'It's the masters as has wrought this woe; it's the masters as should pay for it.' Set in Manchester in the 1840s - a period of industrial unrest and extreme deprivation - Mary Barton depicts the effects of economic and physical hardship upon the city's working-class community. Paralleling the novel's treatment of the relationship between masters and men, the suffering of the poor, and the workmen's angry response, is the story of Mary herself: a factory-worker's daughter who attracts the attentions of the mill-owner's son, she becomes caught up in the violence of class conflict when a brutal murder forces her to confront her true feelings and allegiances. Mary Barton was praised by contemporary critics for its vivid realism, its convincing characters and its deep sympathy with the poor, and it still has the power to engage and move readers today. This edition reproduces the last edition of the novel supervised by Elizabeth Gaskell and includes her husband's two lectures on the Lancashire dialect. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.
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.