RUTH, Mrs. Gaskell's second larger work in order of publication, 
first appeared in three volumes in January, 1853.  It was 
republished in 1855, both in England and in America; and a French 
translation of the book came out in 1856.  This version was from 
the hands of the daughters of Guizot, who cherished the deepest 
admiration for the original - je ne connais point de roman, he 
wrote from Val Richer, a few years later, "qui m' ait emu aussi 
profondement que Ruth."
                The enquiry may seem superfluous how Mrs. Gaskell 
came to choose the name bestowed by her upon the heroine of a 
story into which she put a great deal of her heart and upon that 
story itself.  For Ruth is not only (as the wily Mr. Donne was quite 
aware when he called the fact in question), a common enough 
English Christian name, but it is a very beautiful one, possessed of 
an ineffaceable idyllic charm.  Yet it is difficult to escape the fancy 
that the choice of it was suggested to Mrs. Gaskell by a masterpiece 
of tragic pathos which must in any case have been known to her as 
the production of a poet much read by her - Crabbe's story of Ruth, 
in the Tales of the Hall - her familiarity with which is attested by 
special evidence. This story and Mrs. Gaskell's novel differ widely 
from each other in both substance and tone; but to the chief figure 
of the prose tale, hardly less saddening in its total effect than the 
poem, though irradiated by a stronger light of hope, the piteous 
words of the poem also apply - 

"Thus my poor Ruth was wretched and undone,
Nor had a husband for her only son, Nor had he father."

        Of far greater interest than the question of the mere title of 
this novel is that of its moral significance, for it would be idle to 
ignore the fact that such a significance and purpose its writer 
intended it to possess. I will defer for the moment what it seems 
necessary to say as to a particular, but after all not essential, 
feature of the story - the concealment of poor Ruth's sin by her 
passing as a widow, which has given rise to a great deal of adverse 
comment, For it seems to me of paramount importance to ask in the 
first instance whether or not the book as a whole altogether missed 
its aim.
        This aim was certainly not to make a considerable number of 
more or less excellent people extremely uncomfortable.  There 
appear to have been a number of critics (among them some to 
whose good or ill nature there went very little power of articulate 
expression), who regarded Ruth with unmitigated disfavour as 
exposing a social evil over which decent people prefer to cast a veil.  
This evil, of course, was or is the laxity of moral principle condoning 
such a wrong as that in which Ruth's lover led her to participate.  
To the cruel though passive force of such a censure of her book Mrs. 
Gaskell could only oppose the consciousness of a grave and high 
purpose; yet it must have encouraged her unspeakably to be 
assured of a recognition of this purpose by many who were on this 
occasion united by no general uniformity of opinions, but by that 
higher consensus which rarely fails to unite noble minds on great 
moral issues.  Several letters have been preserved that show how a 
sympathy of this sort had been called forth by Ruth, and by its 
courageous exposure of a foul blot on the scutcheon of our social 
        Mrs. Jameson, the story of whose life, as well as the list of her 
writings, reveals a deeper nature than her facile pen always 
succeeded in bringing home to her readers, wrote of her gratitude 
for the solace and delight which Ruth had afforded her personally.  
"I hope," she said, "I do understand your aim - you have lifted up 
your voice against 'that demoralising laxity of principle,' which I 
regard as the ulcer lying round the roots of Society; and you have 
done it wisely and well with a mingled courage and delicacy which 
excite at once my gratitude and my admiration."  Charles Kingsley, 
premising characteristically, and with a due admixture of paradox, 
that he had

"read only a little (though of course I know the story) of the book; 
for the same reason that I cannot read "Uncle Tom's Cabin," or 
"Othello," or "The Bride of Lammermoor" - it too painfully good, as I 
found before I had read half the volume,"

continued his praise in a tone of real sincerity:

        "But this I can tell you: that among all my large acquaintance 
I never heard but one unanimous opinion as to the beauty and 
righteousness of the book; and that, above all, from real Ladies and 
really good women.  If you could have heard the thing which I have 
heard spoken of it this evening by a thorough high - church fine lady 
of the world - and by her daughter too as pure and pious a soul as 
man need see - you would have n more doubt than I have, that 
whatsoever the 'Snobs' and the Bigots may think, English people in 
general have but one opinion of' Ruth,' and that is one of utter 
satisfaction. I doubt not that you have had this said to you already 
often. . . . Believe me you may have it said to you as often as you 
will by the purest and most refined of English women.  May God 
bless you, and help you to write many more great books as you 
have already written...."

