Brenda Hiatt's The Ugly Duckling



Brenda Hiatt's heroine in Hiatt's The Ugly Duckling is Deidre Wheaton, a secret poet who is on her way for London season with her much lovelier sister, Celeste. Heralded on the cover with Touchstone's ironic invocation to Audrey, "Truly, I would the gods had made thee poetical" (AYLI ), Deidre immediately identifies herself with Shakespeare since the book opens with her reading sonnet 102 to her other invalid sister Faith. Entranced by the prospect of meeting her favorite working poets and sending her poetry to Heigh Hunt for publication, Deidre's interest in the London scene is far different from her sister's. Nonetheless, Deidre does draw the attention of the elusive Lord Wrotham. Her interest in him wavers when she interprets a disparaging remark he makes about a current poem in Hunt's magazine as general lack of interest in poetry. Deciding therefore to hide her own interest and involvement with poetry, she deliberately steers clear of any reference to literature. Of course, he is interested in poetry and particularly in the unknown poet whose work is published anonymously by Hunt. And guess whose poem that might be? Not only do complications arise from Deidre's determination to show herself as the kind of nonserious female she assumes Wrotham wants but also her growing fame as a poet, albeit anonymous, creates problems as well. She also gives herself aware most strikingly by quoting a lesser known Shakespearean sonnet in response to a garden view she shares with Wrotham: Her inadvertant quotation almost reveals her own poetry to Lord Wrotham who promptly asks her about the Examiner and whether she has read the sonnet which so haunts him. The conclusion of the novel not only reveals Deidre's status as poet, but promises her in the form of Wrotham the family support she has noticeably lacked up till then.

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