Cranford

Cranford

by Elizabeth Gaskell

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Overview

A portrait of the residents of an English country town in the mid nineteenth century, Cranford relates the adventures of Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two middle-aged spinster sisters striving to live with dignity in reduced circumstances. Through a series of vignettes, Elizabeth Gaskell portrays a community governed by old-fashioned habits and dominated by friendships between women. Her wry account of rural life is undercut, however, by tragedy in its depiction of such troubling events as Matty's bankruptcy, the violent death of Captain Brown or the unwitting cruelty of Peter Jenkyns. Written with acute observation, Cranford is by turns affectionate, moving and darkly satirical.In her introduction, Patricia Ingham discusses Cranford in relation to Gaskell's own past and as a work of irony in the manner of Jane Austen. She also considers the implications of the novel in terms of class and empire. This edition also includes further reading, notes, and an appendix on the significance of 'Fashion at Cranford'.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780368259593
Publisher: Blurb
Publication date: 10/02/2019
Pages: 102
Product dimensions: 8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.21(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth Langland is Professor of English and Dean of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. She has published widely on Victorian literature.

Read an Excerpt

Cranford


By Elizabeth Gaskell

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 2017 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-4575-9


CHAPTER 1

OUR SOCIETY


In the first place, Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses above a certain rent are women. If a married couple come to settle in the town, somehow the gentleman disappears; he is either fairly frightened to death by being the only man in the Cranford evening parties, or he is accounted for by being with his regiment, his ship, or closely engaged in business all the week in the great neighbouring commercial town of Drumble, distant only twenty miles on a railroad. In short, whatever does become of the gentlemen, they are not at Cranford. What could they do if they were there? The surgeon has his round of thirty miles, and sleeps at Cranford; but every man cannot be a surgeon. For keeping the trim gardens full of choice flowers without a weed to speck them; for frightening away little boys who look wistfully at the said flowers through the railings; for rushing out at the geese that occasionally venture in to the gardens if the gates are left open; for deciding all questions of literature and politics without troubling themselves with unnecessary reasons or arguments; for obtaining clear and correct knowledge of everybody's affairs in the parish; for keeping their neat maid-servants in admirable order; for kindness (somewhat dictatorial) to the poor, and real tender good offices to each other whenever they are in distress, the ladies of Cranford are quite sufficient. "A man," as one of them observed to me once, "is so in the way in the house!" Although the ladies of Cranford know all each other's proceedings, they are exceedingly indifferent to each other's opinions. Indeed, as each has her own individuality, not to say eccentricity, pretty strongly developed, nothing is so easy as verbal retaliation; but, somehow, good-will reigns among them to a considerable degree.

The Cranford ladies have only an occasional little quarrel, spirited out in a few peppery words and angry jerks of the head; just enough to prevent the even tenor of their lives from becoming too flat. Their dress is very independent of fashion; as they observe, "What does it signify how we dress here at Cranford, where everybody knows us?" And if they go from home, their reason is equally cogent, "What does it signify how we dress here, where nobody knows us?" The materials of their clothes are, in general, good and plain, and most of them are nearly as scrupulous as Miss Tyler, of cleanly memory; but I will answer for it, the last gigot, the last tight and scanty petticoat in wear in England, was seen in Cranford — and seen without a smile.

I can testify to a magnificent family red silk umbrella, under which a gentle little spinster, left alone of many brothers and sisters, used to patter to church on rainy days. Have you any red silk umbrellas in London? We had a tradition of the first that had ever been seen in Cranford; and the little boys mobbed it, and called it "a stick in petticoats." It might have been the very red silk one I have described, held by a strong father over a troop of little ones; the poor little lady — the survivor of all — could scarcely carry it.

Then there were rules and regulations for visiting and calls; and they were announced to any young people who might be staying in the town, with all the solemnity with which the old Manx laws were read once a year on the Tinwald Mount.

"Our friends have sent to inquire how you are after your journey to-night, my dear" (fifteen miles in a gentleman's carriage); "they will give you some rest tomorrow, but the next day, I have no doubt, they will call; so be at liberty after twelve — from twelve to three are our calling hours."

Then, after they had called —

"It is the third day; I dare say your mamma has told you, my dear, never to let more than three days elapse between receiving a call and returning it; and also, that you are never to stay longer than a quarter of an hour."