        And when, according to the testimony of his wife, Archdeacon 

"heard that your virtuous friends had burnt 'Ruth,' after an 
exclamation of horror, he quieted down with the remark. 'Well, the 
Bible has been burnt, and many other precious books have met 
with the same fate, which yet have done their work."

        Cobden, who "blessed the authoress', as he closed her book, 
for her courage and humanity"; good Sir William Fairbairn, whom 
some of us can still remember in full intellectual. vigour though at 
an advanced old age, read it "with all the enthusiasm of a young 
man of twenty in place of one that has numbered a year o~ two 
above sixty." The applause of staunch friends such as Dickens, John 
Forster, and Charlotte Bronte (who thought that her friend's "style 
had never risen higher") was not wanting; but it was in a strain of 
mystic fervour that expression was given to his gratitude by yet 
another friend, the influence of whose teaching was strong upon 
her as upon many of the most high - minded of her contemporaries.  
In a note to one of his Lectures on the Unity of the New Testament 
(1854), Frederick Denison Maurice discusses the difficult words 
forming the earlier half of the last verse of Chapter II. of the First 
Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy; and he concludes: "I desire to thank a 
noble - hearted and pure - minded writer of our day for the courage 
with which she has illustrated the doctrine," promulgated in the 
words in question, "in the story of one of her sex who had fallen 
into evil.  I allude to the beautiful tale of Ruth, which on this point 
and on all others is, I think, as true to human experience as it is to 
the divinest morality."  Maurice sent the "rather formidable 
volume" containing this eloquent passage to Mrs. Gaskell, partly 
that he might confess his "rather strange allusion."  Both Mrs. 
Gaskell and he have had their reward; for the principle enunciated 
in Ruth, that in the love of the child is to be found a redeeming 
power of incomparable strength, has come to be regarded as an 
axiom in rescue work.
        At a later date Mrs. Gaskell must again have been deeply 
gratified by hearing from her friend Miss Hilary Bonham - Carter 
that Miss Nightingale had said of Ruth: "It is a beautiful work, and I 
like it better still than when I first read it.'  She added the 
characteristic approving comment that Mrs. Gaskell "had not made 
Ruth start at once as a hospital nurse, but arrive at it after much 
other nursing that came first."
        In addition to these tributes there was one which I should 
like to quote at length, because it was very mud prized by Mrs. 
Gaskell.  It was from Mrs. Stanley the wife of the Bishop of Norwich, 
and the mother of Dean Stanley, whose literary memorial of both 
hi.' parents is well known.


"March 12th, 1853.


        "I have been intending to write to you this month past Partly 
I delayed because I wished to collect more average opinion about 
"Ruth"; and latterly it seemed so much as if there was but one 
opinion about it, that I thought you could not want my sssurance of 
it. The thing that has given me much satisfaction is the testimony 
borne by men - young men - to its truth and beauty; and, moreover, 
that they were touched interested, and could not conceive that any 
one could think otherwise than themselves - that it was the most 
virtue - stirring book they ever read. Evidently sensible of the pure 
atmosphere@of it, Lord Stanley (my nephew) sat up till two 
o'clock reading it; and the only objection he made was that he 
thought it unnatural to carry Mr. Donne's hardness of heart so far 
as the last scene does.  Dr. and Mrs. Vaughan at Harrow thought it 
perfect, touching. . . . I feel quit sure that your object will be gained; 
that you have started new views, new feelings, new thoughts upon 
the subject which will tell in more ways than one knows. . -  - And 
now shall I tell you what I thought the master - stroke of the book? 
The very part that Lord Stanley objected to - that very hardening of 
Mr. Donne's heart against the last scene.  It took me by surprise.  I 
expected differently, but I recognised at once the truth - the all - 
important and awful truth - that hardened hearts do not soften - no, 
not 'if one came to them from the dead.'  And this finishing stroke 
to that most finished portrait of the species is complete in its 
impression, and casts away from under one's feet the hope that the 
day of change will come at last.  The gradual proofs of her becoming 
more sensible of her sin as she advances further in goodness is 
beautiful.  About the child, I have an instance under my own eye at 
this moment of the reverse of the picture - of the child being the 
misery, the clog, the disgrace - that is the common view, and belongs 
to the common feeling.  That yours is the higher, the nobler, the 
regenerating principle I have no doubt. . . . You may well be content 
with the good you will have done in awakening the sense of what 
may and ought to come out of the darkest depths, and that many 
who will have been startled at first will end by having an 
impression left on their minds which you would feel yourself 
reworded by. I have a firm conviction in the omnipotence of Truth; 
and that such a picture of such a human being as Ruth will have a 
permanent influence. Those two scenes on the sands are of thrilling 
interest, and the exact degree in which her early love and her later 
disesteem struggle one sees quite distinctly.  I confess that dear Mr. 
Benson's suffering was very great - the desertion of the chapel, and 
the lost influence of his character; but I wish it could have been 
arranged in any other way; it is a beautiful picture nevertheless.  
Sally is inimitable; and Mr. Bradshaw. The description of the chapel 
brought the old chapel on Adam's Hill at Knutsford before me - the 
diamond - paned windows, overshadowing tree, and outside steps. . . 
. And so with many thanks for my share in the beauty and interest 
of the book, and my warm wishes for your progress in your path,

