Online text of this book      Publication details, summary and bibliography     

Charlotte Yonge's Preface to Love and Life    Charlotte Yonge's sources 

 The Eros and Psyche story in Charlotte Yonge

Online text of this book

Click here for the latest version of Love and Life online from Gutenberg
(Many thanks to Sandra Laythorpe and others

Love and Life - Publication details, summary and bibliography

(Text kindly supplied by Amy de Gruchy)


1880, published by Macmillan


The novel is a version of the Cupid and Psyche legend, set in eighteenth-century England.

Aurelia (Psyche, meaning the soul or life) is the youngest daughter of Major Delavie who manages an estate supposedly the property of his cousin, Lady Belamour (Venus). Her son, Sir Amyas Belamour (Cupid, or Love) sees and falls in love with Aurelia, though she has not seen him. His mother, who wishes him to marry a wealthy heiress, sends Aurelia to a distant mansion, belonging to the Belamour family. It is inhabited by a recluse, the uncle and guardian of Sir Amyas, who has the same name and surname.

Aurelia's task is to care for Lady Belamour's triplet daughters (the three Graces) by her second marriage to Mr Wayland (Vulcan), but she also befriends and cheers the recluse, though she never sees him, as he lives in darkened rooms. When Sir Amyas eventually finds Aurelia Lady Belamour insists that the girl must marry his guardian. This she is willing to do, but unknown to her the uncle and nephew agree that the younger man shall be the bridegroom, the substitution made possible by the darkened room.

The visits of Sir Amyas arouse the suspicions of Lady Belamour, and she arrives just as Aurelia's curiosity to see her husband has caused an accident to him. Lady Belamour punishes her by taking her to a half-derelict house in London, and setting her various tasks. Lady Belamour's lover, Colonel Mar, becomes enamoured of the girl, who firmly rejects his advances. This does not satisfy Lady Belamour, who arranges that she shall be shipped to the West Indies.

Her husband and his uncle, her father and sister have all been searching for her, and are just in time to rescue her. Mr \Wayland, who has been abroad, returns and takes his wife and children to America. Among the papers that Aurelia had to sort in the old London house was one which proved that her father was the true owner of the estate that he had managed. Sir Amyas and Aurelia have a second wedding ceremony, and his uncle, no longer a recluse, marries her good elder sister, so all ends happily.

Of the characters, the females are well-drawn. Lady Belamour is a convincing villainess, a ruthless opportunist, intelligent and manipulative, but with a beauty and charm that conquers most people. Betty Delavie is the good maternal elder sister of Aurelia, the stay and support of the family. Aurelia is a gentle, dutiful, affectionate young girl whose response to her ardent bridegroom's caresses and the arousal of new emotions is well-shown. The main male characters are believable, and there is a lively collection of background figures, servants, children and country folk whose behaviour and dialogue is convincing.

The moral and religious teaching is strongly conveyed. Love and life are shown to be linked in the spiritual as well as the earthly realm. Aurelia is aroused to greater earnestness by a sermon in which the divine love is shown to awaken the soul to new life, and this is the final hope of Major Delavie for Lady Belamour. Aurelia's excitement and elation after her marriage lead to a neglect of her prayers and duties, with the result that she fails in trust and obedience and gives way to her curiosity. However, she repents and as a result of her trials becomes more devout and more mature.

C.M. Yonge was well read in eighteenth-century literature, and this is apparent in the language and customs shown in the novel.

Further Reading

For contemporary reviews see L. Madden, J.B. Shorthouse and C.M. Yonge, unpublished thesis, University of London Diploma in Librarianship, 1964.

Charlotte Yonge's own Preface to the Second Edition of Love and Life
(from the 1896 Macmillan edition)


THE first edition of this tale was put forth without explaining the old fable on which it was founded – a fable recurring again and again in fairy myths, though not traceable in the classic world till a very late period, when it appeared among the tales of Apuleius, of the province of Africa, sometimes called the earliest novelist. There are, however, fragments of the same story in the popular tales of all countries, so that it is probable that Apuleius availed himself of an early form of one of these. They are to be found from India to Scandinavia, adapted to the manners and fancy of every country in turn, Beauty and the Beast and the Black Bull of Norroway are the most familiar forms of the tale, and it seemed to me one of those legends of such universal property that it was quite fair to put it into 18th century English costume.

