Women-Writers of the Nineteenth Century

By Marjory A. Bald | Go to book overview

II
ATMOSPHERE AND SETTING

IT has been said of Mrs Gaskell that she rarely walked into the country merely for the sake of the landscape, but more often with the object of arriving at some human habitation. This custom reflected itself in her writings. Though they are full of out-door Nature, they are rarely set in solitary places. Most of the incidents take place within sight or sound of a house.

Nevertheless, mere considerations of place make no difference to the value of Mrs Gaskell's pictures. Wherever she may take us, we cannot help using our eyes. She tells us that Charlotte Bronte had at one time wished to express her ideas by drawing. -- "After she had tried to draw stories, and not succeeded, she took the better mode of writing." This pictorial impulse was equally strong in Mrs Gaskell. Her words formed themselves into pictures without any semblance of effort.

Unlike Wordsworth or the Brontes, she appears to have sought no enduring consolation from the hills, which in her stories are usually connected with human suffering. Ruth was different from Jane Eyre, for she found no peace in the wild, harsh moorland, but only a weary, intolerable solitude. There was no solace for Philip Hepburn in "the wild fells" which faced him as he tramped on "heedless of the startled plovers' cry, goaded by the furies." It is true that little Maggie Browne felt soothed and uplifted by the high open moors; but Mrs Gaskell implied that this reliance upon the consolations of Nature was token of her spiritual immaturity. Mrs Buxton had tried to teach her that it is possible to commune with God in crowded populous places. It was because Maggie's soul was "a young disciple" that she found it easier to speak to Him with "wild moors swelling and darkening around her."

Mrs Gaskell often seems to imply that the beauty of Nature

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Women-Writers of the Nineteenth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Jane Austen 1775-1817 1
  • I - The Utilisation of Small Resources 1
  • II - Elements of Her Appeal -- Cheerfulness And Moderation 9
  • III - The Study of Human Temperament 17
  • The Brontes 28
  • I - General Introduction. Family Characteristics 28
  • II - Anne Bronte, 1820-1849 35
  • III - Charlotte Bronte, 1816-1855 38
  • IV - Emily Bronte, 1818-1848 77
  • Mrs E. C. Gaskell 1810-1865 100
  • I - Introductory 100
  • II - Atmosphere and Setting 103
  • III - Humour 107
  • IV - Pathos 122
  • V - The Woman's Point of View 136
  • VI - The Social Problem 145
  • VII - Moral Theory or Moral Effect 151
  • George Eliot 1819-1880 162
  • I - Introductory 162
  • II - The Expression of Temperament 166
  • III - The Impersonal Artist 184
  • Mrs Browning 209
  • I - The Negative Approach 209
  • II - The Positive Approach 221
  • Christina Rossetti 1830-1894 233
  • I - Personal Experience Reflected On Her Poetry 233
  • II - Sources 239
  • III - Symbol, Allegory, and Dream 254
  • IV - Emotional Quality 260
  • V - General Considerations 267
  • Conclusion 275
  • Index 285
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