"Is Love a Crime?" (1886) by Mrs. Jagger
The Morning Post (27/Dec/1886) contained the following review:
Ruth Fletcher, the heroine of "Is Love a Crime?" is a girl who raises herself from ignorance and the influence of ignoble surroundings until by perseverance and moral integrity, she becomes a large-minded and cultivated woman. She is beautiful, and the story of her constant love for Dudley Rufford is touching : but the chief merit of Mrs. Jagger's story lies in Ruth’s clear expression of opinion on a variety of subjects which she has thought out and reflected on with all the force of an unusually intelligent mind.
However, the Birmingham Daily Post (24/Mar/1887) were much less complimentary:
This is a remarkably crude piece of work : everything in it is unreal, and saturated with false sentiment — characters, scenery, all "out of drawing." It is meant for a story of to-day, and has not one feature belonging to to-day. It is true it could as little be called a picture of any other time. The heroine is the daughter of a village shoemaker, who is employed as a domestic servant. She falls in love with the clergyman ; and, being unhappy at home, runs away, and joins a company of strolling players, taking at once leading parts in both tragedy and comedy, and uniting with her histrionic efforts the duties of playwright to the company, which is performing in a large manufacturing town. In lieu of one week's salary she gets a collection of books, which were "carefully read and thought about." They included “Homer, Plato, and Plutarch. Then Bacon, Erasmus, and Galileo ; Shakespeare, Spenser, Herbert, Beaumont and Fletcher, Milton, and other poets... Cervantes, Sterne, Burke, and De Quincey ... Scott, Sand, Dickens, and a fine copy of Thomas a Kempis." Having mastered these treasures in a few weeks, Ruth becomes a mill hand, and again a domestic servant, diversifying her occupations by writing articles on the "hydrophobia craze," as to which she has ideas. Messsrs. Sonnenschein's respectable name will lose something of its attractions if it is lent to cover such rubbish as this.
The reference in the review to the "hydrophobia craze" clearly indicates that Jagger was including issues that she felt strongly about in the novel, having written to the Huddersfield Chronicle on the topic of "The Mad Dog Craze" in June 1886.
The review in the Glasgow Herald (14/Jan/1887) also found much to criticize:
Highly coloured and highly improbable is this novel of Mrs Jagger’s. It has evidently been written to air some of her pet theories, and is as full of startling inconsistencies as most novels written with such a purpose are ; for the theories are put indiscriminately into the mouth of any one of the characters without regard to suitability or appropriateness. For instance, one of Mrs Jagger's ideas is that hydrophobia is simply a scare, and has no real existence. In support of this theory, Ruth Fletcher receives a wound from a supposed mad dog, laughs over the idea of having herself doctored for it, and enters into a scientific dissertation on the fallacy of the popular belief in hydrophobia. But Ruth Fletcher, "take her for all in all," is a remarkable person. It is hardly possible to conceive of an uneducated country girl, the daughter of a gipsy and a shoemaker, discussing poetry, philosophy, and science as Ruth does, and her relations and conversation with Augustus Duval are ridiculous and strained. None of the characters are very pleasant to study. Dudley Rufford is the kind of hero so popular among lady novelists, the High Church, ascetic, devout young clergyman, whose desire to renounce "the world, the flesh, and the devil," of course includes the desire to give up all earthly love and happiness. However, as usual, love is too strong for the young ascetic, with whom, it must be confessed, worldly pride has a harder fight. Mary Rufford is neither a very noble nor very womanly character ; and Edward Lister, except that he adopts his wife's views, does nothing very remarkable. Indeed, "Is Love a Crime?" deals more, on the whole, with the questions of woman's suffrage, hydrophobia, and Radicalism than with that of whether love is a crime or not ; and Ruth's treatment of poor Robert Marshall, for whom she seems to feel no womanly pity, does not say much for her general sympathy, however great her love for one particular object may have been.
The Yorkshire Genealogist & Bibliographer gave the following short review:
Of course, Mrs. Jagger, who resides at Honley, finishes her novel with the words — "Love is not a Crime." To us the greatest interest in the story lies in the evidently local colouring, and the introduction of current political topics, but we are far from endorsing some of the conclusions, and cannot regard lightly the "Hydrophobia craze." We are pleased to think that Mrs. Jagger's past and future work will be creditable to herself and an honour to the neighbourhood.