third part…must have been the most difficult to write, for it is all necessarily pathetic, and to sustain pathetic writing is a great tax on the powers of a story-teller. It might be very possible to take objection to it. Perhaps it is a little too long in parts, and the use of religious language is a little too free and frequent to be in the highest taste. But, considering the very great difficulty of the task, the success is undeniable.

From The Observer, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
'East Lynne' is so full of incident, so exciting in every page, and so admirably written, that one hardly knows how to go to bed without reading to the very last page…The trial scene is well depicted. There are no inconsistencies of time and place to shock the intelligent reader, such as most novels are full of; and you rise from its perusal with satisfaction, feeling that the same events might reasonably have been expected to arise under similar circumstances.

From The Daily News, quoted in Charles W. Wood, Memorials of Mrs Henry Wood, 1894
This is a work of remarkable power…It is concerned with the passions; and exhibits that delicacy of touch and knowledge of the emotional part of our mental structure which would reveal the sex of the author even without the help of the title-page. The great merit of the work consists in an artistic juxtaposition of characters strongly contrasted with one another…
The story displays a force of description and a dramatic completeness we have seldom seen surpassed. The interest of the narrative intensifies itself to the deepest pathos, and shakes the feelings. The closing scene, where the dying penitent, under the influence of strong human affection, reveals herself to her lost husband and is at length forgiven, is in the highest degree tragic, and the whole management of the story exhibits unquestionable genius and originality.

From the Morning Post, quoted in Charles W. Wood, Memorials of Mrs Henry Wood, 1894
East Lynne is touching, well-intentioned, and written in the highest tone of morality and earnestness…It is a strong appeal to women by a woman, who would urge upon her fellows the invincible truth that only the ways of wisdom are those of pleasantness, and only her paths are those of peace…Mrs. Henry Wood has selected a difficult subject for a novelist whose aim is higher than that of merely providing amusement and producing excitement. To create compassion for the sinner, and to avoid sympathy with the sin; to strip the abandonment of rectitude and the dereliction from principle of all their romance; to invest them with their harshest reality, and to enforce the lesson of the hopelessly inevitable punishment which is in, and by, and through the breach of the most sacred law of God and the most binding obligations of society - are responsible and onerous tasks which the writer of East Lynne has executed well and faithfully.

From the Press, quoted in Charles W. Wood, Memorials of Mrs Henry Wood, 1894
Miss Cornelia Carlyle is one of the most laughable elderly ladies in the whole realm of fiction.

From the Conservative, quoted in Charles W. Wood, Memorials of Mrs Henry Wood, 1894
Nothing strikes the reader of East Lynne more than the extraordinary manner in which the mystery of each part of the plot is preserved. As the reader feels that he is moving in the different parts of the drama, and unconsciously feels himself deeply interested in its several characters, he almost trembles as each dangerous turning-point of the story is passed. East Lynne, we may truly say, is no ordinary novel. A high tone of morality, a remarkable discrimination of human character, and a keen perception of the manners and customs of the age, are marks by which it is especially distinguished, and from some clue to solve the mystery of its warm and greedy reception at the hands of the reading public…
Mrs. Henry Wood has served the interests of morality in holding up to society a mirror in which it may see itself exactly reflected. She probes deep, and does not, through any false prudery, gloss over its evils and only depict its brightest colours. The healthy sentiment and pure morality of Mrs. Henry Wood's work renders it particularly valuable at this present time. Now, when it is fashionable to live fast and loose; now, when those who take the lead in most select circles do not frown down, but rather encourage, those little excesses which a former generation might gravely term sins now, when the sanctities of domestic life are threatened, and associations hallowed by time are endangered, it is a matter of no small importance that the follies, the inanities, the vices of society should be so ably portrayed and so thrillingly denounced as we see them in East Lynne.

