Advanced Reading Survey: Cranford by Mrs. Gaskell

I’ve decided that on Mondays I’m going to revisit the books I read for a course in college called Advanced Reading Survey, taught by the eminent scholar and lovable professor, Dr. Huff. I’m not going to re-read all the books and poems I read for that course, probably more than fifty, but I am going to post to Semicolon the entries in the reading journal that I was required to keep for that class because I think that my entries on these works of literature may be of interest to readers here and because I’m afraid that the thirty year old spiral notebook in which I wrote these entries may fall apart ere long. I may offer my more mature perspective on the books, too, if I remember enough about them to do so.

Mrs Gaskell was the daughter of a Unitarian minister and later married another Unitarian minister. The death of her son caused her to start writing as a means of alleviating her grief. Her first novel, Mary Barton, was an immediate success, bringing her the friendship of Charles Dickens in whose magazine Household Words she published the novel Cranford, first as a serial.

Miss Mary Smith, narrator of the events at Cranford.
Miss Deborah Jenkyns, a spinster and resident of Cranford.
Miss Maty Jenkyns, Deborah’s sister.

Other inhabitants of the village of Cranford and characters in the novel include:
Miss Pole
Mrs. Jamieson
Lady Glenmire
Mrs. Forrester
Mrs. Fitz-Adam
Captain Brown
Miss Jessie Brown

Miss Smith: “I have often noticed that almost everyone has his own individual small economies—careful habits of saving fractions of pennies in some one peculiar direction —any disturbance of which annoys him more than spending shillings or pounds on some real extravagance.”

Miss Pole: “My father was a man, and I know the sex pretty well.”

Miss Matty: “My father once made us,” she began, “keep a diary in two columns: on one side we were to put down in the morning what we thought would be the course and events of the coming days, and at night we were to put down on the other side what really had happened. It would be to some people a rather sad way of telling their lives. . . . I don’t mean that mine has been sad, only so very different to what I expected.”

Miss Matty: “Marry!” said Miss Matty once again.”Well, I never thought of it. Two people that we know going to be married. It’s coming so very near.”

Miss Smith: “We felt it would be better to consider the engagement in the same light as the Queen of Spain’s legs—facts which certainly existed, but the less said about the better.”

Martha, Miss Matty’s servant: “Reason always means what someone else has got to say.”

My thoughts thirty years later:

This story of the lives and incidental affairs of a group of elderly spinsters in a village in VIctorian England would seem at first glance to be unrelated to my hectic and technologically dominated life with eight children, a husband, and a brother-in-law in Houston, Texas. But I remember it as being full of gentle insights into human foibles, a bit melancholy at times, and warmly humorous at other places in the narrative. I’d enjoy reading it again and would recommend it to lovers of Jane Austen or Jan Karon’s Mitford series or Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire novels.

I’d really like to see the PBS mini-series based on Mrs. Gaskell’s book, but I have so many things I’d like to watch and so many books to read. I’d also like to read Mrs. Gaskell’s North and South, which is about the north and south of England, not about the American Civil War.

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Writen by Sherry

I'm a Christian, the homeschooling mom of eight (yes, all mine) children, married to a NASA engineer, and a confirmed bookaholic. I like old books, conservative politics, and new and interesting ideas. My hair is grey, my favorite clothes are red, and I love purple. Come on in and enjoy the blog. Be sure to tell me what you think before you leave.

8 thoughts on “Advanced Reading Survey: Cranford by Mrs. Gaskell

  1. After reading North and South, I’ve always meant to read something else of hers.. have not gotten around to it yet!

  2. Really, really enjoyed North and South, I definitely recommend you read that! Cranford is on my wishlist.

  3. I have this book listed for a Classics challenge, but I’ve been putting off reading it. Your review has helped focus my interest again.

  4. I love, love the mini-series of North and South! Well worth moving up the TBW(atched) pile!

    I am currently watching the Cranford mini-series, and that is really good as well.

  5. Sherry, couple quick things.

    First, we’ve picked matches (out of a hat) for the book swap, so hope over to my blog if you have a minute and check out who you were matched with and the instructions of what comes next. Thanks for joining in the fun!

    Last, I read Cranford earlier this year and really enjoyed it. It’s not like Gaskell’s other works and yet it’s still just as good. I found the PBS movie a little on the dull side compared to the book and some things were changed – characters added for the movie, etc. but overall it is good.

    Anyone reading this post – if you’ve only ever read on Gaskell you really should add her other works to your “To Be Read” list. She’s a favorite author of mine.

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