PUBLISHER: 1972/73, MacMillan
FULL TITLE: Edward, Edward: A Part of His Story And Of History 1795-1816 Set Out In Three Parts In This Form Of A New-Old Picaresque Romance That Is Also A Stud
GENRE: Historical Fiction
MY GRADE: A
FROM PUBLISHER: It is a hunting tale of a strange romance between a worldly and dissolute man, James Noel Holland, Earl of Tyne, and the golden-haired young Edward, his ward–or perhaps his son. Homosexuality, sadomasochism, and incest are elements in their relationship–and so are affection, love, and the saving quality of grace.
The time of the story is the beginning of the nineteenth century–the pre-Regency years of domestic unrest, of the Napoleonic Wars, and of lawlessness, cruelty, and the vast chasm between the rulers and the ruled. The place is alternately the cold Northumberland wild country where the Earl has his seat, the grim and beautiful city of London during the Season with all its pomp, the retreats of Devon and Brighton, and eventually Vienna at the acme of its musical splendour. The background figures include Mrs. Siddons, the famous courtesan Harriett Wilson, various noted rogues, Beethoven and Schubert, Castlereagh, Godwin, George III, and particularly, in retrospect, John Wesley, whose religious teachings, precipitates and early crisis in Edward’s life but is to prove an enduring force.
In the course of the narrative a great many warring elements shape Edward’s character. He is sent to Oxford, where he proves a brilliant student. Holland takes him to London to spend some months living in his resplendent townhouse while he is grooming him–assisted by Beau Brummell, among other famous figures–to take his rightful place in the world of society when he comes of age and receives his inheritance–for the Earl has by now privately acknowledged that he is Edwards father. He obtains the skilled services of two of his former mistresses to introduce Edward to the techniques and arts of heterosexual intercourse–an experience which repulses Edward at first, and then proves pleaseant indeed. Soon Edward finds himself growing fond of a young girl–but both families violently oppose a match, in true Montague-Capulet fashion.
Many times the two men, father and son, abjure their passionate lovemaking, only to resume it more violently than before. Finally Edward’s apparent duality, augmented by a serious psychological and physical breakdown, have all but destroyed him utterly. Deeply concerned, the Earl takes him to Vienna and dramatically demonstrates that now Edward must make one of two choices: life or death. And in the end of the story is the beginning…
SPOILER SUMMARY: INCEST ALERT! Noel, 38, Anne, mother, 33. Edward, their son. They first met when she was 17. They meet again years later, have sex under a tree and she becomes pregnant. I can’t remember but I think he raped her. She thinks Noel will marry her. He won’t marry her and tells her he’s going abroad the next day and invites her to come. She says she can’t and asks him to strangle her, which he does. She only passes out. He goes away to the Continent for two months and she marries within the first week of him leaving. When their son Edward is almost seven years old, Anne goes to see Noel. Her husband has died recently and she’s dying and needs Noel to take care of their son. Edward comes to meet his father. They decide to get married for Edward’s sake. After the wedding, Anne feels like she’s dying so asks Noel to have sex with her. Anne doesn’t know if Noel is Edwards father because one week after having sex with Noel for the first time, she married someone else and began a sexual relationship with her husband and got pregnant right away.
