First published in 1824, The Inheritance is the second novel by Susan Ferrier (1782-1854). Following the triumph of her more famous work Marriage (1818), The Inheritance picks up Ferrier's favoured theme of tried and tested morality. The focus here is on the fortunes of the young and innocent Gertrude St.Clair, who through the machinations of the desperate Mrs. St.Clair, leaves their home in France and arrives as heir apparent to the Scottish estate of Rossville. Contrary to the Earl of Rossville's plans however, Gertrude refuses the hand of the prepared suitor and instead falls under the spell of the ambitious and dashing Colonel Delmour. Ignoring the presence and guiding hand of the measured Edward Lyndsay who truly loves her, Gertrude throws herself into the bewitching gaieties of the fashionable world leaving all sense of duty behind her. Shadowing her light footsteps however is the figure of a mysterious and demanding stranger whose claim on Gertrude is to shape a very different future for her.Humanising the strain of evangelism in the novel is the inclusion of a collection of highly amusing and colourful characters, which, as noted in the new introduction, helps to display The Inheritance as 'a novel which shows Ferrier's skills as a satirist and caricaturist in their best light and that remains moreover one of the greatest examples of domestic fiction in the Scottish literary tradition'.
Dr. Ronnie Young teaches in the Department of Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow and is production editor for the Scottish Cultural Review of Language and Literature (SCROLL) series.