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"The Third Miss Symons" by F.M. Mayor

The Third Miss Symons may be downloaded for free from our ebook catalog.

Laura and I were attracted to Flora Macdonald Mayor because her name was reminiscent of another Flora Macdonald, heroine of Lillian De La Torre’s The White Rose of Stuart and likely a relative ours. Could Flora Macdonald Mayor also be a relative?

The amazing thing about The Third Miss Symons is that author Mayor could write an attention-getting novel about a woman who did essentially nothing for 63 years. “Nothing” may be too strong a word; however, the heroine never married, never entered the workforce, and showed no concerted interest in academia or philanthropy. She traveled extensively; however her travels took more the form of wandering or avoidance rather than genuine interest in new places. Friends and relatives were happy to see her, but they were just as happy to see her go. And more than one relative breathed a sigh of relief when she declined their offer to come live with them.

Born the third daughter in an upper-middle-class family, Miss Henrietta Symons suffered from the indifference and neglect of parents who never really liked children, and seldom had time for them, their social calendar being what it was. Servants hired to tend to the children did their jobs well, but, at least in the case of Henrietta, they could not take the place of a parent’s love. Being smack in the middle of a large family, Henrietta suffered from a pronounced case of “middle child syndrome.” (Oh my, and Laura--my middle child--is reading this.)

Henrietta muddled through, becoming a little cranky and indifferent as the years passed, but no more than most. As a young lady, however, her lot appeared to change. She was quite taken with a young man who appeared to return her interest. Happily, she introduced Mr. Dockerell to her family, only to have his favor snatched by her older sister with her mother’s blessing. After that moment, Henrietta was left bereft of any ambition except once when she attempted to read Dante in the original Italian. Realizing she wasn’t up to the challenge, she pretty much lost interest in everything.

Mayor leads us through the entirety of Miss Symons’ life with no real epiphanies and only minor turning points. Still, we see a life that was not wasted. What Miss Symons lacked in gratification or ambition, she more than made up for in generosity. Although cranky in her later years, Miss Symons was always that maiden aunt that everyone looked to for help when the need arose, and she never failed to lend a hand or a purse to a friend or relative in need.

I was thankful that The Third Miss Symons was not a modern novel, for the author would likely have had the heroine blow her brains out and be done with it. I couldn’t have taken that, for I had become rather fond of Henrietta Symons.

Were I casting the role of Miss Symons, I would choose Helen Mirren or Maggie Smith.

Cover art by Janice Tarver, for sale at Etsy.

Discussion

  1. lewerentz says:

Reply to Joyce McDonald

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