From The Times, quoted in Charles W. Wood, Memorials of Mrs Henry Wood, 1894
In East Lynne we admit the authoress to have achieved a considerable success, which has brought her into the very foremost rank of her class. The authoress is really what the novelist now prefers to call himself - a moralist; and there is a moral purpose in her portraits, as well as vivacity. There is great breadth and clearness in her delineations of character, and her range is extensive, including many types. There is one point we may speak with special emphasis, and that is her capacity to portray men - an accomplishment so rare on the part of lady-novelists that we do not at this moment recall any one who has exhibited it in equal degree. The two characters of Mr. Carlyle and the second Lord Mount Severn are the principal examples of this rare capacity. Mount Severn is indicated with very few touches, and yet we have a portrait worthy [of] the best of his class, like the faces which look upon us from the canvas of Vandyke [sic]. Carlyle's is a more elaborated performance, and its harmony is preserved, in spite of its elaboration and of the many trying tests to which it is put in the progress of the story. His character is consistent with the serious preoccupations which render him so unobservant of the love of Barbara, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, of the jealous and suffering of his wife. He errs, but it is the error of a manly nature assailed by difficulties which a more frivolous person would have anticipated. But in dealing with his difficulties, when they do come, his conduct is admirable. It is rarely we find a hero so consistently heroic, so sensible and just, and yet so loveable. There is strength in his character, as presented to the reader, which makes him forget the balance of qualities required for its conception on the part of the author. Let us add that it is not only a masterly portrait, but a conception of which even a moralist may be proud: a brave, noble, and truthful gentleman, without the pretence of being a paragon for the humiliation of his species.
On the other hand, if we take the circle of characters in which authoresses generally most excel, we shall find the authoress here is equally skilful: that is to say, in analysing the motives and emotions of her own sex. She presents us to a little group of interesting women, each well-defined and judiciously contrasted in their relations to the story - its course and conclusion. Miss Corny is remarkably good, and so is Barbara Hare. So also are Afy Hallijohn and her sister Joyce. Isabel is less marked; but then she is the instrument on which the pathos of the story is strung: she is tossed hither and thither, and is but a frail reed for such a weight of woe and misadventure. The reader cannot fail to take an interest in her fate, nor to be satisfied with the demeanour of her husband on her death-bed. The feelings of the latter are just indicated to the point to which analysis may fairly go, and then the authoress retires with a wise and decorous reticence. Balzac would have gone further, and would have handled and squeezed each throbbing heart-string, as his manner was in making his morbid preparations. But our authoress has better tact and a chaster purpose; nor does she affect to fathom the very gulf of human frailty. In short, she evinces the tact of a gentlewoman, even in the passages where less equable and chastened temperaments have a natural tendency to literary hysterics. The death-bed of Lady Isabel's child is an example of this self-command; where the child is represented as asking a child's questions under circumstances where others would have made him a precocious angel, and where the announcement is also made to the mother, in her agony, that her secret is known to the faithful Joyce.

From Daniel Bandmann's Journal, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1895
'East Lynne' has been translated into the Hindustani and Parsee languages, and the success of it has been very great.

The Channings

From The Athenaeum, 26/4/1862
It is seldom that we meet with two books by the same author, so entirely dissimilar as 'East Lynne' and 'The Channings.' The merits of each, in its own particular line, are perhaps equal, but the style of book is a different as possible. 'East Lynne' was a romance - a love-story of the most exciting and complicated nature: it may have been a little exaggerated in parts - it may have had trifling discrepancies - portions of the story may have been improbable; but no one can deny that 'East Lynne' was a work of absorbing interest, - this interest being concentrated in the conjugal life of a lawyer in a country town, and in the fate of two wives. 'The Channings' is quite another kind of book, containing very little romance, scarcely any love-making, - being, indeed, just what it professes to be, "not merely a work of imagination, but a story of the Helstonleigh College boys, taken from facts of real life." As a work of art, achieving the object proposed by the author, 'The Channings' is perhaps superior to 'East Lynne'; but it is intended for a totally distinct class of readers. 'East Lynne' may have been objected to as "not a proper book for young ladies"; 'The Channings' does not contain a single line which may not be read with advantage by the very youngest and most unsophisticated school-girl. But to school-boys, or to the families of school-boys, we can imagine nothing more charming than the first perusal of this book. It will probably be read even over and over again; and it is certain that it can never be read without profit by both parent and children…
            The story is slight and unimportant. The merit of it lies in the detail, and the extreme truthfulness and simplicity in which it is related…It is impossible not to read every word with interest; and we feel that we know every character intimately, and feel real regret at parting with them…

