"The Bronckhorst Divorce Case"

(notes edited
by John McGivering)




notes on the text
[September 8 2003]


Publication

This story was first published in the first edition of Plain Tales from the Hills in 1888 and was included in subsequent editions of this collection. It is the story promised in “Miss Youghal’s Sais” earlier in this volume.

The Story

Bronkhorst is a thoroughly unpleasant man who treats his uncomplaining wife very badly. He decides that he wants to be rid of her, and sues for divorce, citing a colleague, Biel, as her lover, and bribing the servants to give false evidence in court. Biel’s friends turn to Strickland for help. Disguised as an Indian, he discovers exactly what has been going on, and frightens the ‘witnesses’ into withdrawing their stories. The case collapses, Biel horse-whips Bronckhorst, Strickland acquires a splendid new horse, and Bronckhorst’s wife takes him back.

Critical comments

This has generally been seen by critics as an unpleasant story. Dobrée remarks, (p. 136); There is an unnecessary degree of violence at the end … Bronckhorst deserves a thrashing, and we can understand Biel’s fury. Realism … might have been achieved without so much detail.