Deerbrook The first and best-regarded novel by Martineau, Harriet, published in 1839.
The novel's plot centers on the Ibbotson sisters--beautiful, self-absorbed Hester and pragmatic, sensitive Margaret. They are rivals for the affections of Edward Hope, the village doctor, who is eventually forced by social pressure to choose Hester for his bride. Both his marriage and his practice are undermined by gossip and rumormongering.
A secondary character, governess Maria Young, is physically impaired and impoverished, as was the author herself. Society presents the governess with few options, and she is seen as the prototype of the single woman struggling with genteel poverty in the Victorian novel.