Edward was sent to live at one of his father’s homes and didn’t actually see Noel for 6-12 months. Noel went to see Edward because he’d hurt his foot then didn’t see him again for over a year. He didn’t see him at all the year he was eight. In the spring of Edward’s 9th year, his footman George took Edward to see Gypsies at the fair. One of the men asked him questions about how his father Noel was treating him. Later that night Edward was in bed when he heard his dog whine. He went to look for the dog outside and was abducted by the same man at the fair who’d asked about his father. Noel found him 1 1/2 days later. Starting on Edward’s 12th birthday, he began to run away a lot. Later that same year, one night Edward got into bed with a sleeping Edward, kissed him, took his nightgown off and caressed his back. Edward kissed him back then asked him the next day if what they did was a sin. The day after, they traveled by ship to France. “They spent a week in his mannor, the weather holding, their days and nights divide in a way they did not speak of or refer to again.” During their last swim at the beach, just before they were to leave for England, Edward tried to drown himself. Noel saw him, went in after him and dragged him to shore. By the time Edward was 16, it had been almost four years since he’d last seen his father. Noel showed up one day to tell him he was sending him to Oxford University. Edward told him he didn’t want to go, he wanted to travel with a preacher who knew his other father, and that he wanted to become a preacher himself. Noel told him he wasn’t going. That angered Edward so he pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot Noel. Noel shot the gun out of his hand and locked Edward in a room by himself for a week. At some point during that week, Noel kissed Edward.
During the second part of the book, after Edward goes to Oxford, he starts thinking about the sexual feelings he’s having for his father. Up until this part of the book, were weren’t given any reason to believe Edward had those type of feelings for Noel except a few times years before when he kissed him. When Edward went home for the Christmas holiday, Noel locked him in the same dark, small room because he was scared Edward might try to kill him like before. At this point in the story, Noel is still a very distant, unfriendly person. He tells Edward that he wishes he had never taken guardianship of him. Every time Edward comes home to visit, Noel locks him in the same dark room. Once Edward’s friend Marion came to visit him at Noel’s and saw him locked in the room. Noel was caressing Marion’s shoulder in front of Edward. They spent the night in bed together. Edward heard them in bed. He was hurt and jealous and became physically sick.
During a visit home when Edward was 19, he told Noel that he knows he may be his father. Once while at college, Edward started wondering why Noel was so distant toward him, why he didn’t ever want to be around him. Edward knew that Noel must have meant something to his mother for her to have left him with him when she died. While Edward was growing up, Noel would look for signs of himself in Edward but could never see any. As Edward got older, he developed a violent streak like Noel. Edward and Noel were discussing the possibility of being related. Noel said, “Why do you think you are my son?” Edward said, “I don’t think, I know.” They were looking at family portraits of Noel’s family. Edward was saying there was no resemblance between him and his other father. Sometime after that, their relationship turned sexual. When Edward was 20, he told Noel that he knows he raped his mother and that he forgives him. He picked up Noel’s hand and kisses it.
Once while at the home of his mistress, Edward cuts himself with a knife. Noel and a doctor come and strap him to the bed. Fast forward to when Edward is 21, he and Noel are in bed together. They argue about something, Noel hits him in the mouth, causing it to bleed. He told Edward to ‘turn over’ but he said no. They fought some more. Noel took his pillow and held it over Edwards face until he stopped struggling, then turned him over and raped him. Later, Edward took Noel’s hand and kissed it, then kissed him and they went to sleep beside each other. Noel ‘bought’ a prostitute named Amanda. He paid her well so that he could cut her hair short like a boys and use her (anally) like a boy. He “hurt” her and she got some type of infection and died.
Edward left home for good when he was 21. Three years later he ran into Noel. Noel asked him to come home but Edward said he couldn’t yet. In July of 1815, Noel got sick and had Edward move back in. Noel recovered. In the last part of the book, Edward gets sick. One night, he drinks all of Noel’s laudanum. He almost dies but recovers. One night while still recovering, Edward woke from a bad dream. Noel pulled his nightgown up but Edward told him he didn’t want to have sex because he felt faint. Noel said he couldn’t control himself, to try to resist him because he was going to use him ‘terribly.’ He grabbed Edward, struggled with him, kissed him, all the while Edward is crying. Edward passes out and Noel rapes him.
The ending: Noel told Edward he needed to get married. Edward told him he wanted to die, so Noel filled up a marble basin with water and tried to drown him. He started to struggle. They talked and Noel punched him in the chest to wind him so that he could try to drown him again. He didn’t drown him. Edward went to see a girl he knew and they decided to get married.