Dialect in British Fiction: 1800-1836Funded by The Arts and Humanities Research CouncilSupported by The University of Sheffield
Full record including Speech Extracts
Foster, Mrs E. M. Miriam. In two volumes. by the author of Frederic and Caroline, Rebecca, Judith, &C.
Author Details
First Names:Mrs E. M.
Publication Details
Publisher:Printed at the Minerva-Press for William Lane, Leadenhall-Street.
Novel Details
Genre:Humour; inheritance/identity; manners/society; political
Miriam St Ledger, and orphan, is taken into the care of her bachelor uncle, Fitzpatrick, who has been in the West Indies. Her aunt takes over her care and spends twenty years schooling her to become an accomplished young lady. The aunt then dies. Miriam returns to the dark and dreary Tunacombe Castle in Cornwall, and lives alone there with two domestic servants (Joseph and Joanna) for two years while her uncle is away on business. He returns to Cornwall, bringing with him his new wife. It is quite amusing from here on: the new wife (London society aspirant) plus associated hangers-on persuade Fitz to stand for Parliament. Finally, Miriam is forced out of home since she doesn't want to marry their choice of suitor. By coincidence, she comes upon Seymour, who unravels the mystery of her past and parentage. Although they met by chance in a stagecoach, where he adopts her because she is distressed, it transpires that he is her natural father who never knew of her existence (he had been posted overseas shortly after marrying Miriam's mother, who died en route to India shortly after giving birth). Seymour is Fitz's sister-in-law's brother-in-law by his marriage to Miriam's mother, so via this connection all is revealed and fortunes reallocated. Fitz is left penurious, while Miriam inherits. Happily ever after.
Overview of the Dialect
Domestic servants, Joseph and Joanna, both have moderately marked West Country accents. Servants who appear infrequently have voiced fricatives. There are some narrative jibes at dialect (e.g. vol 1, p. 41). When the house party moves to stay at a Cornish village the farmer's wife has quite marked dialect ('ben't you?' vol 1, p. 123). In an exchange between carriage passengers there is some non-standard grammar, and some satire on language.
Displaying 3 characters from this novel    |    Highlight dialect features in each extract    |    Do not highlight dialect features in each extract
Speaker #1:Joanna - Servant
Individual or Group:Individual
Primary Identity:Housekeeper
Age:Adult - elderly
Narrative Voice:3rd person

Social Role
Social Role Description:Servant
Social Role Category:Servant
Speaker's Origin
Place of Origin Description:Assume local to setting of text (Cornwall) although this is not specified in text
Place of Origin Category:Cornwall, South West England, England
Speakers: All , Joanna, interlocutor
"Alack, and a well-a-day!" said the old woman, "he has been gone ever since day-break: he left his best sarvice to you, but he said his business would not admit of delay. To my mind, 'twas a pity that he would not bide to take a snap of breakfast this cold morning."-- Miriam sighed.-- "He was a comely looking man. Pray, Miss Merry, what is he called?"
"I know not; I did not ask him."
"Where did he come from, Miss?"
"That also I am ignorant of. I thought--I hoped--I wished to know many things which this sudden departure, this---"
"Good lack! good lack! Miss, the kettle has done boiling ever so long, and you have not made the tea," said Joanna [omitted some narrative and Miriam's dialogue]
"You grow terribly moody-hearted , Miss," said Joanna. "I wish my master was returned , for then it would not be so dull and so lonely, mayhap ."
(Vol. 1,p. 14-15)
Speakers: All , Joanna
"Oh Miss Merry! The cook is come , and one of the house-maids, and a footman; and my master, and the new lady, and a mort of fine volks will be down by Saturday."
(Vol. 1,p. 18-19)
Speakers: All , Joanna
Joanna, the simple-hearted Joanna, followed her.-- " Don't cry, dear Miss Merry," said she; " don't be afraid to see master; I warrant he won't scold you; he can't sure , if he looks in your face; and the new madam, I warrant she'll be as glad as a bird of such a nice company keeper in this lonesome place." [omitted: some of Miriam's dialogue]
"Aye to be sure , that's what he will," said Joanna as she staid a bit after Miriam, to adjust her own homely coif at the glass, that she might not be, to use her own term , a "figure of fun" amongst "genteel grand servants."
(Vol. 1,p. 45-46)
Speakers: All , Joanna, interlocutor
"Lord! Lord! how malancholy ," said Joanna. "I do believe as 'tis a franzy fever ;" and leaving the room, she went into the servants' hall, to report her opinion to them, and to beg that one of them would go into the parlour, and acquaint the family.
[some narrative omitted]
"What d'ye want, Joanna?" said Fitzpatrick.
" Oh your Honour! Oh your Honour's Lady! here's a sad to do, or I should not have made so bold. I went into the servants' hall, but I believe there's a parcel of savages there, for they wouldn't hearken to me."
"What is it?" cried Mrs. Fitzpatrick hastily, as if teased by her story.
"I ask pardon, your Honour's Lady, for my boldness in appearing before you; but indeed 'twould melt a heart of stone--poor dear young soul, poor innocent young creature, poor, poor Miss Merry!" Henry Stafford rose from his seat, and advanced towards her.
"What is it?" cried Fitzpatrick, peevishly.
"Oh your Honour, poor Miss Merry is taken with a franzy faver !"
[some narrative omitted]
"Oh my lady! your Honour's Lady!" cried Joanna, "she is a very pittice objec indeed, and a doctor must come to her."
(Vol. 1,p. 188-90)
Speakers: All , Joanna, interlocutor
She enquired who was there, and was answered in a well-known key-- " 'Tis me, Miss; 'tis your old Joanna."
"Come in," said Miriam, wondering what could cause the appearance of Joanna at Menooth.
" Ah, Miss!" said Joanna, "I should not have made so bold as to intrude, but I have such news for ye ! Law , Miss, master's at the Castle!"
"Who? cried Miriam, in consternation.
"Mr. Fitzpatrick, Miss, but, Lord! don'tee look so pale; you needn't be afeard of he , for he's in a bad taking hisself ."
"What is the matter?" said Miriam; "come sit down, and relate your story."
" Oh Miss!" said Joanna, doing as she was bid, and wiping her forehead, "this comes of old gentlemen or elderly gentlemen marrying young beauties; never no good can come , I'm very sartin ; but howsomdever I'll tell you.--Last night, 'twas near ten o'clock, and Joseph was just stirring out the fire, and I was unpinning my cap, when helter-skelter we heard such a noise! " Lord , Joseph!" says I , "is that thunder?"
"No, I'fackins !" says Joseph; "but 'tis a carriage coming down the paved road."
Lack a-day , what a pother I was in! The bell ring'd at the door, and I ran to it, and held the candle while Joseph unlocked it."
"Who's here?" says Joseph.
"Friends," was the answer.
" Lack-a-daisy ," says I , "why sure that's master's footman?"
"Yes, 'tis indeed!" says Robert; "open the door directly, for my master's outside."
" Blessed Lord , how I did shake!"
"Now," said Robert, "is Mrs. Fitzpatrick here?"
"Here!" says I ; " Lord helpee , Robert be dreaming ?"
"Has she been here?"
"No, I'fegs !" says Joseph; " this be no place for a gay body like she ."
"I told my master so," said Robert, "but he wouldn't hearken to me." -- Well , Miss, the short and the long is, that Mrs. Fitzpatrick has 'loped and carried off a deal of money with her. Robert says all the sarvants know as 'tis with a young East Indian, as she has kept company with a great while; but master wouldn't hearken to him that she was gone sure enough , but thought 'twas all of a frolic , till he com'd down to the Castle, and found 'twas true. Poor gentleman, I do pity en , for he looks cruel bad , and 'tis hard to be so tricked:--however, he's paid now for all his wickedness to you, Miss, and all the sarvants , they does laugh about it, and say their master is well sarved for his pains, in vent'ring on such a mad-cap , hoity-toity thing ."
Speaker #2:Mrs Wilson - Farmer's wife
Individual or Group:Individual
Primary Identity:Farmer's wife
Age:Adult - middle aged
Narrative Voice:3rd person

