Rankin, Fannie W.

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RANKIN, Fannie W.

Born circa 1840s or 1850s; died death date unknown

Wrote under: F. W. R.

Biographical information on Fannie W. Rankin has not been found. Her novel, True to Him Ever (1874), typified 19th-century sentimentality. The action takes place in the Tremount family's country home. Through the vicissitudes of the final pairing of eight young men and women, Rankin deals just desserts to an indomitable woman and her determined lover, two childhood sweethearts, a flirt and a dandy, and lovers at first sight.

The women's perceptions, hopes, and acts are the novel's focus, while the men disappear to conduct their business in New York and return to the home sphere to cause anguish and delight again. Maude loves Harold, yet her earnest desire for liberty causes her to act capriciously. Bessie and Tom's youthful affection matures into conjugal love. And although Loo converses coquettishly with every young bachelor who visits the Tremount home, she eventually is attracted to the man most like herself—an opportunistic playboy. These couples play the social games of courtship throughout the novel.

Rather than pierce the surface of these drawing-room conversations and explore the deep and conflicting faces of love, Rankin developed conventional characters who conformed to the prescribed rounds of courtship. In the Tremount sisters' reflections on their personal identities as women and discussions of woman's role in society, Rankin explored the issue of women's rights. Yet Mrs. Tremount's assertion that woman "brightens and encourages" man "in his aspirations after fame" circumscribes the sphere into which her daughters settle.

Esther Tremount's singular notion of joining a woman's group is forgotten in her devotion to Cecil Graham. His untimely death does not diminish the strength of Esther's love but sanctifies it—she devotes her life to working with the poor. The commonplace twists of love in the other couples' courtships provide contrast to Esther's eternal love, which surmounts even death. The woman who ventured to think of social activism is transformed by love to a saintly provider for the poor.

Rankin's characters come to their predictable ends; however, Esther's goodness is rewarded on a higher plane than a happy family of her own. She achieves a religious devotion in life and a sort of spiritual communion with her beloved. These moralistic outcomes and homely sentiment typical of the fiction of the day were criticized in a review in Godey's Lady's Book faulting the constant concern with "love, jealousy, and engagements, as if they were the staples of existence."


Reference works:

American Fiction 1851-1875 (1965). A Supplement to Allibone's Critical Dictionary (1891).

Other references:

Godey's (Aug. 1874).