"Believe me, most sincerely yours,

        But there was at least one voice which, while refusing to join 
in any expression of prudish censure, or of worldly ill - will, could 
not associate itself with the recognition so widely paid to the 
whole - hearted fulfilment of a noble purpose.  The same formidable 
critic who had protested so forcibly against what he represented as 
the indictment brought in Mary Barton against the class on whose 
behalf he wrote, felt it his duty to place on record his caveat against 
the ethical imperfections of the sister - story of Ruth.  At the close of 
an article contributed by the late Mr. W. R. Greg to the National 
Review, vol. viii., for 1859, and reprinted by him in his Literary and 
Social Judgments (second Edition, 1869) the subject of which was 
The False Morality of Lady Novelists, he, more in sorrow than in 
anger, included Ruth among the books called to account in his 
        After dwelling on the important social and moral influence of 
modern novels, and discussing severs recently published (more or 
less ephemeral) works of fiction by female writers, the article 
approaches what may, perhaps, without lack of charity, be 
supposed to have been the theme more particularly in the 
reviewer's mind.  "Novelists, "he pronounces," err grievously and 
habitually in their estimates of the relative culpability of certain 
sins, failings, and backslidings. Should a woman, however young, 
however ignorant in the world's ways, have once fallen - a phrase 
cruel not so much in itself as by the world's harsh use of it - "she is 
punished without discrimination as the most sunk of sinners; and, 
what is more especially to our present purpose, writers of fiction 
represent her as acquiescing in the justice of the sentence."  He then 
proceeds to make his application.  "These remarks," he continues,

"have been suggested to us by the reperusal of a most beautiful and 
touching tale, wherein the erroneous moral estimate we are 
signalising appears in a very mild form; and which, indeed, would 
appear to have been written with the design of mortifying or 
correcting it, though the author's ideas were not quite clear or 
positive enough to enable her to carry out boldly or develop fully 
the conception she had formed."

        Then follows a sketch of the plot of the novel, showing how 
Ruth was, by the good Mr. Benson and his sister, awakened to a 
perception of her error and of the light, in which others regarded it; 
and how, by the same influence, and that of her passionate 
attachment to her child, her character was purified and elevated, 
and her fault redeemed. Then, however, came in the disturbing 
action of Mr. Bradshaw:

"the very distilled essence of a disagreeable Pharisee; Ostentatious, 
patronising, self - confident, and self - worshipping; rigidly righteous 
according to his own notion, but in our eyes a heinous and habitual 
offender; a harsh and oppressive tyrant in his own family without 
perceiving it, or rather without admitting that his harshness and 
oppression is other than a sublime virtue; yet driving by it one 
child into rebellion and another into hypocrisy and crime, and 
arousing the angry passions of every one with whom he comes in 
contact; having no notion of what temptation is, either as a thing to 
be resisted or succumbed to, for the simple reason that all his 
temptations which are those of pride, selfishness, and temper, were 
yielded to and defended as virtuous impulses; prone to trample, 
and ignorant of the very meaning of tenderness and mercy. This 
man, reeking with the sins Christ most abhorred, turns upon the 
unhappy Ruth . . . as soon as he accidentally learns her history, with 
a brutal, savage violence and a coarse, unfeeling cruelty, which we 
need not scruple to affirm constituted a far greater sin than poor 
Ruth had committed, or would have committed had her lapse been 
wilful and persistent instead of unconscious, transient and bitterly 
and nobly atoned for. Something of this very conviction was 
evidently in Mrs. Gaskell's mind, and we can scarcely doubt that 
she placed Mr. Bradshaw's hard and aggressive Pharisaism in such 
strong relief and contrast, by way of insinuating the comparative 
moral we have boldly stated.  In any case, such is the resulting 
impression which must be left upon the reader's mind.  But what 
we object to in her book is this: that the tone and language 
habitually adopted throughout, both by Ruth herself and by her 
friends when alluding to her fault, is at war with this impression, 
and with the true tenor of the facts recorded.  Mrs. Gaskell scarcely 
seems at one with herself in this matter. Anxious above all things to 
arouse a kinder feeling in the uncharitable and bitter world 
towards offenders of Ruth's sort, to show how thoughtless and 
sometimes almost unconscious, such offences sometimes are, and 
how slightly, after all, they may affect real purity of nature and 
piety of spirit, and how truly they may be redeemed when treated 
with wisdom and with gentleness, - she has first imagined a 
character as pure, pious, and unselfish as poet ever fancied, and 
described a lapse from chastity as faultless as such a fault can be; 
and then, with damaging and unfaithful inconsistency, has given in 
to the world's estimate in such matters, by affirming that the sin 
committed was of so deep a dye that only a life of atoning and 
enduring persistence could wipe it out.  If she designed to awaken 
the world's compassion for the ordinary class of betrayed and 
deserted Magdalenes, the consequences of Ruth's error should not 
have been made so innocent, nor should Ruth herself have been 
painted as so perfect. If she intended to describe a saint (as she has 
done), she should not have held conventional and mysterious 
language about her as a grievous sinner. .

        I think that in this deliverance - well - balanced as at first sight 
it may seem -  - the arbiter of true and false literary morality was in 
danger of losing his own footing. Doubtless the Pharisee who is 
blind to his own faults, is more culpable before the tribunal of 
perfect justice than is the sinner who sincerely repents his 
misdoings; but no such comparison is really in question, nor indeed 
anything except the necessity of repentance in both thought and 
action for those who have sinned, and the beneficent results which 
follow upon it.  Repentance only and the grace of Heaven, of which 
it is an ordained instrument, can change the sinner into the saint; 
but in such a change there is nothing contrary either to reason or to 
experience. The story of Ruth, or of such a one as Ruth, implies 
neither that she was suddenly plunged into turpitude by her 
grievous error, nor that she was without the capacity of self - 
recovery, whether before or after her actual committal of a sin not 
venial, but not unpardonable. Ruth is no paragon of purity whom an 
evil fate had entrapped into a momentary lapse from virtue, but a 
gentle creature who, while an all but helpless child, had stumbled 
on the threshold, and whom submission to a Higher Guidance, 
working by its own methods, enabled to find the way in the end.
        As to the deception in which Ruth takes part, or rather into 
which she is drawn, it has, no doubt, called forth censures that are 
not to be lightly dismissed. At the same time, only a blind prejudice 
could have imparted to the writer of the story the intention of 
justifying or condoning a deception which she represents as 
entailing deep and poignant sorrow upon those responsible for it.  
There would probably have been no insuperable difficulty in giving 
a different turn to this part of the plot, either by making the 
offence against truth less direct, or perhaps even by avoiding it 
altogether. Mrs. Gaskell seems, however, to have deliberately 
intended that in the construction of her story much should hinge on 
this "white lie"; indeed, it would almost appear as if in the present 
instance, influenced perhaps by some of the popular theology of her 
day, she had been attracted by the casuistry, if I may so call it, of 
the situation.
        A perplexity of the same kind is treated humorously by old 
Job in Mary Barton, and it recurs incidentally in North and South; 
but in the latter instance it scarcely jars upon the well - intentioned 
reader; for when Margaret Hale tells an untruth, she has to suffer 
immediately and severely for the telling of it.  But in Ruth our 
judgment is unsteadied by the very material circumstance, that the 
original departure from the path of truth is not her own; that the 
deception is contrived, not by her, but for her, and that she is 
herself merely acquiescent.  It should be noticed, too, as an 
admirable piece of practical ethics, that the falsehood grows, as it 
were, of itself.  First, the description "Miss" is changed into "Mrs."; 
then the surname of "Denbigh" is assumed, and then the wedding - 
ring, followed in obedience to Sally's merciless logic by the widow's 
cap; finally, good Miss Benson rounds off her invention with one or 
two imaginary details, and "believes" that Ruth's husband had been 
a young surgeon, for "you know," she tells her brother, "he must 
have beer something; and young surgeons are so in the way of 
dying, it seemed very natural."  Moreover, it is at least suggested 
(see the rather over - strained argument by which Mr. Benson 
induces Ruth to accept a gift of widow's weeds from an unwelcome 
patron) that she was resistless against the influence of so high - 
minded and so eloquent a spiritual guide.  Mrs. Gaskell must not be 
supposed to have overlooked the distribution of responsibility 
which it had been her manifest purpose to indicate, when, in a later 
passage of the story, she incidentally describes Ruth's boy, Leonard, 
as having "for some time shown a strange, odd disregard for truth"; 
for there cannot have been any intention of suggesting a hereditary 
element in this failing.
        At the same time it is quite possible - and, indeed, to my mind 
it is highly probable - that the real genesis of the pathetic argument 
of this novel should be sought, not in the endeavour of its writer to 
find the true answer to one or more difficult moral problems, but 
rather in an imaginative association of ideas called forth by the 
greatest sorrow of her own life.  How constantly and deeply she felt 
the presence of that sorrow, is shown by several passages in Ruth, 
but, above all, by a direct personal reminiscence early in the story, 
occasioned by the circumstance that the scene of a painful episode 
in it is laid in a Welsh country inn:

        "He led the way into a large bow - windowed room, which 
looked gloomy enough that afternoon, but which I have seen bright 
and buoyant with youth and hope within, and sunny lights creeping 
down the purple mountain slope, and stealing over the green, soft 
meadows, till they reached the little garden, full of roses and 
lavender - bushes, lying close under the window. I have seen - but I 
shall see no more.

        "Little child!" - so in another passage of the tale she, with a 
kind of mystical rapture apostrophises the infant boy sleeping on 
his mother's breast - "thy angel was with God, and drew her nearer 
and nearer to Him whose face is continually beheld by the angels of 
little children." The idea of a young mother's only boy may have 
readily suggested the idea of a young mother, to whom such a 
possession would be literally everything
 -  - and, in a sense, even more full of sorrow and devoid of 
consolation than it would be even to a widow whose child was 
orphaned by the death of its father. Around a conception due to 
such an origin, the story would very naturally have grown.
        Be this as it may, there are, I think, few of Mrs. Gaskell's 
books to the plan of which exception can more easily be taken than 
this; but there is certainly none into which she threw more of her 
heart and soul, and which accordingly takes a stronger hold of the 
reader. Construction was at no time her forte, and it cannot be said 
that the return of Ruth's seducer under another name - which, as we 
are quite casually informed, he had assumed "for some property" - 
is very skilfully managed.  More oddly and at the same time quite 
unnecessarily, Mr. Donne's servant, who remained faithful to him in 
his well - deserved desolation, is in stage - fashion identified with a 
boy whom he had pulled out of the water in an early stage of the 
story.  There are, too, a few slips where it approaches the border - 
line of politics, a sphere which Mrs. Gaskell was usually fain to 
avoid; and I think, Mrs. Stanley's fine criticism notwithstanding, 
that there is a certain crudity in the drawing of the not altogether 
magnetic Lovelace, who was unable to reconquer the soul of this 
humble, but not less lovely, Clarissa.
        On the other hand, how admirably composed is the group 
among which Ruth's lot is cast, after she and her child had been 
rescued by the good minister. Mr. Benson himself is 
sympathetically drawn.  His Christian name, Thurstan, was an old 
family name of the Hollands. Very probably some traits in him 
were reminiscences of an earlier friend of Mrs. Gaskell's - William 
Turner, a unitarian minister at Newcastle - on - Tyne, in whose family 
she had, in her later childhood, spent two winters; but in Thurstan 
Benson's talk - at once subtle and sincere - it is impossible not to trace 
a far - off echo of the great - hearted divine, on the influence of whose 
teaching I have already touched - Frederick Denison Maurice.
                To the eager devotion of the brother, the droiture of the 
sister supplies an admirable foil; and the most humorous character 
of the story is their servant Sally, worthy to be remembered with 
Peggotty and a very few others, but possessed of a distinct 
northern quality of her own.  Excellent above all is her self - 
consciousness as a churchwoman, even as against her beloved 
master - a trait characteristic of Mrs. Gaskell, who always had a 
kindly corner in her heart for what then were still the comfortable 
ways of  the  establishment. It should at the same time be noticed, 
that while Mr. Benson is a dissenting minister, no pretence is made 
of his being anything else - a satisfactory proof that the complaint of 
one of the critics of Cranford, how in those days Nonconformity had 
to be translated into Church for the benefit of readers of the "first 
circles of polite fiction," was losing its sting.
                The Bradshaw family and their surroundings are drawn 
with a truthful hand - the portrait (fit for any board - room) of Mr. 
Bradshaw himself with a moderation that becomes apparent if it is 
compared with that of Mr. Bounderby in Hard Times, of whom, 
especially in his relation to his daughter, Mrs. Gaskell's earlier 
creation may fairly be held to have suggested the first outlines. 
Jemima in Ruth is a delightful picture of a pure and happy nature, 
