In May of 1848, while visiting relatives and friends in New York City, Mary Turner has a very strange dream. Encased inside a seal on a moonlit rock, she suffers burning palms but falls asleep, knowing she cannot escape her present fate. The dream obviously foreshadows a great difficulty to follow in her life, but Mary forgets the dream, so caught up is she in upper aristocratic social parties and dinners. Serious and frivolous conversations occur about Susan B. Anthony’s women’s suffrage speeches and demonstrations; the fashionable literature of Poe, Hawthorne, Dickens, Charlotte Brontë and other notable writers of the time; the writings of Sojourner Truth; the Lincoln-Douglas debates following the Missouri Compromise; and so much more.
Why is Mary rejecting the one man who obviously and reverently declares his love to Mary and the public through a poetic song that could be interpreted in many different ways? Women at the time are possessions whose ideas are heard halfheartedly but who clearly know society’s boundaries. Courtship rites and plans are exposed as alliances forged through opportunistic plans, a realization that Mary realizes far too late as she unwittingly flirts with an acquaintance of her staid banker husband, Mr. Isaac Burch. Forcing her to sign a confession, her husband seeks a divorce and forces a trial that has since become historically famous.
The transcripts of the trial and journalistic accounts are fascinating reading, with a most unexpected ending and numerous casualties ensuing therein. Dalliance is a spellbinding story of a world on the verge of revolution for slaves and women, but not yet. A superb read!