The Fall of Doctor Onslow (1994) was the sixth and final novel by Frances Vernon (1963-91). Published posthumously, it is perhaps her finest work. Set in 1858, it is the story of Dr George Onslow, reformist headmaster of a leading public school, who harbours private passions that are fated to be the death of his life's ambition.
'A searing indictment of the process of education... The narrative is tersely written in a style that successfully captures Victorian restraint and its stifling sensibilities.' Ben Preston, The Times
'A remarkable work, written with spirit and erudition... It is difficult to believe when reading it that the author was a child of our times and did not actually live in the middle of the last century: she recreates that world so vividly, with such understanding of its characters, such an ear for its speech, such feeling for its attitudes and taboos.' Jill Delay, Tablet
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About the Author
Frances Vernon was born on December 1 1963, and raised on the Sudbury Estate in Derbyshire. At the age of 18 she embarked upon a writing career, and would complete six novels in the space of ten years. Privileged Children (1982) won the Author's Club Award for Best First Novel, and the Daily Express praised its 'genuine sparkle and invention.' Gentleman and Players (1984) earned further glowing notices: in the Guardian Robert Nye predicted that 'Frances Vernon should become a cult figure.' The Bohemian Girl followed in 1985, A Desirable Husband in 1987, The Marquis of Westmarch in 1989.
Frances Vernon's untimely death in 1991, aged just 27, was felt by all who knew her and her work to be especially poignant. Her final novel, The Fall of Doctor Onslow, was published posthumously in July 1994. Lucasta Miller for the Independent hailed it as 'both a tragic reminder of what she might have gone on to do, and a testimony to what she did achieve.'
Faber Finds is privileged to reissue Frances Vernon's entire oeuvre, each edition including a new preface in which her life and work are discussed in interview by her mother Sheila Vernon and her first cousin the photographer and author Michael Marten.