From The Saturday Review, 10/5/1862
The Channings, as her new book is called, is a decidedly second-rate book. It is pleasing, and readable, and well-contrived, but it is without any striking merit…Very few of the purveyors of fiction could write as good a book as The Channings. For the characters are all young people, and the incidents are not of a very thrilling kind; and yet skill in putting a plot together and agreeable style carry the authoress well through this dead level. East Lynne was good enough to raise a curiosity as to whether its writer would not get into the front rank of novelists. The Channings has quenched that curiosity; but, as novels go, it is a very creditable performance…
            It must now be owned that Mrs. Wood can invest and keep a secret as well as any authoress of her day…
            The authoress does some things we should not expect, and perhaps these unexpected accessories give truth and liveliness to the picture…
            There is an even flow of moderate good sense, virtue, and decency, which keeps us at the accustomed level of ordinary life in England. The society of the country town, for instance, where the Channings live is described, and several of its leading members are portrayed and introduced into the story; and there is a cheerful kindliness in the way they are all spoken of and made to behave, which reflects very accurately the best side of English provincialism.

Mrs. Halliburton's Troubles

From The Athenaeum 6/12/1862
Mrs. Henry Wood has lost no time producing a third novel. It is not likely that, writing at this extravagant rate, she can keep up her reputation to the standard expected from the author of 'East Lynne'; and we are not surprised to find 'Mrs. Halliburton's Troubles' little better than a repetition of 'The Channings.' The plot is, to all intents and purposes the same. We have the two large families: one poor, industrious and despised, the other proud, worthless and fraudulent. The Halliburtons (being the good family) end in success and prosperity; the Dares, on the other hand, come to ruin and disgrace.
            To suppose that this always must be the case is a mistake. The spectacle of vice overthrown and virtue triumphant is, we fear, more often to be met with in novels than in everyday life in this wicked world of ours. The subject has become hackneyed, and scarcely serves to create any powerful interest in a mere fictitious story. It has been truly said, that two gifts are required in order to write a good book: to know what to say and what to withhold. No one knows what to say better than Mrs. Wood; in the latter gift she seems to be a little deficient. The many chapters on glove-makers would have been better withheld; the domestic quarrels and drunken brawls of Honey Fair are true enough, no doubt: we all know of similar neighbourhoods in every large town. We read of such scenes every day in the papers, in a tract, or even a work on political economy, such subjects might be fitly handled and turned to good account. In a novel they are wearisome and out of place; breaking the thread of the story, and having very little connexion with the plot…
            The great merit of the book is the true and simple manner in which every scene and character is depicted. They may be all living human beings for aught we know to the contrary. The bad are perhaps a little too bad; they are seen always on the worst side, and the good, again, are drawn like Queen Elizabeth, with no shadows at all! But still they are real, and we know them; and though the story is long, and not always lively, we are compelled to read on to the end, and to see the last of the Halliburtons. The moral and religious principles inculcated are unexceptionable.

From The Morning Post, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
The boldness, originality, and social scrutiny displayed in this work remind the reader of Adam Bede. It would be difficult to place beside the death of Edgar Halliburton anything in fiction comparable with its profound pathos and simplicity. It is long since the novel-reading world has had reason so thoroughly to congratulate itself upon the appearance of a new work as in the instance of 'Mrs. Halliburton's Troubles.' It is a fine work; a great and artistic picture.

