Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell Criticism - Essay

J. A. V. Chappie and Arthur Pollard (essay date 1966)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to The Letters of Mrs. Gaskell, edited by J. A. V. Chappie and Arthur Pollard, Manchester University Press, 1966, pp. xi-xxix.

[In the following introduction to Gaskell's collected letters, Chappie and Pollard discuss the significance of the letters as reflections and commentaries on her experience and writing.]


'Don't you like reading letters? I do, so much. Not grand formal letters; but such as Mme Mohl's, I mean' (195).1 Mrs Gaskell knew the fascination of other people's let-ters. Writing to her sister-in-law, Mrs Charles Holland (née Elizabeth Gaskell), she wondered 'if odd bundles of old letters...

(The entire section is 5561 words.)

W. A. Craik (essay date 1975)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: 'Mary Barton," in Elizabeth Gaskell and the English Provincial Novel, Methuen & Co Ltd., 1975, pp. 1-46.

[In the essay that follows, Craik contends that although Gaskell's Mary Barton is concerned with issues of social reform, it avoids a didactic tone in order to emphasize realistic situations and characters.]

Mary Barton in 1848 is new ground for the English novel. It has new materials, presents new ways of seeing and handling both its own materials, the world in which any writer finds himself, and the human nature which it is an essential part of most writers' task to reveal. Elizabeth Gaskell, by beginning her writing career...

(The entire section is 13641 words.)

Rosemarie Bodenheimer (essay date 1981)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Private Grief and Public Acts in Mary Barton," in Dickens Studies Annual: Essays on Victorian Fiction, Volume 9, edited by Michael Timko, Fred Kaplan, and Edward Guiliano, AMS Press, Inc., 1981, pp. 195-216.

[In the following essay, Bodenheimer contends that Mary Barton can be read as a novel of mourningone which deals with two primary issues: what to do in response to injustice, and how such responses might traverse the divide between the private and public spheres.]

Mary Barton is a novel about responding to the grief of loss or disappointment. Its pages are filled with domestic disaster; the sheer accumulation of one...

(The entire section is 9357 words.)

Sally Mitchell (essay date 1981)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Social Problem," in The Fallen Angel: Chastity, Class and Women's Reading, 1835-1900, Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1981, pp. 22-43.

[In the essay that follows, Mitchell discusses Gaskell's Ruth as a novel that attempts to respond to the problem of prostitution, in part by criticizing the presupposition that "fallen women" should be ostracized from society and by suggesting that the general public has a certain responsibility for this problem.]

During the 1840s there was a sudden proliferation of books and articles about prostitution. It seems an odd opening for the Victorian era until we realize that the interest was a sign of increased...

(The entire section is 5413 words.)

Raymond Williams (essay date 1983)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Industrial Novels," in Culture and Society, 1780-1950, Columbia University Press, 1983, pp. 87-92, 109.

[In the following essay, Williams argues that Mary Barton and North and South belong to a tradition of literature that he calls "industrial, " given their attempt to portray in careful and sympathetic detail the suffering engendered by Britain's self-transformation into a modern power.]

Our understanding of the response to industrialism would be incomplete without reference to an interesting group of novels, written at the middle of the century, which not only provide some of the most vivid descriptions of life in an unsettled industrial...

(The entire section is 2220 words.)

Catherine Gallagher (essay date 1985)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Causality versus Conscience: The Problem of Form in Mary Barton" in The Industrial Reformation of English Fiction: Social Discourse and Narrative Form 1832-1867, The University of Chicago Press, 1985, pp. 62-87.

[In the essay that follows, Gallagher studies the influence of Gaskell's Unitarian understanding of moral freedom and responsibility on the writing of Mary Barton.]

As in the Religion of Causation, Man seemed to be crushed into a mere creature, so was it on his behalf that remonstrance broke forth, and, at the bidding of Channing, the Religion of Conscience sprang to its feet. However fascinating the precision...

(The entire section is 13761 words.)

Margaret Homans (essay date 1986)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Mothers and Daughters I: Gaskell's Stories of the Mother's Word and the Daughter's Fate," in Bearing the Word: Language and Female Experience in Nineteenth-Century Women's Writing, The University of Chicago Press, 1986, pp. 223-50.

