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Cranford, and, Cousin Phillis [Paperback]

Elizabeth Gaskell
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Book Description

27 May 1986 English Library
Cranford depicts the lives and preoccupations of the inhabitants of a small village - their petty snobberies and appetite for gossip, and their loyal support for each other in times of need. The village is dominated by women, from the kindly spinster Miss Matty, living in genteel poverty with her redoubtable sister, to Lady Glenmire, who shocks everyone by marrying the doctor. When men do appear, such as 'modern' Captain Brown or Matty's suitor from the past, they bring disruption and excitement to the everyday life of Cranford. This volume includes the novella Cousin Phillis, which depicts a fleeting love affair in a rural community at a time when old values are being supplanted by the new. Both works are exquisitely observed tragicomedies of human nature, told with great delicacy and affection.

Frequently Bought Together

Cranford, and, Cousin Phillis + The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays: Lady Windermere's Fan; Salome; A Woman of No Importance; An Ideal Husband; The Importance of Being Earnest (Oxford World's Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; 4th edition (27 May 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140431047
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140431049
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 480,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell was born in London in 1810, but she spent her formative years in Cheshire, Stratford-upon-Avon and the north of England. In 1832 she married the Reverend William Gaskell, who became well known as the minister of the Unitarian Chapel in Manchester's Cross Street. As well as leading a busy domestic life as minister's wife and mother of four daughters, she worked among the poor, traveled frequently and wrote. Mary Barton (1848) was her first success.

Two years later she began writing for Dickens's magazine, Household Words, to which she contributed fiction for the next thirteen years, notably a further industrial novel, North and South (1855). In 1850 she met and secured the friendship of Charlotte Brontë. After Charlotte's death in March 1855, Patrick Brontë chose his daughter's friend and fellow-novelist to write The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857), a probing and sympathetic account, that has attained classic stature.

Elizabeth Gaskell's position as a clergyman's wife and as a successful writer introduced her to a wide circle of friends, both from the professional world of Manchester and from the larger literary world. Her output was substantial and completely professional. Dickens discovered her resilient strength of character when trying to impose his views on her as editor of Household Words. She proved that she was not to be bullied, even by such a strong-willed man.

Her later works, Sylvia's Lovers (1863), Cousin Phillis (1864) and Wives and Daughters (1866) reveal that she was continuing to develop her writing in new literary directions. Elizabeth Gaskell died suddenly in November 1865.

Product Description

About the Author

Elizabeth Gaskell was born in 1810. in 1832 she married the Reverend William Gaskell and spent her time working among the poor and writing. Her first novel, Mary Barton received critical acclaim and she began to contribute to Household Works. She continued to write until her death in 1865.

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First Sentence
IN the first place, Cranford is in possession of the Amazons: all the holders of houses, above a certain rent, are women. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to Gaskell 18 Oct 2003
By A Customer
This book is a good introduction for anybody who has not read anything by Gaskell. Cranford is a wonderful series of stories that reflects the impact of change on a town during the mid 19th century. From one section to the next, you are never quite sure of what you will be reading. The tone changes - in some places, it can be poignant, in others, uplifting. Throughout Cranford there are instances of Mrs. Gaskell's subtle sense of humour, something that is not so obvious in novels like Ruth and Mary Barton that focus more explicitly on social commentary. The characters were, for me, probably the strongest feature, even beyond that of the actual plot itself. Cousin Phillis shares one of the central concerns of Cranford, namely, the issue of change and its effect on the rural communities. This story is not as straighforward as Cranford; the characters and situations are more ambiguous. It certainly showcases the author's development as a writer. Personally, I preferred Cranford, but both are worth reading, particularly as a shorter way of introducing yourself to Gaskell before beginning one of her novels.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meet the Cranford Ladies, and Enjoy the Tragicomedy of Human Nature 30 Dec 2005
By Tsuyoshi - Published on
(This is a book review about `Cranford' and `Cousin Phillis' of the Penguin Classics edition, edited by Peter Keating.)

[CRANFORD] Elizabeth Gaskell's `Cranford' is very different from her more serious `Mary Barton' and `North and South,' both written with socially conscious messages. In fact, its basic tone is comedy (or tragicomedy) set against the background of the changing local community of Cranford, or `Our Society' which is, as the narrator says, "in possession of the Amazons."

