Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope was the runner-up in Radio 4’s ‘Neglected Classics’ vote. The novel was championed by Joanna Trollope who appeared on ‘Open Book’ to talk about the story in the very same week the Classic Serial began the broadcast of Part One.
It is indeed a neglected gem of a novel. Miss Mackenzie is a single woman in her mid-thirties who receives a large inheritance when her brother dies. She must then deal with what comes with the fortune, including several suitors, who may, or, may not, simply be after her money.
Margaret decides to rent a small house in Littlebath and takes her surviving brother Tom’s daughter with her as her ward. Tom and his wife, Sarah, are horrified that they have been left no money, especially as they find themselves in financial difficulties. Margaret Mackenzie’s suitors include: her brother’s junior partner, Mr. Rubb, a handsome young man but ‘in trade’; her cousin, John Ball, a widowed father of seven. John is a gentle soul, who lives with his ailing father and his supercilious mother, Lady Ball; and the oleaginous Mr. Maguire, a curate in Littlebath. Unfortunately Mr. Maguire has a rather terrifying squint.
Miss Mackenzie has to pick her way through this romantic minefield, not knowing who is the best suitor and whether each man wants to marry her for her fortune rather than love. Her wish is simply to find true love. However, storm clouds gather when it is discovered that the fortune does not belong to Margaret after all but to her cousin, John Ball. The financial assistance she has given to her brother’s family can continue no longer and also, what is to become of Miss Mackenzie?
Anthony Trollope has created a wonderful heroine in Miss Mackenzie. Although past the bloom of youth, her modesty, kindness and dignity will endear her to the listener and there is genuine delight when John Ball, against his mother’s wishes, declares his love for Margaret and asks her to marry him.
Convinced with good reason, that he was unloved and unregarded, Anthony Trollope struggled long and hard for a foothold in the world. But his vast resources of energy and dogged hard work broke down the barriers to success and found him loved, feted and avidly read. His labours were Herculean. He pitted himself against time to produce a vast collection of work about credible people and their foibles. He gained recognition as a writer who portrayed English life in a wry and honest manner with a cast of humorous and delightful characters. His portrayal of female characters is particularly skilful and Miss Mackenzie is no exception.
Martyn Wade is a skilled and talented radio writer and dramatist. He has taken up this neglected classic and has blown away the cobwebs to reveal a rather delightful and moving story. Martyn has dramatised the ‘Barsetshire’ novels for radio and the ‘Palliser’ series too. His most recent Trollope dramatisation was ‘Orley Farm’ and later this year he will be dramatising another Trollope novel – ‘The American Senator’. He will also be dramatising Ada Leverson’s ‘The Little Ottley’s’ for Woman’s Hour.
Anthony Trollope…..David Troughton
Miss Mackenzie…..Hattie Morahan
John Ball…..Philip Franks
Lady Ball…..Margaret Tyzack
Mr. Maguire…..Stephen Critchlow
Mr. Rubb…..Lloyd Thomas
Tom Mackenzie…..Sam Dale
Sarah Mackenzie…..Joanna Monro
Susanna Mackenzie…..Leah Brotherhead
Mr. Slow…..Sean Baker
Miss Todd…..Claire Harry
Mrs. Stumfold…..Christine Kavanagh
Rev. Stumfold…..Henry Devas
Directed by Tracey Neale