"But am I to look at my watch? How am I to find out when a quarter of an hour has passed?"

"You must keep thinking about the time, my dear, and not allow yourself to forget it in conversation."

As everybody had this rule in their minds, whether they received or paid a call, of course no absorbing subject was ever spoken about. We kept ourselves to short sentences of small talk, and were punctual to our time.

I imagine that a few of the gentlefolks of Cranford were poor, and had some difficulty in making both ends meet; but they were like the Spartans, and concealed their smart under a smiling face. We none of us spoke of money, because that subject savoured of commerce and trade, and though some might be poor, we were all aristocratic. The Cranfordians had that kindly esprit de corps which made them overlook all deficiencies in success when some among them tried to conceal their poverty. When Mrs. Forrester, for instance, gave a party in her baby-house of a dwelling, and the little maiden disturbed the ladies on the sofa by a request that she might get the tea-tray out from underneath, everyone took this novel proceeding as the most natural thing in the world, and talked on about household forms and ceremonies as if we all believed that our hostess had a regular servants' hall, second table, with housekeeper and steward, instead of the one little charity-school maiden, whose short ruddy arms could never have been strong enough to carry the tray upstairs, if she had not been assisted in private by her mistress, who now sat in state, pretending not to know what cakes were sent up, though she knew, and we knew, and she knew that we knew, and we knew that she knew that we knew, she had been busy all the morning making tea-bread and sponge-cakes.

There were one or two consequences arising from this general but unacknowledged poverty, and this very much acknowledged gentility, which were not amiss, and which might be introduced into many circles of society to their great improvement. For instance, the inhabitants of Cranford kept early hours, and clattered home in their pattens, under the guidance of a lantern-bearer, about nine o'clock at night; and the whole town was abed and asleep by half-past ten. Moreover, it was considered "vulgar" (a tremendous word in Cranford) to give anything expensive, in the way of eatable or drinkable, at the evening entertainments. Wafer bread-and-butter and sponge-biscuits were all that the Honourable Mrs. Jamieson gave; and she was sister-in-law to the late Earl of Glenmire, although she did practise such "elegant economy."

"Elegant economy!" How naturally one falls back into the phraseology of Cranford! There, economy was always "elegant," and money-spending always "vulgar and ostentatious"; a sort of sour-grapeism which made us very peaceful and satisfied. I never shall forget the dismay felt when a certain Captain Brown came to live at Cranford, and openly spoke about his being poor — not in a whisper to an intimate friend, the doors and windows being previously closed, but in the public street! in a loud military voice! alleging his poverty as a reason for not taking a particular house. The ladies of Cranford were already rather moaning over the invasion of their territories by a man and a gentleman. He was a half-pay captain, and had obtained some situation on a neighbouring railroad, which had been vehemently petitioned against by the little town; and if, in addition to his masculine gender, and his connection with the obnoxious railroad, he was so brazen as to talk of being poor — why, then, indeed, he must be sent to Coventry. Death was as true and as common as poverty; yet people never spoke about that, loud out in the streets. It was a word not to be mentioned to ears polite. We had tacitly agreed to ignore that any with whom we associated on terms of visiting equality could ever be prevented by poverty from doing anything that they wished. If we walked to or from a party, it was because the night was so fine, or the air so refreshing, not because sedan-chairs were expensive. If we wore prints, instead of summer silks, it was because we preferred a washing material; and so on, till we blinded ourselves to the vulgar fact that we were, all of us, people of very moderate means. Of course, then, we did not know what to make of a man who could speak of poverty as if it was not a disgrace. Yet, somehow, Captain Brown made himself respected in Cranford, and was called upon, in spite of all resolutions to the contrary. I was surprised to hear his opinions quoted as authority at a visit which I paid to Cranford about a year after he had settled in the town. My own friends had been among the bitterest opponents of any proposal to visit the Captain and his daughters, only twelve months before; and now he was even admitted in the tabooed hours before twelve. True, it was to discover the cause of a smoking chimney, before the fire was lighted; but still Captain Brown walked upstairs, nothing daunted, spoke in a voice too large for the room, and joked quite in the way of a tame man about the house. He had been blind to all the small slights, and omissions of trivial ceremonies, with which he had been received. He had been friendly, though the Cranford ladies had been cool; he had answered small sarcastic compliments in good faith; and with his manly frankness had overpowered all the shrinking which met him as a man who was not ashamed to be poor. And, at last, his excellent masculine common sense, and his facility in devising expedients to overcome domestic dilemmas, had gained him an extraordinary place as authority among the Cranford ladies. He himself went on in his course, as unaware of his popularity as he had been of the reverse; and I am sure he was startled one day when he found his advice so highly esteemed as to make some counsel which he had given in jest to be taken in sober, serious earnest.