The Shadow of Ashlydyat

From The Athenaeum 23/1/1864
We consider 'The Shadow of Ashlydyat' to be the best novel that Mrs. Wood has written. It has not the romantic and painful interest of 'East Lynne,' but it is a better constructed story, and for steadily accumulating interest, where the reader is made to feel every character and incident real and true as if it had come under his own personal knowledge, we do not know a novel of the present day to be compared with it. The power to draw minutely and carefully each character, with characteristic individuality in word and action, is Mrs. Wood's especial gift; this endows her pages with a vitality which carries the reader to the end, and leaves him with the feeling, that the veil which in real life separates man from man has been raised, and that he has, for once, seen and known certain people as intimately as if he had been their guardian angel. This is a great fascination; it is not produced by means of metaphysical analysis or philosophical insight. Mrs. Wood rarely enters on a general observation, and never goes into metaphysics, but she steadily minds her business, tells her story carefully and completely, and works out her characters, with an instinctive knowledge of what they would say and do under the given circumstances, which is never at fault…In all the details of the personal and private troubles which follow the great catastrophe of the Bank, Mrs. Wood has shown skill; but it must not be supposed that 'The Shadow of Ashlydyat' is an oppressive book - the reader's interest is never sacrificed, and it is a book he may return to with pleasure.

From The Spectator, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
'The Shadow of Ashlydyat' is very clever, and keeps up the constant interest of the reader. It has a slight supernatural tinge, which gives the romantic touch to the story which Sir Walter Scott so often used with even greater effect; but it is not explained away at the end as Sir Walter Scott's supernatural touches generally, and inartistically, were.

From The Court Journal, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1895
The genius of Mrs. Henry Wood shines as brightly as ever. There is a scene or two between Maria Godolphin and the little girl just before she dies, which absolutely melt the heart. The death-bed scene likewise is exquisitely pathetic.

Verner's Pride

From The Saturday Review 28/2/1863
This book is one of those which it is hard to describe positively. It is not a bad nor even a stupid novel. Style, characters, incidents, sentiments, are all of them up to the mark of respectability, and might, indeed, be thought promising in the first essay of an untried writer. Yet, it is not easy to see what can be said for the story except that it is readable, and will be, to a certain extent, popular. Our novel-writers…seem unable to resist success. Having produced one really clever book, the more remarkable as coming immediately after a "prize-tale" on the stalest of subjects, Mrs. Wood has gone on ever since repeating the marvels of Dumas, tasking the pen and compositor to keep pace with her fertile imagination. The marks of haste are visible in every part of this her last work - in the often careless writing, the ill-connected episodes, the profusion of incidents out of which a good plot might have been elaborated with moderate diligence and thought…
            Though the colouring of the book is not broad and coarse enough to make it a sensation novel of the type now in favour, it belongs to that class in depending for its effect more on lively incident than on the delineation of character…

From The Sun, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
'Verner's Pride' is a first-rate novel in its breadth of outline and brilliancy of description. Its exciting events, its spirited scenes, and its vivid details, all contribute to its triumph. The interest this work awakens, and the admiration it excites in the minds of its readers, must infallibly tend to the renown of the writer, while they herald the welcome reception of the work wherever skill in construction of no ordinary kind, or a ready appreciation of character, which few possess, can arouse attention or win regard.

Trevlyn Hold

From The Daily News quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
We cannot read a page of this work without discovering a graphic force of delineation which it would not be easy to surpass.