Some have seen in it a remnant of the custom of some barbarous tribes, that the wife should not behold her husband for a year after marriage, and to this the Indian versions lend themselves; but, Apuleius himself either found it, or adapted it to the idea of the Soul (the Life) awakened by Love, grasping too soon and impatiently, then losing it, and, unable to rest, struggling on through severe toils and labours till her hopes are crowned even at the gates of death. Psyche, the soul or life, whose emblem is the butterfly, thus even in heathen philosophy strained towards the higher Love, just glimpsed at for a while.

Christians gave a higher meaning to the fable, and saw in it the Soul, or the Church, to whom her Bridegroom has been for a while made known striving after Him through many trials, to be made one with Him after passing through Death. The Spanish poet Calderon made it the theme of two sacred dramas, in which the lesson of Faith, not Sight, was taught, with special reference to the Holy Eucharist.

English poetry has, however, only taken up its simple classical aspect. In the early part of the century, Mrs. Tighe wrote a poem in Spenserian stanza, called Psyche, which was much admired at the time; and Mr. Morris has more lately sung the story in his Earthly Paradise. This must be my excuse for supposing the outline of the tale to be familiar to most readers.

The fable is briefly thus :-

Venus was jealous of the beauty of a maiden named Psyche, the youngest of the three daughters of a king. She sent misery on the land and family, and caused an oracle to declare that the only remedy was to deck his youngest daughter as a bride, and leave her in a lonely place to become the prey of a monster. Cupid was commissioned by his mother to destroy her. He is here represented not as a child, but as a youth, who on seeing Psyche's charms, became enamoured of her, and resolved to save her from his mother and make her his own. He therefore caused Zephyr to transport her to a palace where everything delightful and valuable was at her service, feasts spread, music playing, all her wishes fulfilled, but all by invisible hands. At night in the dark, she was conscious of a presence who called himself her husband, showed the fondest affection for her, and promised her all sorts of glory and bliss, if she would be patient and obedient for a time.

This lasted till yearnings awoke to see her family. She obtained consent with much difficulty and many warnings. Then the splendour in which she lived excited the jealousy of her sisters, and they persuaded her that her visitor was really the monster who would deceive her and devour her. They thus induced her to accept a lamp with which to gaze on him when asleep. She obeyed them, then beholding the exquisite beauty of the sleeping god of love, she hung over him in rapture till a drop of the hot oil fell on his shoulder and awoke him. He sprang up, sorrowfully reproached her with having ruined herself and him, and flew away, letting her fall as she clung to him.

The palace was broken up, the wrath of Venus pursued her; Ceres and all the other deities chased her from their temples; even when she would have drowned herself, the river god took her in his arms, and laid her on the bank. Only Pan had pity on her, and counselled her to submit to Venus, and do her bidding implicitly as the only hope of regaining her lost husband.

Venus spurned her at first, and then made her a slave, setting her first to sort a huge heap of every kind of grain in a single day. The ants, secretly commanded by Cupid, did this for her. Next, she was to get a lock of golden wool from a ram feeding in a valley closed in by inaccessible rocks ; but this was procured for her by an eagle; and lastly, Venus, declaring that her own beauty had been impaired by attendance on her injured son, commanded Psyche to visit the Infernal Regions and obtain from Proserpine a closed box of cosmetic which was on no account to be opened. Psyche thought death alone could bring her to these realms, and was about to throw herself from a tower, when a voice instructed her how to enter a cavern, and propitiate Cerberus with cakes after the approved fashion.

She thus reached Proserpine's throne, and obtained the casket, but when she had again reached the earth, she reflected that if Venus's beauty were impaired by anxiety, her own must have suffered far more; and the prohibition having of course been only intended to stimulate her curiosity, she opened the casket, out of which came the baneful fumes of Death! Just, however, as she fell down overpowered, her husband, who had been shut up by Venus, came to the rescue and finding himself unable to restore her, cried aloud to Jupiter, who heard his prayer, reanimated Psyche, and gave her a place among the gods.

(Some of) Yonge's references and sources in Love and Life

This section is still being worked on ...

Lucius Apuleius (c. 123 - c. 170 AD)
" ... the old fable on which [this tale] was founded ... appeared among ... the tales of Apuleius, of the province of Africa, sometimes called the earliest novelist ... "

What Yonge is neglecting to tell us exactly is that she referring to the Eros/Cupid and Psyche story in Apuleius' Metamorphoses (Transformations), also known as Asinus Aureus (The Golden Ass). Written about 170 AD, The Golden Ass is the only complete Latin novel to survive. It follows the adventures of Lucius, who is changed by magic into an ass and later regains his human form with the help of the goddess Isis.