It was on this subject: An old lady had an Alderney cow, which she looked upon as a daughter. You could not pay the short quarter of an hour call without being told of the wonderful milk or wonderful intelligence of this animal. The whole town knew and kindly regarded Miss Betsy Barker's Alderney; therefore great was the sympathy and regret when, in an unguarded moment, the poor cow tumbled into a lime-pit. She moaned so loudly that she was soon heard and rescued; but meanwhile the poor beast had lost most of her hair, and came out looking naked, cold, and miserable, in a bare skin. Everybody pitied the animal, though a few could not restrain their smiles at her droll appearance. Miss Betsy Barker absolutely cried with sorrow and dismay; and it was said she thought of trying a bath of oil. This remedy, perhaps, was recommended by some one of the number whose advice she asked; but the proposal, if ever it was made, was knocked on the head by Captain Brown's decided "Get her a flannel waistcoat and flannel drawers, ma'am, if you wish to keep her alive. But my advice is, kill the poor creature at once."

Miss Betsy Barker dried her eyes, and thanked the Captain heartily; she set to work, and by-and-by all the town turned out to see the Alderney meekly going to her pasture, clad in dark grey flannel. I have watched her myself many a time. Do you ever see cows dressed in grey flannel in London?

Captain Brown had taken a small house on the outskirts of the town, where he lived with his two daughters. He must have been upwards of sixty at the time of the first visit I paid to Cranford after I had left it as a residence. But he had a wiry, well-trained, elastic figure, a stiff military throw-back of his head, and a springing step, which made him appear much younger than he was. His eldest daughter looked almost as old as himself, and betrayed the fact that his real was more than his apparent age. Miss Brown must have been forty; she had a sickly, pained, careworn expression on her face, and looked as if the gaiety of youth had long faded out of sight. Even when young she must have been plain and hard-featured. Miss Jessie Brown was ten years younger than her sister, and twenty shades prettier. Her face was round and dimpled. Miss Jenkyns once said, in a passion against Captain Brown (the cause of which I will tell you presently), "that she thought it was time for Miss Jessie to leave off her dimples, and not always to be trying to look like a child." It was true there was something childlike in her face; and there will be, I think, till she dies, though she should live to a hundred. Her eyes were large blue wondering eyes, looking straight at you; her nose was unformed and snub, and her lips were red and dewy; she wore her hair, too, in little rows of curls, which heightened this appearance. I do not know whether she was pretty or not; but I liked her face, and so did everybody, and I do not think she could help her dimples. She had something of her father's jauntiness of gait and manner; and any female observer might detect a slight difference in the attire of the two sisters — that of Miss Jessie being about two pounds per annum more expensive than Miss Brown's. Two pounds was a large sum in Captain Brown's annual disbursements.

Such was the impression made upon me by the Brown family when I first saw them all together in Cranford Church. The Captain I had met before — on the occasion of the smoky chimney, which he had cured by some simple alteration in the flue. In church, he held his double eye-glass to his eyes during the Morning Hymn, and then lifted up his head erect and sang out loud and joyfully. He made the responses louder than the clerk — an old man with a piping feeble voice, who, I think, felt aggrieved at the Captain's sonorous bass, and quivered higher and higher in consequence.

On coming out of church, the brisk Captain paid the most gallant attention to his two daughters. He nodded and smiled to his acquaintances; but he shook hands with none until he had helped Miss Brown to unfurl her umbrella, had relieved her of her prayer-book, and had waited patiently till she, with trembling nervous hands, had taken up her gown to walk through the wet roads.

