Ruth

Ruth

Ruth

Ruth

Synopsis

One of the less familiar of Mrs. Gaskell's novels, Ruth was in its own time a cause celebre which not only contributed substantially to its author's growing reputation but also won the approval of a number of her distinguished contemporaries. The text used for this edition is based upon that of the first edition published in 1853.

Excerpt

Ruth, published in three volumes in 1853, wasElizabeth Gaskell 's second full-length novel. Mary Barton (1848), her 'tale of Manchester Life', had brought her both criticism and success: it had given her also the confidence and the freedom to experiment. The immediate result was a series of stories and occasional pieces, mostly with a provincial setting, that culminated in the episodes she collected together as Cranford. By its choice of setting, and by its general tenor, Ruth would seem to confirm this movement on the part of its author away from the Manchester setting of the novel that had made her famous. Ruth, however, like Mary Barton, was explicitly conceived as a social-problem novel; furthermore, and again like its predecessor, it drew upon its author's direct experience of the issues it sought to bring to public attention.

The sufferings of the unmarried mother, like the hardships of the industrially oppressed that formed the subject of Mary Barton, were familiar to Mrs Gaskell from her charitable work in Manchester. In 1850 she took up the cause of a girl called Pasley whom she had come across in the New Bayley prison. In a long letter to Dickens, at that time involved in his emigration project for fallen women, she gives details of the case. Pasley's career exemplifies the dangers facing even a girl of respectable parentage who was neglected. The daughter of an Irish clergyman who had died when she was two, she had been neglected by an indifferent mother, and then placed in an orphanage, before becoming a dressmaker's apprentice. Following a series of misfortunes for which she had not herself been responsible she had been seduced by her own doctor. The consequence had been first the Penitentiary and then a career of petty crime; finally, by an appalling stroke of coincidence, the poor girl had been . . .

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