“In a detailed feat of detective work, Clifford pieces together the strange story of Maria Glenn, for whom being the reputed heiress to a large slave-produced fortune proved to bring her only misfortune. Described by the Taunton Courier as ‘like a deposit in our savings Bank, to be reserved until a few more years have improved the amount of her fortune, and the value of her affections,’ she was seen merely as a prize to be won, or in her case, stolen. Abducted by a family she had thought she could trust, her reputation was ruined by the episode and its repercussions, to the point that she resorted to leaving the country.
“Clifford tells her tale with sympathy and insight, carefully picking out the chain of events from the conflicting contemporary reports. The Disappearance of Maria Glenn is a fascinating read, dispelling our romantic notions of Regency ‘elopements’ by throwing light on a case where the ‘suitor’ was clearly motivated more by avarice than love.”
I was interviewed recently for the October 2016 edition of Your Family History magazine about how I researched The Disappearance of Maria Glenn and the historical background to the events. You can read the article, which includes a review of the book, by downloading the PDF.
Here’s a short extract from the review:
Naomi Clifford deftly investigates [this once notorious case]. Combining first-hand accounts, newspaper and trial reports, archival sources and a wide range of secondary texts, she creates a page-turning tale of crime, gossip and relationships. […] A well-researched, dramatic tale of greed, abduction and reputation in early 19th century England.
This book is amazing! The research that Ms Clifford has put into this book is astounding. The details of the case of Maria Glenn’s abduction and all the characters involved are very thorough. It’s hard to believe that this is a true story, as the plot is full of twists and turns and the characters are all larger than life. Even the family name of Bowditch sounds like it comes from a Thomas Hardy novel. I would really recommend this book to lovers of social history. The events are set in the Regency period and it’s interesting to read about how people lived in those days.
“This is a biographical account of what happened to Maria Glenn in the early 1800’s. It is the story of her abduction and the lawsuits that resulted from it. It is a story of greed and the lengths people will go to in the pursuit of money.
Maria Glenn is a teenager, in the care of her aunt and uncle, in Taunton. She is very reserved, dresses modestly and is rarely out on her own. She is loved and nurtured by the Tucketts and her cousins. Shortly before her 16th birthday, Maria and her cousins are stricken with a potentially deadly virus and sent to a farm outside the city of Taunton to recuperate. The owners of the farm have a good reputation in the community and have taken in other children previously for this purpose. Mr. Tuckett is a lawyer and has investigated them thoroughly before leaving his children in their care. What Mrs. Bowditch fails to tell him is that one of her sons, James, also lives in the house. The Bowditches upon learning that Maria is expected to inherit a fortune upon the death of her mother and that she will soon be 16, concoct a plan to abduct Maria, after her birthday, and force her to marry James. They use threats to “convince” Maria to go along “willingly”. Maria is rescued before the ceremony can take place and her uncle decides to bring criminal charges against the Bowditches. What appears to be a straightforward crime turns into a legal battle that lasts for years and forces Maria to live in exile for almost 30 years.
I was quite frankly astonished by this story and the way that Maria was tormented throughout, not only by her abductors but afterward by the citizens of Taunton. Naomi Clifford has done a masterful job of researching the case and relating the shifting tides of the legal battle and public opinion. Even more surprising is the way in which Maria is able to bear up in the face of horrible false accusations. This is a great book for anyone interested in legal history or women’s history in England. Included in the book is the complete transcript of Maria’s statement of her abduction and the events leading up to it.
Alinefromabook’s rating: THUMBS-UP!”
Read more reviews at A Line from a Book
‘The author of The Disappearance of Maria Glenn, Naomi Clifford, may well be better known to readers as Naomi Klein, who wrote the superb These Were Our Sons: Stories from Stockwell War Memorial.
‘Her latest book is indeed a Regency mystery: elopement, abduction, what really happened on 26 September 1817? A novel might well tie up all the loose ends and give you all the answers, but this is real life, leaving you to draw your own conclusions. This would make a great film.’
Brixton Society Newsletter, Summer, July 2016
“This is a thoroughly enjoyable book. Naomi Clifford’s writing has elegance and a lightness of touch that make this riveting story a joy to read. I became completely engrossed in Maria Glenn’s life story. She and the cast of characters around her are brought vividly and compassionately to life. The richly textured details of the period, of the culture and social mores make for fascinating reading, and the vibrant style is engaging. I was kept guessing as to the outcome of the courtroom drama till the very end. I loved it. Highly recommended.”
“Naomi Clifford brings this story of abduction and the aftermath in Regency Somerset brilliantly to life. Her style is as readable as her research is thorough. It is a fascinating look at the life of ordinary people transformed by a single event with devastating consequences. Read it!”
“Little-known true life story about a teenager who is taken away during the night by a family who want to marry her off, and what happens to her afterwards. Not normally my kind of thing but my partner bought it and recommended it. It’s a good read and trots along at a nice pace.”
“Stories of abduction were frequent during this time and it is often difficult to differentiate fact from fiction, but Naomi has clearly researched not only the characters but the period exceptionally well. She has done an amazing job in bringing Maria and the other characters to life. With much detective worked she has managed to piece together the characters in this true story, from minimal initial information. It’s a book which from the first page I simply had to keep reading to find out how it ended, there are plenty of twists and turns throughout, but I won’t spoil it by giving away any clues. Naomi offers the information in an easy and flowing style making for an incredibly enjoyable Regency read. I would highly recommend it.”
“Naomi Clifford’s true life story of Maria Glenn is written with superb attention to detail and beautifully crafted. The author has a reel feel for both the period and for her shy heroine. She manages to combine historical accuracy with the drama of a good novel and keeps the pages turning to the end. I loved it and thoroughly recommend. I’m already looking forward to her next book….”
“Naomi Clifford manages to do the nearly impossible. She’s combined a true-life mystery and a discursive history. She creates a page turner which is wildly informative, shedding fresh light and insights into dark unexplored histories, making strange what we’d assumed was familiar. The disappearance of Maria Glenn takes us on a picaresque journey into a world of elopement and abduction. Georgette Heyer’s romantic Regency world will never be the same again. In short order Naomi propels us from the plantations of St. Vincent to sleepy West Country farms and claustrophobic middle class life in Taunton; its legal community, newspapers, politics and courts. She deftly moves us to London and the Courts of Justice and its prisons. When the tale finally ends the aura of mystery isn’t absolutely lifted. What we learn of forced marriage and family honour, sadly, still applies here, today.
Comparisons with the inestimable Kate Summerscale are inevitable. Naomi Clifford is her equal in terms of her riveting prose and her superior as a serious social historian.”