I wonder what the Cranford ladies did with Captain Brown at their parties. We had often rejoiced, in former days, that there was no gentleman to be attended to, and to find conversation for, at the card-parties. We had congratulated ourselves upon the snugness of the evenings; and, in our love for gentility, and distaste of mankind, we had almost persuaded ourselves that to be a man was to be "vulgar"; so that when I found my friend and hostess, Miss Jenkyns, was going to have a party in my honour, and that Captain and the Miss Browns were invited, I wondered much what would be the course of the evening. Card-tables, with green baize tops, were set out by daylight, just as usual; it was the third week in November, so the evenings closed in about four. Candles, and clean packs of cards, were arranged on each table. The fire was made up; the neat maid-servant had received her last directions; and there we stood, dressed in our best, each with a candle-lighter in our hands, ready to dart at the candles as soon as the first knock came. Parties in Cranford were solemn festivities, making the ladies feel gravely elated as they sat together in their best dresses. As soon as three had arrived, we sat down to "Preference," I being the unlucky fourth. The next four comers were put down immediately to another table; and presently the tea-trays, which I had seen set out in the store-room as I passed in the morning, were placed each on the middle of a card-table. The china was delicate egg-shell; the old-fashioned silver glittered with polishing; but the eatables were of the slightest description. While the trays were yet on the tables, Captain and the Miss Browns came in; and I could see that, somehow or other, the Captain was a favourite with all the ladies present. Ruffled brows were smoothed, sharp voices lowered at his approach. Miss Brown looked ill, and depressed almost to gloom. Miss Jessie smiled as usual, and seemed nearly as popular as her father. He immediately and quietly assumed the man's place in the room; attended to every one's wants, lessened the pretty maid-servant's labour by waiting on empty cups and bread-and-butterless ladies; and yet did it all in so easy and dignified a manner, and so much as if it were a matter of course for the strong to attend to the weak, that he was a true man throughout. He played for three-penny points with as grave an interest as if they had been pounds; and yet, in all his attention to strangers, he had an eye on his suffering daughter — for suffering I was sure she was, though to many eyes she might only appear to be irritable. Miss Jessie could not play cards: but she talked to the sitters-out, who, before her coming, had been rather inclined to be cross. She sang, too, to an old cracked piano, which I think had been a spinet in its youth. Miss Jessie sang, "Jock of Hazeldean" a little out of tune; but we were none of us musical, though Miss Jenkyns beat time, out of time, by way of appearing to be so.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. Copyright © 2017 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction
Elizabeth Gaskell: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

Cranford

Appendix A: Pre- and Post-Cranford Texts

  1. Elizabeth Gaskell, “The Last Generation in England” (1849)
  2. Elizabeth Gaskell, “The Cage at Cranford” (1863)

Appendix B: Cranford Correspondence

  1. Letters of Charles Dickens (1850–53)
  2. Letters of Mrs. Gaskell (1851–65)
  3. Letters of Charlotte Brontë (1852–53)

Appendix C: Contemporary Reviews and Tributes

  1. From [Henry Forgehill Chorley], The Athenaeum (25 June 1853)
  2. The Examiner (23 July 1853)
  3. Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (September 1853)
  4. “A Few Words on Social Philosophy,” Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (April 1858)
  5. “Mrs. Gaskell,” The Nation (7 December 1865)

Appendix D: Industrialization and Moral Responsibility

  1. From Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)
  2. From Maria Edgeworth, The Parent’s Assistant or Stories for Children (1796?)
  3. From Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton (1848)

Appendix E: Class, Conduct, and Etiquette

  1. From Charles Day, Hints on Etiquette and the Usages of Society with a Glance at Bad Habits (1836)
  2. From Anon., Etiquette for the Ladies (1837)

Appendix F: Economies Political and Domestic

  1. From Sarah Stickney Ellis, The Women of England (1839)
  2. From Eliza Acton, Modern Cookery in All its Branches (1845)
  3. From Isabella Beeton, Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861)
  4. From J.S. Mill, Principles of Political Economy (1848)
  5. From Charles Lamb, Essays of Elia (1823)
  6. From George Eliot, Scenes of Clerical Life (1857)