Lord Oakburn's Daughters

From The Saturday Review, 15/10/1864
The last production from the pen of Mrs. Henry Wood fully maintains the level of literary merit which she has attained in her previous works of fiction. There is the same easy flow of incidents and events, the same dexterous solution of the plot, the same clearness and individuality in the delineation of characters, the same natural and lifelike current of dialogue. There is more than ever of that smoothness and finish of style - bating a few harsh and clumsy turns of expression - which bespeaks the hand of a practised writer…The work manifestly aims at no higher or more recondite object than that of helping readers to while away a few dull hours. And few who are content to take up books for the sake of mere passing amusement will grumble at the quality of the article here held out to them. For the seaside or the country-house no more suitable novel has come forth during the present season. With sufficient complexity of plot to keep up the desirable degree of uncertainty and suspense, with characters freshly conceived and contrasted with clearness and force, with a spice of horrors enough to go down with ordinary lovers of sensation, eked out with touches of the supernatural not too harsh to grate upon the taste of the cynical or the sceptic, Lord Oakburn's Daughters will probably be pronounced - by at least the class of readers we have had in view, and for whose benefit it has been written - a highly clever and entertaining work…
            In delineating her minor characters, Mrs. Wood puts forth her usual facility and skill, and the book as a whole is certainly one of the most entertaining of the season.

From The Spectator, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
The story is admirably told.

Oswald Cray

From The Saturday Review, 18/2/1865
The authoress of East Lynne has just published a novel which fails conspicuously from the mere want of pains. It has nearly all the faults of which third-rate authors are habitually guilty, and by far the greater number of its faults are those which might have been avoided if twice the time and twice the trouble had been given to its composition. Let us be just. Mrs. Henry Wood never writes thoroughly badly. She is never vulgar; she is also seldom pedantic; she is never flippant. We assert, however, in this last work she has been guilty of nearly all the faults that can spoil a novel, short of those we have specially acquitted her…To say that Oswald Cray is, on the whole, fairly readable might be true enough, and it would not be too much to add that some scenes are described in an interesting way. But if the writer is satisfied with such praise, we are not.

Mildred Arkell

From The Nonconformist, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
Mrs. Henry Wood certainly possesses in a wholly exceptional degree the power of uniting the most startling incident of supernatural influence a certain probability and naturalness which compels the most critical and sceptical reader, having once begun, to go on reading…He finds himself conciliated by some bit of quiet picture, some accent of poetic tenderness, some sweet domestic touch telling of a heart exercised in the rarer experiences; and as he proceeds he wonders more and more at the manner in which the mystery, the criminality, the plotting, and the murdering reconciles itself with a quiet sense of the justice of things; and a great moral lesson is, after all, found to lie in the heart of all the turmoil and exciting scene-shifting. It is this which has earned for Mrs. Wood so high a place among popular novelists, and secured her admittance to homes from which the sensational novelists so-called are excluded.

St. Martin's Eve

From The Saturday Review, 31/3/1866
The union of a lady who inherits madness from her father to a gentleman in whose family there is a tendency to waste away prematurely is a coincidence which naturally suggests some very awful consequences. The novelty lies in the complication of disorders - madness pure and simple, as an element in sensational novels, having become by this time rather stale. When we are told that there was another peculiarity in the St. Johns of Alnwick - that, by a mysterious dispensation, their births and deaths generally occurred on the 10th of November, and that the day seemed otherwise to exercise a dark and sinister influence on the family fortunes - it will be seen that Mrs. Wood has spared no pains to accumulate the materials for a curiously thrilling story. But her sensational proclivities are not of that thorough-going kind which distinguishes some of her contemporaries. With every desire to satisfy the prevalent craving for the horrible and marvellous, she either cannot or will not go the pace of other popular writers. She keeps no one in a twitter of suspense; she inflicts on no one a sleepless night…
            The habit of acting as chorus to her own drama is apparently too inveterate in Mrs. Wood to be overcome. She is always reminding the reader that she holds the strings which set the puppets in motion, and taking him in the most affable manner into her confidence, and telling him what is coming next, or wondering whether he will recognise so and so, or playfully informing him that he will see presently…It would be useless to point out once more that this perpetual obtrusion of the writer's personality is a violation of the primary rule of her art, which is to create and maintain an illusion of reality.

From The Spectator, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
A good novel.

Elster's Folly

From The Morning Post, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
Mrs. Wood fulfils all the requisites of a good novelist: she interests people in her books, makes them anxious about the characters, and furnishes an intricate and carefully woven plot.

Lady Adelaide's Oath

From The Star, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
One of Mrs. Henry Wood's best novels.

