What spectacle is more august than that of a great king in exile? Who is more worthy of respect than a brave man in misfortune?' When "Henry Esmond" appeared in 1852, noted writers and critics of the time acclaimed it as the best historical novel ever written. Set in the reign of Queen Anne, the story follows the troubled progress of a gentleman and an officer in Marlborough's army, as he painfully wrestles with an emotional allegiance to the old Tory-Catholic England until, disillusioned, he comes to terms of a kind with the Whiggish-Protestant future. This change also entails a very uncomfortable switch in his affections. The love story of Henry Esmond is charged with sombre, unconscious emotions, yet is skilfully embedded into historical events which are convincing but never too prominent.
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