Select Bibliography

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Cranford 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 100 reviews.
lesslie More than 1 year ago
Cranford is a charming book about a small English village. It is more of a survey of the people who inhabit the town than it is a plot driven story. The characters are so full of life and are so charming and oftentimes hilarious that you may feel like you are reading a letter from dear friends from home. They have issues to overcome and problems to solve an the ways they go about doing this are circuitous and very entertaining. I laughed at loud and indeed, cried a bit. It's a very short little novel and as the price is more than reasonable, I feel it's essential to the library of anyone wanting the call themselves well read. Their was a delightful movie made about this book which has it's own merits.
writersdd More than 1 year ago
Out of all the E. Gaskell books I've read, Cranford is now my favorite. This publication of the book is deceptively small; there are a lot of words on each page, so it takes longer to read than one would assume at first glance. However, this is a book to be savored and read slowly and, when finished, leaves the reader wanting to return to Cranford. I want to live in the Shire, Narnia, and Cranford.
C28 More than 1 year ago
Cranford is a wonderful story. I fell in love with all the characters, their personalities, and their charming little town. Gaskell does a great job weaving the story of the daily lives of the town's folk, as well as breaking off crumbs of their history to us as the story moves along. This is a book that you can read more than once and always walk away with a good feeling, like spending time with dear old friends. Highly recommended to anyone who hasn't read it or hasn't read it in a while.
warmth More than 1 year ago
I love this time period in England and though this seams like going against the gods she's better at capturing peoples charter than jane austen. Austen is amazing and her chaters are true to themselves but almost to a point of not taking in reality at times. while Gaskells charters true to themselves also but change with the story more. they are lovely acounts of small town life for a upper middle class women of the day. wives and daughters is still my favorite work of hers but this brought a smile to my face.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a truly remarkable book, similar to Jewett's 'Country of the Painted Firs' and Jan Neruda's 'Prague Tales.' It's an episodic account of the idiosyncratic world of genteely poor women in a tiny village, portrayed with warmth, sadness, and pride. You can't help but love these women and, like the narrator from a nearby city, to be part of their world for at least a while. Gaskell is magnficent.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Has anyone else noticed that the reviews above mine are posted for at least four different versions of this book? Do they automatically do that? Because some versions are actually formatted more nicely than others... If I were you, I'd go for the cheap one; it has the same reviews as the others!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This Elizabeth Gaskell book was an interesting study of village life ... the importantce of appearance and pride, and the distortion of gossip. Very much like life today. Things haven't changed that much, and that is what struck me most about this book. I admit, I enjoyed Wives and Daughters much more than Cranford. Cranford was more a book of vignettes, so it was difficult to attach myself to an individual character, other than the naive, sweet, and delightful Miss Matty. She brought both tears and smiles.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Well it moves kinda slow, but I do applaude Elizabeth Gaskell's fee flow of mannerly gossip and phrasing.One can definitely picture the characters of this story through the way they respond to each other in conversation.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cranford is a wonderful light hearted classic. The story is narraited by Mary Smith as she relates the adventures of the residents of the small country village of Cranford in England during the late 1830's to the early 1840's.
May-Flowers More than 1 year ago
I love Cranford. It is a funny, light-hearted look at some very memorable ladies' lives. The language used may be hard for those not used to older English writing, and if you want a plot driven story than you may not like this book as it is more character driven. The plot lines of the various people are more like anecdotes strung together by the narrator over the course of years. I found this format quite enjoyable though, and somewhat unusual for a book written by a woman in that era.Overall it is just lovely light reading for  a fan of old novels looking for a few laughs.
jenieliser on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It's not heavy in plot, but a light read about some cute little ladies. I thought of my great grandmother and her little cute ways throughout the entire book.
