This article analyzes Susan Ferrier’s portrayal of her young heroine, Gertrude, in her second novel, The Inheritance (1824). Gertrude is the apparent heiress of an estate valued at £20,000 that she inherits in the second half of the novel. Ferrier’s choice of heroine is a fascinating one, given that her novel was published decades before the 1882 Married Women’s Property Act, a watershed moment that significantly contributed to the legitimization of female ownership of property. The emancipatory potential in Ferrier’s attribution of such wealth and power to her female heroine is, however, counteracted by the ending of the novel, in which Gertrude loses her material possessions after it is revealed that she is not the lawful inheritor of the estate. Ferrier’s decision to assign that power to her heroine only to take it away from her is, I argue, revealing of the two incompatible goals that she sets for herself with this novel. While on one hand she seeks to legitimize female ownership of property with her choice of heroine, she also uses that character to convey the religious idea that a life led in the pursuit of materialism and worldly pleasures is a frivolous and corruptive one.

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