The merchant, Mr. Sterling is determined to gain entrance to the aristocracy by marrying his elder daughter Elizabeth to Sir John Melvil, the nephew of Lord Ogleby. When Melvil and Ogleby visit Sterling’s estate to settle the contract, it becomes clear that Melvil has no attachment to Elizabeth. Instead, he unexpectedly shifts his affection to Sterling’s younger daughter, Fanny. Enraged at the turn of events, Elizabeth lambasts her sister and persuades their rich aunt to threaten their father with disinheritance unless the original marriage contract is fulfilled. However, everyone is completely unaware that Fanny has been secretly married to Lovewell, Sterling’s clerk and a distant relative of Lord Ogleby, for four months. They have been reluctant to reveal the truth about their marriage as they know Fanny’s father will disapprove. In an effort to straighten things out, Fanny appeals to Lord Ogleby for assistance, but Ogleby mistakes her intentions, vainly believing that he is the object of Fanny’s passion. A sudden, shock revelation of Fanny and Lovewell’s marriage resolves the confusion, with the help of the benevolent Lord Ogleby.
The Clandestine Marriage guide sections