FionaRobynIngram on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cranford is one of the better-known novels of the 19th century English writer Elizabeth Gaskell. It was first published in 1851 as a serial in the magazine Household Words, which was edited by Charles Dickens. The fictional town of Cranford is closely modelled on Knutsford in Cheshire, which Mrs. Gaskell knew well. The book has little in the way of plot and is more a series of episodes in the lives of Mary Smith and her friends, Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two spinster sisters. But what is it about Cranford and its deceptively simple tales of country life that makes the work so appealing? It has been aptly described as `a piece of exquisite social painting¿ ¿ `tender¿ and `delicate.¿ Narrated by Mary Smith, a friend of Miss Matty and frequent visitor to Cranford, the lives, loves, tragedies, and triumphs of the inhabitants of Cranford are woven together seamlessly to create a tapestry portraying timeless emotions and choices.The petty social bickering, cold shouldering and jockeying for importance in the village¿s pecking order are outlined in a humorous yet pointed way¿the author loves her characters, with all their faults, and is tolerant of their foibles while holding them up to gentle ridicule. In every community there is an arbiter of good taste, a setter of trends, a leader of public opinion, and all the other social whimsies that make up this colourful collection of characters. It is not easy to keep secrets in this closed environment, and as Mary Smith remarks, ¿It was impossible to live a month at Cranford, and not know the daily habits of each resident ¿.¿ Despite the squabbles and occasional `no speaks,¿ the ladies of Cranford would rather die than see one of their own fall by the wayside. It is the community spirit that inspires Miss Matty¿s friends to decide to donate a portion of their annual income to sustain their beloved friend when an investment goes sour. As a different kind of history book and one that very possibly the author did not set out to write as such, Cranford is actually an analysis of an early Victorian country town. The inhabitants are shaken and disturbed by inevitable changes such as industrialization, the advent of the railway and other events that force an inescapable transition into an increasingly modern world.The appeal of Cranford cannot be better described than in the popularity of the BBC drama series. The teleplay by Heidi Thomas was adapted from three novellas by Elizabeth Gaskell published between 1849 and 1858: Cranford, My Lady Ludlow, and Mr. Harrison's Confessions. (The Last Generation in England was also used as a source.)A gentle, charming read, Cranford has much more to offer the discerning reader than a unassuming look at country life.
JudithProctor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A gentle book in which nothing much happens, but which happens in such minute detail that you end up fascinated by the social mores of who will condescend to speak to whom in a tiny English village.These are the upper class women who didn't find a rich husband, and are trapped by poverty and social convention into a genteel poverty that seeks desperately to convince itself that any sign of wealth would be ostentatious in any case.Yet, even in this stilted social setting, the people are still capable of quiet acts of kindness (and have the understanding to conceal their help so as not to burden their friend with the need for gratitude).This is a book that I'm sure I'll read again.
VirginiaGill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oddly I half expected this book to be funny...it wasn't. Rather it was boring beyond measure. If it hadn't been a book club choice (and admittedly I chose it) I would never have finished it. Not a book I would recommend to others.
PensiveCat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A pleasant story that ends with a bank bust. Lots of quirky ladies involved, mostly with good hearts, and what's not to love about Miss Matty. It takes a while to find out the name of the narrator, and then it's done with little fanfare. A friendly counterpoint to all the Dickens I've been reading, and well written too. Did I mention the tea business? After I finished the book I watched the recent miniseries. It seems a few other Gaskell stories were incorporated into Cranford, and some of the plots were tweaked. Read the book first.
Prop2gether on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a short novel by a Victorian contemporary of Dickens and Bronte who was well-known for her longer novels. This short novel is a simple slice-of-life story of the single women in a small English town from the early to mid-Victorian era of the 1800¿s. At a time when a woman¿s principal goal was marriage (for survival purposes, if nothing else), the fact was that more women than men meant simply that a lot of single women had to live day-to-day. This is a marvelous telling of that story¿how the women of Cranford worked together and apart to keep appearances and spirits up. I loved this book although I had tried to read it twice before without success. It is slow-paced (like its characters), but loving and genuinely compassionate, in its treatment of all the inhabitants of Cranford. It is also one of the 1001 Must Read books¿and this is one I have no problem with being on the list.
Laiane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A thoroughly enjoyable gem of a book. I like authors who play with language and complicated sentence structure, and I was not disappointed. Witty, subtle, and charming.
TrishNYC on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Absolutely lovely book!!! I loved every second of it and I was sad to leave Cranford when it was over. The village of Cranford is a place that is oddly overpopulated with middle age women. The women here would not dare think of themselves as equal to men, they believe themselves superior to men!! The women for the most part are all "genteel poor", as in they all have a claim to some form of respectability. Their lack of funds is never spoken of and to broach such a subject would be considered vulgar. This book is a delight and I would highly recommend it especially to anyone who liked Gaskell's other work, North and South. This book is much "lighter" than North and South in its subject matter and deals peripherally with the coming industrial revolution.
xine2009 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very impressive and enjoyable.