There are endless web pages explaining the myth of Cupid/Eros and Psyche

Apuleius himself maintains an extensive and very cheerful personal website.
If this is too much for you, try this more compact website with links to works online

For copies of Apuleius' work online:

Adlington's translation of 1566 seems very popular (this edition by Martin Guy, 1996)
bullet pointThe very determined may wish to try a Latin copy of Eros (Cupid) and Psyche
(and indeed the rest Apuleius' works).




Beauty and the Beast

The Black Bull of Norroway

Pedro Calderon de la Barca (1600-1681)

"... Christians gave a higher meaning to the fable, and saw in it the Soul, or the Church, to whom her Bridegroom has been for a while made known striving after Him through many trials, to be made one with Him after passing through Death. The Spanish poet Calderon made it the theme of two sacred dramas, in which the lesson of Faith, not Sight, was taught, with special reference to the Holy Eucharist ... "

PEDRO CALDERON , generally refered to simply as Calderon
short biog - http://www.theatrehistory.com/spanish/calderon001.html
longer biog - http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/clsc49.html

Explanation of Caleron's "Sacred drama" - autos sacramentales (one-act religious plays) among them El divino Orfeo and A Dios por
razón de estado [to God for reasons of state]

A form of dramatic literature which is peculiar to Spain, though in some respects similar in character to the old Morality plays of England. The auto sacramental may be defined as a dramatic representation of the mystery of the Eucharist (at least at the time of Calderón).


Mary Blachford Tighe (1772-1810)
"... In the early part of the century, Mrs. Tighe wrote a poem in Spenserian stanza, called Psyche ..."

Title : "Psyche , or, The Legend Of Love.
Mary Tighe, 1805

Online version of 1811 edition, including 1805 preface by Mary Tighe


Public Words and Private Ideas: Examining the Subversive Rhetoric in Mary Tighe's Psyche, or the Legend of Love


William Morris (1834-1896)
" ... Mr. Morris has more lately sung the story in his Earthly Paradise ... "

William Morris was a pioneering socialist, craftsman, book designer, typographer and decorative artist, founder of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and author of intense short lyric, long poetic narratives, and utopian-socialist prose romances.

Follow this link for an online text of Morris's Earthly Paradise (1868-70).
For the rest of Morris's works see the Writings by William Morris page by the William Morris Society.

You may also like to visit the website of the William Morris Gallery – this Gallery's internationally important collections illustrate William Morris's life, work and influence. It has permanent displays of printed, woven and embroidered fabrics, rugs, carpets, wallpapers, furniture, stained glass and painted tiles designed by Morris himself and by Edward Burne-Jones, Philip Webb, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown and others who together founded the firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Company in 1861. The Gallery is in Walthamstow, in north-east London.

Love and Life: The Eros and Psyche story in Charlotte Yonge

Clemence Schultze
Resume of a paper read at conference on "Victorians and the Ancient World".
University College Worcester 15 April 2000

Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901) is notable as author of a number of contemporary domestic novels which vividly represent life in large Victorian families in provincial England. Some were best-sellers in their day, particularly The Heir of Redclyffe and The Daisy Chain. She also wrote several historical novels, including Love and Life: an old story in eighteenth century costume (1880) – ostensibly a romance set in the reign of George II. She conveys admirably the feel of town and country life of that period; various minor characters have a liveliness and individuality almost equalling that of Austen or Gaskell.

The ‘old story’ of the title is the myth of Eros and Psyche (Love and Soul), best known from Apuleius’ Metamorphoses or Golden Ass, and immensely popular in nineteenth-century art. Just as Yonge had rendered the legend of Hercules within a mid-Victorian milieu in My Young Alcides (1875), so she now transposed Apuleius’ story, plus elements of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, into the Georgian period.

The novel requires reading at two levels to identify the mythical referent and interpret it in terms of the Christian life. Yonge was a High Church Anglican, and Love and Life is both a tale of commitment, abduction and fidelity, and simultaneously an allegory of the soul’s progress. The use of a mythical paradigm highlights crucial episodes while maintaining the Tractarian attitude of reserve towards religious experience. The novel’s construction of Christian femininity is made more pointed in that the context allows dramatic plot circumstances unavailable in Yonge’s contemporary domestic works.

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