A Life's Secret

From The Civil Service Gazette, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
Now that the rights of capital and labour are being fully inquired into, Mrs. Wood's story of 'A Life's Secret' is particularly opportune and interesting. It is based upon a plot that awakens curiosity and keeps it alive throughout. The hero and heroine are marked with individuality, the love-passages are finely drawn, and the story developed with judgement.

From The Illustrated Times, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1895
If Mrs. Wood's book does not tend to eradicate the cowardice, folly, and slavish submission to lazy agitators among the working men, all we can say is that it ought to do so, for it is at once well written, effective, and truthful.

Orville College

From The Literary World, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888.
Mrs. Wood's stories bear the impress of her versatile talent and well-known skill in turning to account the commonplaces of daily life as well as the popular superstitions of the multitude.

The Red Court Farm

From The Weekly Dispatch, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
When we say that a plot displays Mrs. Wood's well-known skill in construction, our readers will quite understand that their attention will be enchained by it from the first page to the last.

Anne Hereford

From The Saturday Review, 14/11/1868
Mrs. Henry Wood is entitled to the credit of having affected a cross between the domestic and the sensational novel. As a rule, details of family life have been monopolized by novelists of the goody school. On the other hand, the concoctors of thrilling incident disdain anything so humdrum as domestic economy. It was reserved for Mrs. Henry Wood to unite the characteristics of either style. It was a happy thought to combine murder and maidservants, horrors and housekeeping…lifting her into the region of the terrible, the mysterious and the supernatural…
            The spasmodic effort to spice each chapter with a fresh incident gives it the appearance of a work composed not so much on artistic principles as with a view to the exigencies of monthly publication. This is a pity, since the authoress is by no means deficient in the power of lively and graphic description. If she would repress her unconscionable fondness for petty details, and give herself quite a fortnight to evolve a coherent plot, instead of a mere muddle of incidents which irritates quite as much as it interests, and teases instead of riveting her readers, she might possibly produce a work more worthy of her unquestionably facile pen.

From The Illustrated London News, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
Mrs. Wood's story, 'Anne Hereford,' is a favourable specimen of her manner; the incidents are well planned, and the narrative is easy and vigorous.

Roland Yorke

From The Saturday Review, 5/3/1870
Her story aims at the interest that comes of excitement, and it does excite and interest us as well. In our opinion it is the best she has written since East Lynne, and it has both the merit and defects of the novel that brought her into notice…
            In writing a sensational novel, a certain lingering over the horrible may be excusable, and an author's own feelings must be the guide how far it may be indulged without trenching on the disgusting. For our part, we thought Mrs. Wood detained us unnecessarily long among the ghoul-like details of the graveyard when the supposed suicide is buried in the opening chapter…We set out by saying that we found the novel interesting, and yet we may seem to have laid ourselves open to Mrs. Wood's parable, and passed over to the side of the unjust critics she condemns. But this is precisely one of those books which might be dismissed in a single sentence with less qualified praise, but which must receive harder measure in an article. We hesitate the less to point out the faults because it is probable that Mrs. Wood could do better if she pleased.

From The Daily News, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
In all respects worthy of the hand that wrote 'The Channings' and 'East Lynne.' There is no lack of excitement to wile the reader on, and from the first to the last a well-planned story is sustained with admirable spirit and in a masterly style.

George Canterbury's Will

From The Morning Post, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
The name of Mrs. Henry Wood has been familiar to novel-readers for many years, and her fame widens and strengthens with the increase in the number of her books.

Bessy Rane

From The Athenaeum, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
The power to draw minutely and carefully each character with characteristic individuality in word and action is Mrs. Wood's especial gift. This endows her pages with a vitality which carries the reader to the end, and leaves him with the feeling that the veil which in real life separates man from man has been raised, and that he has for once seen and known certain people as intimately as if he had been their guardian angel. This is a great fascination.