Social Role
Social Role Description:Farmer's wife
Social Role Category:Trade or craft
Speaker's Origin
Place of Origin Description:Assume Cornwall, although this is not specified in the text
Place of Origin Category:Cornwall, South West England, England
Extract #1 dialect features: Grammar, Idiom, Metalanguage, Orthographical Contraction
Speakers: All , Mrs Wilson
A tall thin female, of a most shewy appearance, came up close to Mr. and Mrs. Fitzpatrick, and making two very low curtsies close before them, said-- "How d'ye do, Mem ? How d'ye do, Sir? Welcome to our parts ; I shall be happy to see you at Burtel."
Mortimer disguised not his mirth at this speech .
(Vol. 1,p. 121)
Extract #2 dialect features: Grammar, Idiom, Orthographical Contraction
" You'll be kindly welcome, Sir; our's are to the full as large as pigeons."
"Madam, as large as what?"
"As large as pigeons, Sir."
"Yes, indeed, to the full as large as pigeons. Cousin Jenny, now ben't our turtle-doves as big as pigeons?"
(Vol. 1,p. 123)
Speaker #3:Mr Jones; Miss Davis; others - Stagecoach passengers
Individual or Group:Group
Primary Identity:Stagecoach passengers
Age:Adult - unspecified age
Narrative Voice:3rd person

Social Role
Social Role Description:Stagecoach passengers
Social Role Category:
Speaker's Origin
Place of Origin Description:At least one (Mr Jones) is from Devon
Place of Origin Category:Devon, South West England, England
Sir, what men of learning have you here--what men of letters? Have you reading rooms, and clubs for litterhairy people?"
" Oh yes, Mem , we have plenty of them there circulating libraries."
"My good Sir, but they are composed of Novels I suppose?"
" No, Mem ,: I beg your pardon, Mem ,; but we gets the news there too, London as well as Exeter. I read 'em myself most days in the week, for I've a turn for reading myself."
[some text omitted]
"Have you read the Puzzles of Litterhater ?" said Miss Davis, drawing up her head majestically.
"No, Miss, can't say I have."
The young gentleman looked at Henrietta. She smiled, and turned towards her protector, who, looking at Miriam, smiled also; and this little mistake of Miss Davis's had made four of the party more sociable in a single moment, than otherwise they might have been in a week.
[some text omitted]
"Indeed, Miss," said Mr. Jones, "I should like to get the book for my wife and daughter to read; for when they set about their fiddle-faddles , and their gimcracks, card-paper hornaments , as they call 'em , and their fillagers , and the rest of their sticking works, they make a fine mess, and a deuced litter too, and there's nobody hates a litter more than I do."-- The young lady could no longer resist her propensity to laugh. -- "And I suppose, Miss, this book as you mentioned, a litter hater , has something to say about them there things."
(Vol. 1,p. 225-228)
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Version 1.1 (December 2015)Background image reproduced from the Database of Mid Victorian Illustration (DMVI)