Kasthu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Last winter, I rented Cranford, the BBC miniseries (starring Judi Dench), from Netflix¿and that got me interested in the book on which that¿s based. The book is a series of vignettes about the ladies of the town of Cranford, many of whom are elderly spinsters like Miss Matty Jenkyns and her sister Deborah, or Miss Pole (much as I tried not to, I kept seeing Judi Dench and Imelda Staunton in the roles of Miss Matty and Miss Pole).This short story differs significantly from the miniseries; the miniseries focuses a lot on the encroachment of the railways on the town of Cranford, and there¿s a romantic subplot going on there. The book is much more centered on the middle-aged and elderly ladies of the town, as seen through a semi-outsider, Miss Mary Smith, the daughter of a family friend of the Jenkynses.As another reviewer said on Librarything, reading about the ladies of Cranford is a lot like reading about the Golden Girls. This is a very lighthearted, funny book in many places, but still very touching. The ladies are very provincial, focused on the mundane details of their lives¿but very loyal to one another, as seen when Matty looses her money and her friends conspire to help her out. It took a few pages for me to get into the story, but once I did, I was fully engaged in the lives of the characters in this book.
StoutHearted on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Though the subject of the novel is a group of quaint, elderly ladies bent on manners and morality, the wit is sharp, the storytelling endearing, and the humor raucously funny. In fact, the humor took me completely by surprise. From the clueless old woman who take advice given in jest literally and dresses up her cow in grey flannel, to the maid forbidden to take followers who insists she never takes on more than one at a time, every page presents one hilarious comment and eccentricity after another. But the novel doesn't cross the line and mocks its own characters; it balances well sweet, endearing moments with the laughter.The town of Cranford is "ruled" by spinster sisters Deborah and Matty Jenkins, Miss Pole, and widows Mrs. Jamieson and Mrs. Forrester. The women live in genteel poverty, valuing their social positions above monetary wealth. Wearing an outdated dress is no matter, but heaven help a woman who marries below her station!The book moves along in chronological order without a major plot. Instead, we are given 16 chapters of Cranford life: their highs, their lows, their triumphs,and their faults. We are left with a charming portraiture of village life and of characters we would not mind knowing better.An absolute must-read. I knew before I finished the fist chapter that this book would be a favorite.
ishtahar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all of the holders of houses above a certain rent are women."Cranford is not exactly a novel, rather a series of short stories published in Dickens' Household Words taking place amongst the old maids and widows of the fictional (but seems to be a village in Lancashire) village of Cranford. Unlike Gaskell's other works it doesn't contain any of the social aspects of life in the Victorian age (apart from the social etiquette of when and which tea to serve), but it does focus on women; and although these women are genteel simple village women, they are as strong and independent as the Manchester heroines of North and South and Mary Barton. It's also hilariously funny in places - a gorgeous Sunday afternoon read.
Romonko on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
These little stories are about life and love in the mid-nineteenth century. This book was first printed as serials as so many books were at that time. By the time Mrs. Gaskell wrote Cranford, she was extremely popular with the English people. This book is essentially a comedy of manners. The people in Cranford live genteelly and they are very proud of that fact even if they don't have much money. The book is about four old ladies and the life they lead. Mrs. Gaskell's characterizations are wonderful. Their lives consist of tea, cards and gossip. This is a book about ladies. There are very few men in it, but we certainly get a good description of the male species from the ladies' observations. It's a wonderful world that Mrs. Gaskell has created for us. Come and meet the wonderful ladies of Cranford.
cdeuker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very pleasant glimpse into an unusual world--single aging women of the 19th century. Poor, but hiding their poverty. Gentle and genteel. None of the explosiveness of Dickens, but well worth reading.
bell7 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A young visitor recounts her adventures with some of the older ladies - primarily spinsters and widows - of Cranford as they live their lives in a charming small town.My idea of Elizabeth Gaskell's writings was completely different from reality. I had read a couple of short stories as an English major, confused them, and had this image of Gaskell as the John Steinbeck of the Victorian Era. I overcame some reluctance to even add Cranford to my TBR list. And am I glad I did! This book is a delightful, episodic tale of a small town and its inhabitants. The narrator often stays with Miss Matty while visiting the town, so many of the events involve this lady in some way or another. As I think about the book, I'm realizing that very little actually happens by way of plot, but the characters are by turns sweet, funny, and quirky. The story gives a picture of small town life in general as well as the class distinctions of its time period in an amusing, rather than depressing, way. Cranford has definitely convinced me to try more by this author.