Dene Hollow

From The Saturday Review, 14/10/1871
Mrs. Henry Wood has certain qualities which should have made her one of our best novel writers; popular is another word. No one lays out the plan of a story better than she does, and even Mr. Wilkie Collins himself, to whom ingenuity is the Alpha and Omega of his craft, is not greater than she in the cleverness with which she devises her puzzles and fits the parts together.

From The Morning Post, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
Novel-readers wishing to be entertained, and deeply interested in character and incident, will find their curiosity wholesomely gratified by the graphic pages of 'Dene Hollow,' an excellent novel, without the drawbacks of wearisome digressions and monotonous platitudes so common in the chapters of modern fiction.

Within the Maze

From The Graphic, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
The decided novelty and ingenuity of the plot of 'Within the Maze' renders it, in our eyes, one of Mrs. Henry Wood's best novels. It is excellently developed, and the interest hardly flags for a moment.

The Master of Greylands

From John Bull, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1895
A book by Mrs Wood is sure to be a good one, and no one who opens 'The Master of Greylands' in anticipation of an intellectual treat will be disappointed. The keen analysis of character, and the admirable management of the plot, alike attest the clever novelist.

Johnny Ludlow. First Series

From The Spectator, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
We regard these stories as almost perfect of their kind.

From The Standard, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1895
Fresh, lively, vigorous, and full of clever dialogue, they will meet with a ready welcome. The author is masterly in the skill with which she manages her successive dramas.

From Vanity Fair, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1895
Tales full of interest.

From The Daily Telegraph, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1895
Fresh, clear, simple, strong in purpose and execution, these stories have won admiration as true works of inventive art. Without a single exception they maintain a powerful hold on the mind of the reader, and keep his sympathies in a continued state of healthy excitement.

Told in the Twilight

From The Times, 30/9/1975
The mysterious title of "Told in the Twilight" (3 vols., Bentley) by Mrs. Henry Wood, fits this group of stories well; for they are all more or less gruesome, and well calculated to produce a pleasing sensation of horror in the reader's mind. In fact, it would be but a kindly caution to recommend that they be read in the brightest sunshine to be procured at the moment, and not read at all by nervous people. Even the first story [Parkwater], which opens with assumed cheerfulness and promises to be only the usual record of woman's folly and a man's selfishness, turns out to be as petty a quarrel as even Sir Lucius O'Trigger could desire to behold, and in the course of the narrative an obstreperous baby is hastily smothered. The fact of this calamity not occurring oftener speaks volumes for the patience and humanity of nurses and mothers; but unfortunately for herself, Miss Sophia May was neither patient nor humane. She was only vain, and pert, and silly, and the moral of the story might very well be a warning to office-keepers' daughters not to wear too many silk gowns, nor to speak indifferent French and play the piano. The other stories are comparatively more cheerful, and only contain warnings against eloping with wards in Chancery, believing too readily that your sure-footed lover has tumbled into a millstream, or drinking yourself into incipient delirium tremens.
            "Mr. North's Dream" is the best story of the group, and conveys a sensible and practical lesson, narrated in an interesting manner. But the general merit of all the stories is that they are told with that happy admixture of minuteness and vagueness which constitutes one great excellence of story-telling. After all is said and done, grown-up people like to read their novels much as they like to hear stories at their nurse's knee. They like to know the exact moment that Tom met Maria, and whether she wore a sprigged muslin or a striped cotton. At least the majority of novel readers do, and to them Mrs. Henry Wood will appear to fulfil all the conditions of a good novelist.

