London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1890. Item #01928
Home Life or Work Life?
The Eternal Question for Women
The Victorian Answer
CAREY, Rosa Nouchette. Lover or Friend? In Three Volumes. London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1890.
First edition. Three octavo volumes (7 1/8 x 4 1/2 in; 180 x 113 mm). , 324; , 310; , 309,  pp.
Publisher's original half brown cloth over patterned cloth boards. Gilt lettered spines. Publisher's original design gray printed endpapers. Spines very slightly cocked, otherwise fine.
OCLC/KVK record only nine copies of the first edition in library holdings worldwide. ABPC has no auction records for any edition of Lover Or Friend? as far back into the past as 1923.
A prime example of "safe fiction" for girls of the 19th century, which is to say highly conservative with an emphasis on the domestic duties of women, which take precedence over all other considerations and responsibilities.
A very popular novelist in her time but now long forgotten, Rosa Nouchette Carey's ambition was "to try to do good and not harm by my works, and to write books which any mother can give a girl to read" (as cited by Black, Notable Women Authors). As such, the question Lover or Friend? - a suggestive title suggesting more than it delivers - aims at the latter, safely navigating the young female reader away from potential indelicacies to rest ashore a pure land not without its own difficulties, and it is there that the book still speaks to women stepping into the modern world yet fettered to the old, and frustrated. Juggling the roles of wife, mother, and working woman remains as much a daily struggle for women in 2011 as it was in 1890, though Carey's answer, concentrate on the domestic front, retreat from the other, may rankle 21st century feminists.
Carey practiced what she preached. Though she enjoyed writing, she kept it a friend, not a lover.
"I do not think that I have known any author who has made her writing - the real work of her life - so secondary a matter as has Rosa Carey. She has so consistently lived her religion, so to speak, that family duty and devotion to its many members have always come first" (Helen Marion Burnside, as cited by Black).
"Rosa Nouchette Carey (1840–1909), novelist, was born at Stratford-le-Bow, London, on 24 September 1840... As a child she told stories to her younger sister, and in this way created the plot of her first novel, Nellie's Memories (1868). The publisher's advertisements suggest that it sold over 52,000 copies. It was followed by many other novels, marked by pious tone, domestic subject matter, and a large number of rather unmemorable characters, which were staples of the market in safe fiction for girls during the last third of the nineteenth century...
"Yet, gushing and unpretending as her work is, she does depict the frustrations of such women with some sympathy, exploring the pains of living up to high ideals and the psychic cost of self-abnegation...
"Carey's literary career got going... in her late twenties. After the death of her mother in 1870 Carey and her remaining unmarried sister went to keep house for a widowed brother and look after his children; after the sister married and went to live in Kirkby Stephen, Westmorland (which provided a setting for some of Carey's fiction), the brother died and Carey was left in charge of the children.
"As well as writing thirty-three three-volume novels, she was on the staff of the Girls' Own Paper, for which she wrote eight serials. She does not seem to have moved in literary circles, although she was a close friend of the novelist Ellen Wood (Mrs Henry Wood). The poet Helen Marion Burnside, who also worked for the Girls' Own Paper, lived with her from about 1875, and edited The Rosa Nouchette Carey Birthday Book (1901). When Carey's sister was widowed she returned to keep house for the two authors. Rosa Carey died of lung cancer at her home, Sandilands, Keswick Road, Putney, London, on 19 July 1909" (Oxford DNB).