Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Harley Street

*Harley Street. London street on which Margaret Hale has spent nine years living in a town house as a companion to her cousin Edith, who is about to be married as the novel opens. The house is to be shut up as Edith, her husband, and her mother, go abroad, and Margaret is to return home to the country parsonage where her parents live. The novel reveals little about the house at 96 Harley Street, other than a series of public and private rooms and, at the top of the house, a nursery, where Margaret spent much of her early life. The life of the house has been formal, with children eating apart from their parents.

Helstone vicarage

Helstone vicarage. Home of Margaret’s parents in New Forest, Hampshire, that Margaret regards as her true home, despite having been away from it for many years. There she is happy to live an outdoor life, visiting local people and walking in the forest. Her mother, however, is discontented; she regards Helstone as one of England’s most out-of-the-way places and would rather live at 96 Harley Street. She dislikes the trees and lack of nearby society and yearns for everything her daughter has happily given up.

The interior of the vicarage house is not seen from Margaret’s point of view. It has a drawing room, a dining room, a library, and other rooms not seen. Readers see the drawing room from the point of view of Henry Lennox, a visitor, who sees that the family is not well off, noting the room’s old carpets and faded chintzes. Readers later see the vicarage from the point of view of the next incumbent and his wife, who are renovating and expanding the house to accommodate a growing family. Elizabeth Gaskell does, however, offer...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Craik, W. A. Elizabeth Gaskell and the English Provincial Novel. New York: Harper & Row, 1975. A major rehabilitation of Mrs. Gaskell as an important novelist, this study sets her five long fictions within the provincial novel tradition. Demonstrates how she expanded the possibilities and universality of the tradition.

Duthie, Enid. The Themes of Elizabeth Gaskell. New York: Macmillan, 1980. Despite contrasting settings and plots, there is, according to this book, a unity of thematic material in all of Mrs. Gaskell’s fiction. Draws upon Mrs. Gaskell’s letters to reconstruct her imaginative world and the themes central to it.

Gerin, Winifred. Elizabeth Gaskell. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. The first biography to make use of the publication in 1966 of Mrs. Gaskell’s letters. Although there have been a number of more recent biographies, this is still one of the best, particularly from the point of view of relating fictional material to its background.

Stoneman, Patsy. Elizabeth Gaskell. Brighton, England: Harvester Press, 1987. This feminist reading claims that previous accounts of Mrs. Gaskell have seriously misread her, and that the interaction of class and gender must be made central. A condensed but provocative reading of North and South is included.

Uglow, Jenny. Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories. Winchester, Mass.: Faber & Faber, 1993. The chapter on North and South expounds the novel fully. A full listing of Mrs. Gaskell’s works and an index.