From The Athenaeum, 24/7/1875
Mrs Wood's present collection of magazine tales shows that she has not lost her facility for inventiveness, but also proves but too clearly that she has unlearned none of her old faults as a writer. Her diction and her point of view remain very much those of the housekeeper's room. The first tale, 'Told in the Twilight,' is an unpleasant narrative of the perversion of a young woman's conscience by the bad habit of reading worthless novels. Sophia May's ill-regulated ambition to be what she understands by a "lady" leads by a rapid and direct decline to seduction and child-murder. The story may no doubt be an "ower-true" tale, but nothing in the manner of its telling or its obvious moral redeems it from being both dull and disagreeable.
            Among the other shorter stories there are several of more merit. 'All Soul's Eve' and Martyn Ware's Temptation' are not otherwise than readable, though a young clerk who is tempted to embezzlement is rather a sorry hero. The point of the story, however, is the reward reaped by his mother for a kindly and unselfish action performed in her early life. 'Gertrude Lisle' is a sad illustration of the effect of a publisher's hard-heartedness, and 'Cyrilla Maude' of the "donnish" prejudices of old-fashioned cathedral clergy. In the third volume, 'My Cousin Caroline's Wedding' is rather laughable and smartly written, though it is characteristic of the author that she does not see how very ungenerous is the stratagem of her hero. 'An Incident in the Life of Lord Byron' might have been made more fruitful from a romantic point of view, and we do not think that "unhappy nobleman" would have appreciated his admirer's platitudes. On the whole, the book will not in any respect alter the novelist's reputation.


From John Bull, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
Mrs. Wood's pleasant style and vivid imagination were never more pleasantly manifested.


From The Literary World, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
Edina's character is beautifully drawn.

From The Academy, 2/12/1876
Her mere fertility has even now equalled that of Scott, doubled that of Dickens, and trebled that of Thackeray. Yet although there is real cleverness in some of her stories - notably East Lynne, Verner's Pride, and Trevlyn Hold - there is no prospect of her popularity being durable and her reputation permanent, simply because she will not be at the trouble of bestowing conscientious labour on the distasteful task of finish. She has quite imagination enough to make up a good plot - better than Mr. Wilkie Collins' far more elaborate ones, which are simply chess problems in literature…The whole situation of the book is clever, the plot is well managed; the sensationalism is not greater than would occur in real life under the by no means impossible incidents of the story; the tone is mainly on the side of truth and honesty, and the tale is quite easy and even pleasant to read…Let her turn out Mrs. Henry Wood bodily out of the next story she writes, and allow the characters to act it out for themselves, and she may do better than she has ever done since the initial success of East Lynne.

Pomeroy Abbey

From The Morning Post, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
All the Pomeroys are very cleverly individualised, and the way in which the mystery is worked up, including its one horribly tragic incident, is really beyond all praise.

Johnny Ludlow. Second Series

From The Nonconformist, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1895
The author has given proof of a rarer dramatic instinct than we had expected among our living writers of fiction. It is not possible by means of extracts to convey any adequate sense of the humour, the pathos, the dramatic power and graphic description of this book.

From The Standard, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1895
These tales are delightful from their unaffected and sometimes pathetic simplicity.

From The Globe, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1895
To write a short story really well is the most difficult part of the art of fiction; and 'Johnny Ludlow' has succeeded in it in such a manner that his - or rather her - art looks like nature, and is hardly less surprising for its excellence than for the fertility of invention on which it is founded.

From The Illustrated London News, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1895
Freshness of tone, briskness of movement, vigour, reality, humour, pathos. It is safe to affirm that there is not a single story, which will not be read with pleasure by both sexes, of all ages.

Court Netherleigh

From The Times, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1888
We always open one of Mrs. Wood's books with pleasure, because we are sure of being amused and interested.

Lady Grace

From The Morning Post, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1895
Lady Grace worthily continues a series of novels thoroughly English in feeling and sentiment, and which fairly illustrate many phases of our national life.

Johnny Ludlow. Third Series

From The Morning Post, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1895
The peculiar and unfailing charm of Mrs. Wood's style has rarely been more apparent than in this succession of chronicles, partly of rustic life, some relating to the fortunes of persons in a higher class, but all remarkable for an easy simplicity of tone, true to nature.

The Unholy Wish & Other Stories

From The Pall-Mall Gazette, quoted in Bentley's Publicity 1895
The characters and situations of which the author made her books are, indeed, beyond criticism; their interest has been proved by the experience of generations.