The novel first appeared in Fraser's Magazine in 1860, showing a remarkable instance of vigour after his retirement from the East India Company. The exuberant humour of his former works may be wanting, but the book is delightful for its stores of anecdote and erudition, and unintentionally most amusing through the author's inveterate prejudices and pugnacious hostility to every modern innovation.
The book's title turns about the belief of its owner, Gregory Gryll, 'though he found it difficult to trace the pedigree, that he was lineally descended from the ancient and illustrious Gryllus, who maintained against Ulysses the superior happiness of the life of other animals to that of the life of man.' This sapient character was one of the men whom Circe had turned into pigs and resisted being changed back. His family line had now lasted some three thousand years, but the master of Gryll Grange, not having married, was without an heir to prolong the family. Though he had adopted his niece as heir instead, she had turned down innumerable suitors. The business of the novel is how she at last comes to find a man to her taste.
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