The First Violin is Special Collections’ Featured Book for May 2011

First published in 1877, Jessie Fothergill’s best known work, The First Violin is told in first-person from two points of view. It begins with May Wedderburn living a quiet existence in a small town in England. Her quiet is disrupted when she attracts the attentions of the local wealthy landowner, Sir Peter. May has no interest in Sir Peter’s offer of marriage and is even afraid of him. There are dark rumors about his last marriage and the circumstances surrounding his wife’s demise. Enter the town recluse and sister of Sir Peter’s late wife who offers to whisk May away to Germany where music and excitement await her immediately upon arrival. The story is part mystery, part romance, and part opera. May does indeed encounter the excitement she craves, and she also experiences a great musical awakening in the land of Bach and Schumann. (

Born in Cheetham Hill, she spent most of her young years in Bowden near Manchester. She first visited Germany in 1874 and began writing immediately after this trip. She devoted the rest of her life to writing, living chiefly abroad. During her relatively short career in┬áthe later nineteenth century, Jessie Fothergill produced fourteen novels as well as many essays for periodicals at home. Although she is often classified as a regional writer, her fiction explores and depicts “a self-consciously modern world” where issues of class, religion, gender, sexuality, and race are scrutinized and debated. Her work was regularly compared by her contemporaries with that of Elizabeth Gaskell and George Elliot.

To read The First Violin, visit Special Collections, located on the second floor of the Glenn G. Bartle Library (off of the North Reading Room) and ask for:

PS 1694 . F7 F5