Written by a convert with the intent of helping fellow Catholics, these short and sharply-observed moral tales illustrate familiar problems of the Catholic moral life set in a late Victorian context.
Lady Herbert’s Wayside Tales are in the classic vein of “improving literature”. CTS published thirty volumes of them in 1899; some were still in print two decades later. The Two Sisters is a case-study in the perils Victorian life afforded to penniless women orphans: drink, and concubinage. The Story of a Conversion encourages servants not to let fear of losing their position prevent them from becoming Catholic; whilst Can Both Churches Be True? is a sort of Socratic dialogue about the problems of the Anglo-Catholic “branch theory” (whereby the Church of England is that part of the Church Catholic in England). The other three stories are concerned with deathbed or near-deathbed conversions. It is easy to suppose all these stories were drawn from life, even the Italian local colour as Lady Herbert became Catholic whilst living in Palermo.