[In the following essay, Homans claims that Mary Barton and "Lizzie Leigh" are both enactments of a dialogue between mother and daughter, a dialogue that hinges on the transmission of the written word.]

Central to Gaskell's myth of herself as a writer who put her duties as a woman ahead of her writing is the story of how she began to write seriously. In 1845 her ten-month-old son, William, died of scarlet fever, and "it was...

(The entire section is 14028 words.)

Patsy Stoneman (essay date 1987)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Two Nations and Separate Spheres: Class and Gender in Elizabeth Gaskell's Work," in Elizabeth Gaskell, The Harvester Press, 1987, pp. 45-67.

[In the following essay, Stoneman argues that Gaskell's writing, rather than reflecting the bifurcation of society along class and gender lines, tends to blur the sharpness of these distinctions through role reversal, the behavior of domestic servants, and the description of the "inhuman possibilities of authority. "]

The society in which Elizabeth Gaskell lived and wrote was intersected horizontally by class and vertically by gender divisions. Critics have created a divided image of her work by focusing on one or other...

(The entire section is 6919 words.)

Carol A. Martin (essay date 1989)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Gaskell's Ghosts: Truths in Disguise," in Studies in the Novel, Vol. 21, No. 1, Spring, 1989, pp. 27-40.

[In the following essay, Martin discusses the role of the supernatural in Gaskell's novels and shorter works.]

"Do you believe in ghosts?" someone is supposed to have asked Madame du Deffand, to which she replied, "No . . . but I am afraid of them."1

If that question had been posed to Elizabeth Gaskell a hundred years later, she might have responded similarly: "No, but I write stories about them, I tell tales of them by my friends' firesides, and I have seen them." For Gaskell, not unlike Madame du Deffand and many others before...

(The entire section is 6608 words.)

Hilary M. Schor (essay date 1992)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "'Filled in with Pretty Writing': Desire, History, and Literacy in Sylvia's Lovers" in Scheherezade in the Marketplace: Elizabeth Gaskell and the Victorian Novel, Oxford University Press, 1992, pp. 153-81.

[In the following essay, Schor contends that Sylvia's Lovers is a plotting of desireespecially female desire, which "works its own narrative transformations " and gestures towards a history, writing, and identity particular to women.]

"Desire is always there at the start of a narrative," Peter Brooks has suggested: the desire of the reader for movement, of the text for its own end, of the characters for whatever the desideratum of the...

(The entire section is 14524 words.)

Tim Dolin (essay date 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Cranford and the Victorian Collection," in Victorian Studies, Vol. 36, No. 2, Winter, 1993, pp. 179-206.

[In the excerpt that follows, Dolin examines Gaskell's Cranford as a paradigm of the Victorian experience, specifically because it is organized as a collection of anecdotes centering around women's lives.]

The freight of Victorian things remaining in our own century has left historians with a plentiful resource, but also with a number of special problems. One has only to pause in a recreated drawing-room, at a genre painting, or over a passage of description in a novel, to sense the abundance and oppressiveness of a famously cluttered age. In The...

(The entire section is 7953 words.)

Philip Rogers (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Education of Cousin Phillis," in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 50, No. 1, June, 1995, pp. 27-50.

[In the following essay, Rogers contends that Gaskell's short story "Cousin Phillis" describes the predicament of the well-educated woman in Victorian Britain; his analysis also focuses upon the significance of the title character's name.]

For Elizabeth Gaskell the story of Phillis Holman's disappointment in her first love in "Cousin Phillis" (1865) is inseparable from the process and content of her unusual education. As both daughter and lover—the only roles open to her as learner—Phillis is inescapably a pupil of men who control her education in...

(The entire section is 8572 words.)

Gabriele Helms (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Coincidence of Biography and Autobiography: Elizabeth Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Brontë," in Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 4, Fall, 1995, pp. 339-59.

[In the essay that follows, Helms considers the manner in which Gaskell comes to understand herself in relation to Charlotte Brontë and thus combines the genres of biography and autobiography.]

The ongoing theoretical debates about the genres of biography and autobiography are often concerned with genre classifications, gender issues, intentions as well as techniques and methods, and a general rethinking of given paradigms. Many long-held categorizations and evaluations...

(The entire section is 7789 words.)