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The Pigeon Pie
(Text kindly supplied by Amy de Gruchy)
November 1851 October 1852 as a serial in The Monthly Packet, editor C. M. Yonge, publishers John and Charles Mozley.
version, 1860 (second edition 1861) also published
by Mozleys. Price one shilling.
The tale is set in 1651, at the close of the Civil War. The Royalists have been defeated at the battle of Worcester, and King Charles II and his followers are in flight. The chief characters, the Woodleys, are a Royalist gentry family, impoverished by the war. The eldest son has been fighting for King Charles, and returns home , where he is hidden, but later captured by Parliamentary soldiers, due to the folly of two of the children and the maid, and the treachery of a manservant. His eldest sister helps him to escape; the younger children and the maid recognize and repent of their faults, while the traitor is appropriately punished. The story ends on a cheerful note nine years later. The king has returned in triumph, and the Woodley family are reunited.
C. M.Yonge's habitual skill in showing family life and relationships is shown here. The eldest brother and sister are ideal figures, but they are absorbed into their entirely credible family whose characters and relationships show much insight.
As always, Yonge's aim was to offer moral guidance. Readers could learn to follow the example of the eldest brother and sister, and take warning from the failings of other characters. These are the subject of authorial comment, which in the case of the maid servant is strident in tone.
Her historical aim seems to have been twofold. One was to present a picture of' ordinary life in a seventeenth century England torn by war. The other seems to have been to correct what she would have seen as the erroneous views of Sir Walter Scott in his novel Woodstock, which she knew well. Both tales are set at the same time, and deal with the efforts to help the fugitives fron the battle. Scott's heroine is Alice Lee, who lives at Woodstock. The Woodley family live at Forest Lea. C .M. Yonge's tale is one of quiet realism, contrasting with the melodrama of Scott. She stresses the virtues of the Royalists, and the righteousness of their cause, while Scott shows the merits and failings of both sides. Both Colonel Everard in Woodstock and Colonel Enderby in The Pigeon Pie are moderate Parliamentarians who protect Royalists, but the latter is a minor character whose "good qualities have been warped by ideas of liberty that hid from his eyes the obligations of loyalty". Colonel Everard is the hero of Scott's novel However, in the book version of The Pigeon Pie some of the Royalist sentiments are omitted, including the description quoted above.
This short tale has been largely neglected, but it is well-constructed with well-maintained suspense and a convincing picture of family life.
For contemporary reviews see L. Madden, J.B. Shorthouse and C.M. Yonge, unpublished thesis, University of London Diploma in Librarianship, 1964.
For C.M. Yonge's historical fiction:
Alice Fairfax Lucy,
'The other Miss Yonge', in A Chaplet for
L.A. de Gruchy, 'C.M. Yonge's historical
novels - the influence of Scott', 1837-1901:
L.A. de Gruchy, The Monthly
Packet, unpublished thesis, University
of London, 1986, p. 153 et seq.