The main characters are all elderly ladies. You meet kind-hearted and timid Miss Matty with her domineering sister Deborah, the most memorable characters in this town. Narrated by one Mary Smith, we are introduced to the small world of Cranford, where smallest things can be pleasure or trouble such as `conjuror' Signor Brunoni amazing the ladies in the town's Assembly Room, or some rumor about `robbery' and even `ghosts' that scare them in `Darkness-Lane.' There is Lady Glenmire, who comes to Cranford, and shocks the community by marrying a doctor (and becoming `Mrs. Hoggins'). With these episodes, Elizabeth Gaskell deftly describes the sisterhood among the gossipy ladies with deep sense of sympathy, and the events are described with her sure-handed touch, which provides funny moments and occasional pathos.

Some part may not be interesting today. Captain Brown and Miss Jenkyns have an argument about the merit of novel reading, and while Captain praises Dickens' `Pickwick Papers,' Miss Jenkyns insists on the superiority of Samuel Johnson This is not only an in-joke (`Cranford' first appeared as eight-part serial in Dickens' Household Words first in 1851), it also reflects that these ladies in Cranford stick to their strict social codes that are clearly getting too old outside the community. The scene itself is humorous, and behind the humor you can find the author's keen eye for details.

But the book can be enjoyed without such historical knowledge, and there are many touching scenes concerning Miss Matty's life. As `Cranford' is written without concrete planning, the entire work looks very episodic. Actually it is episodic (and that's why one major character suddenly disappear at Chapter 2), and it should be read as such, like a series of sketches or short stories.

[COUSIN PHILLIS] `Cousin Phillis' is first published as four-part serial in 1863, and is about a fleeting love affair in a rural community, where the titular daughter of a `minister' (and self-help type of farmer) lives quietly. This is what we call a `novella' and its tone is sadder than `Cranford' but still is written with well-observed descriptions of the characters and the community that we know would undergo drastic change sooner or later.

THE PENGUIN edition by PETER KEATING contains Appendix A: `The Last Generation in England' and Appendix B: `The Cage at Cranford' both by Gaskell. The first one would throw light on the background of Cranford, and the second one (a sequel written about 10 years after the original) is an enjoyable (if not outstanding) short story.

`Cranford' is a delightful book that reminded me of E.F. Benson's equally delightful Mapp and Lucia books. Teachers may not use these books as text in the English literature courses in university, but the fact remains that these books are as priceless as any other Victorian novels.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection 13 Nov 2010
By Recusant - Published on
Cranford is perhaps the most perfect of all English idylls, at least the equal of Hardy's "Under The Greenwood Tree'. Creating its own fictional world, it works against the grain of Victorian social realism to depict a society of kindliness about to be sacrificed to Mammon, and its depiction of the threatened world of ageing late Georgian women in the more brutalised age of Victoria is unparalleled. It is the perfect comic novel, and not lacking in deep human pathos.

'Cousin Phillis' is a darker masterpiece, and not the least of its achievements lies in the way we it is narrated by the well-meaning but uncomprehending Paul, through whose descriptions we can perceive the painful reality of Phillis's life as the prisoner of her parents' needs and foibles, a child-woman for her father who prevents her growing-up, the daughter of a kind but completely unavailable mother, and finally overwhelmed by her un-met emotional needs. Without any direct moralising she show the terrible price paid by women within the world of Protestant non-conformity.
4.0 out of 5 stars Cranford 13 Feb 2011
By J. M. Greenwood - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I saw the TV presentation on PBS and, decided that I would like to read the book. Not a big favorite, but it was OK.
2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The last sentence should be " to be continued" 4 Feb 2001
By sidharth singh - Published on
One of the books in which every thing seems to be so perfect and good ,but in the end everything is ruined.It is one of the book, which I never wanted to end.It justs need a little sentence in the end and that is "to be continued" .
5 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cousin 90 days you might still be reading 21 Aug 2000
By rballjones - Published on
It took me several months to finish this rather short book. The plot is fairly simple with nary a twist, the characters admirable but somewhat one-dimensionable. It seems to be an ode to conservatism--a longing for the "peace of the old days." As a fan of 19th century English lit, this left me wondering why Elizabeth Gaskell is considered a classic writer; admittedly I haven't read some of her better known works such as "North and South."
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