Secresy [sic], Or, The Ruin on the RockeBook - 1998
Secresy was Eliza Fenwick's only work for adults--a fact that may help to explain why this extraordinary novel has been so thoroughly overlooked. On one level this is a book that presents fascinating challenges to traditional structures of class and gender. Whereas Mr. Valmont, the villain of the piece, rejects merely the surface forms of fashionable society, the story of his niece Sibella and her friend Caroline implicitly rejects the substance as well as the trappings of a system that rested on class privilege and on female dependence. Secresy is also, though, a remarkable novel of human relationships: of sexuality (Sibella's pregnancy is the occasion for the secrecy that gives the book its title), and of romantic love, but also the female friendship between Sibella and Caroline that is very much at the heart of the book. The relationships--and the grand themes--are expressed through an epistolary technique through which Fenwick (in the editor's words) shows "a breadth of sympathy which can find comedic pleasure even in what is disapproved."