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Sylvia's Lovers (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 28 Nov 1996


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Sylvia's Lovers (Penguin Classics) + Ruth (Penguin Classics) + Wives and Daughters (Wordsworth Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (28 Nov. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140434224
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140434224
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 448,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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

From the Back Cover

As interest in 19th-century English literature by women has been reinvigorated by a resurgence in popularity of the works of Jane Austen, readers are rediscovering a writer whose fiction, once widely beloved, fell by the wayside. British novelist ELIZABETH CLEGHORN GASKELL (1810-1865)-whose books were sometimes initially credited to, simply, "Mrs. Gaskell"-is now recognized as having created some of the most complex and broadminded depictions of women in the literature of the age, and is today justly celebrated for her precocious use of the regional dialect and slang of England's industrial North. Sylvia's Lovers-Gaskell's fifth novel, first published in 1863-is the melodramatic tale of a star-crossed romantic triangle between farmgirl Sylvia Robson and the two men who love her: her cousin Philip and sailor Charlie Kinread. Though today considered one of Gaskell's minor works, the author herself called Sylvia's Lovers "the saddest story I ever wrote." Friend and literary companion to such figures as Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë-the latter of whom Gaskell wrote an applauded 1857 biography-Gaskell is today being restored to her rightful place alongside her. This delightful replica volume is an excellent opportunity for 21st-century fans of British literature to embrace one of its most unjustly forgotten authors.
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Elizabeth Gaskell wrote much social and realist fiction during the nineteenth century, having attracted the attention of Dickens when she wrote for his journal Household Works

Shirley Foster is a Senior Lecturer in English and American Literature at the University of Sheffield. She has published widely, notably on Victorian women's fiction, Edith Wharton and female travel literature.

Shirley Foster is a Senior Lecturer in English and American Literature at the University of Sheffield. She has published widely, notably on Victorian women's fiction, Edith Wharton and female travel literature.


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On the north-eastern shores of England there is a town called Monkshaven,1 containing at the present day about fifteen thousand inhabitants. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mary Ann on 19 May 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Set in Whitby when it was a whaling town (many days before conservation!) during the Napoleonic wars, this is the story of the struggle between the two admirers of Sylvia Robson, daughter of smuggler-turned-farmer Daniel. She is loved by the serious minded Philip Hepburn and the dashing, lively 'Speksioneer' chief harpooner Charley Kinraid.

Philip has adored Sylvia for years, much to her disgust. When Sylvia hears the story of Charley Kinraid's being shot trying to defend his shipmates from a raid by one of the hated press gangs, he becomes a hero to her. They soon start to fall in love. Unlike Philip, he is depicted as being handsome and charming.

When Charley is forcibly impressed himself, he demands that Phlip deliver a message to Sylvia that he will be true. Philip, knowing Charley's reputation as a womaniser, decides not to pass on what he believes to be a worthless message. Soon, tragic circumstances force Sylvia to marry Philip.

But then Charley Kinraid returns...

The writing is lively, the descriptions vivid, and it is a compelling read overall.

**Spoiler Alert for Next Five Paragraphs**

I used to agree fully with the view of the critic T J Winnifrith that 'Kinraid is eventually shown to be a shallow character, but the depiction of him is always so superficial that it is difficult to understand the depths of Sylvia's love for him'. I did find him very much a cardboard hero, devoid of the little human weaknesses that make a character endearing, and I felt that this was a great weakness in the book until I had a fascinating discussion with the lovely reviewer balleto8, who pointed out some things that changed my perception of what Gaskell was aiming at.
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By mjb on 15 Jan. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this because of the Whitby setting, and read the first three chapters which are set in Whitby in 1790. That was all I intended to read, but I note that David Cecil rates it among Gaskell's best so shall probably go on to read it all. But at 450 pages I shall put it to one side for a while.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By mrs_t on 7 Jun. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
this is a true classic in every sense....beautiful characters, tragedy and joy, elation and despair...it is emotional rollercoaster in book and i highly recommend it. Don't let the size put you off, it is brilliant throughout
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Muppet on 17 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a beautifully written book, but a tragic, tragic tale.

This is the first Gaskell novel I have read, and now I'm hooked! She has interwoven the story of Sylvia and her family with the fascinating upheaval that the activities of the press gangs had on daily life (and a pretty hard life it was for many) in a North Yorkshire fishing town.

The characterisation is magnificent and her descriptions of the Yorkshire landscape are brilliant. If you know of, or have ever been to Whitby the story will truly come alive for you - stand at the Abbey steps and imagine that you're part of the funeral procession... look out to sea and imagine the man o war anchored ready to pounce on the returning whalers...
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