to whom even jealousy, when she discovers the earliest symptoms 
of it in her woman's breast, is a matter of conjecture only.
                Nor is the setting of this pure and beautiful story 
unworthy of it.  No less powerful a critic than George Eliot was to 
bear witness to the idyllic beauty of the descriptive passages of a 
book to which, though still written in what Mrs. Gaskell herself 
called the "minor key" of Mary Barton, was thus imparted a 
tranquillity and harmony of tone to which the great author of 
Adam Bede and The Mill on the Floss, perhaps hardly does justice 
in this letter.  The mind takes possession once for all, of such 
pictures as that of Ruth and her lover at the pool: a spot which, 
though the centre of the Welsh scenery in this part of the story is 
certainly Ffestiniog, is, in all probability, to be identified with the 
Deepdale Pool, Silverdale - as it was, not as it now is.        George Eliot 
speaks of Mrs. Gaskell's "love of sharp contrasts" and "dramatic 
effects," and regrets that she should not be "content with the half - 
trials of real life."  "But," the great writer continues, with less 
questionable justice, "how pretty and graphic are the touches of  
description. . . . Mrs. Gaskell has certainly a charming mind."  If by 
the descriptive beauty of some of its passages, Ruth was worthy of 
writer in whose veins there was a drop of James Thomson's blood, 
the book had higher qualities than this. There is nothing charming 
in dogmatism; but Ruth is, as a story, not dogmatic. Though its 
authoress could not be unaware that she was often near the 
confines of theological and philosophical argument her second 
novel, like her first, spoke the language of her heart.
                The last chapters of Ruth cannot very easily be treated 
from a purely literary point of view; but even under this aspect 
they have a significance of their own. At the present day novelists 
have come to find the height of art - perhaps because in their eyes 
this is synonymous with fidelity to their experience of nature - in 
leaving their argument without a conclusion, and their story 
without an end.  Mrs. Gaskell's artistic sense was in harmony with 
her religious conviction.  Sophoclean tragedy sought not only to 
state the problems of life, hut to indicate their solution.  The long 
and enigmatic second part of Goethe's Faust is designed to 
symbolise the redemption of erring humanity by the love that rises 
above self.  Our simple tale of English every - day life leads the 
repentant sinner through tribulation and self - sacrifice to the 
presence of Him that sitteth on the throne.

        It is gratifying to me to have been able to recover as Mrs. 
Gaskell's the paper which appeared in Household Words for January 
22, 1853, under the title of Cumberland Sheep - shearers.  In a letter 
to Mrs. Gaskell, dated January 20th, of that year, John Forster 

        "I happened to he dining with Dickens last night, and asked 
him who the deuce had written the delightful article on 'Sheep - 
shearing'? It could not be Miss Martineau, for the writer talked of 
her daughter; and, let alone the little love - picture, this forbade it. 
Who on earth was it? and he told me."

        Wise after the event, we may well wonder that Forster's 
uninstructed acumen failed to suggest to him the authorship of a 
singularly true and characteristic reproduction of out - of - the - way 
English country life, animated by the poetic touch which makes the 
difference between the picture and the photograph.
        It was, as the paper states, while staying near Keswick that 
Mrs. Gaskell witnessed and chronicled a celebration of what may, in 
a sense, be described as the most important, and among the most 
long - lived, of all the local festivities of Cumberland and 
Westmorland. The economic prosperity of these counties is bound 
up with the tending of their flocks of sheep, and with their 
production of, and trade in, wool.  The traditions of these 
occupations mount back to a remote antiquity; indeed, the late 
learned Chancellor Ferguson of Carlisle, in his History of 
Cumberland  (1890), notes that the numerals used not many years 
before for sheep - scoring were, with reason,' supposed to be derived 
from the Celtic tongue.  As for the particular stage in the history of 
a Cumberland sheep and its fleece, during which the two part 
company - the shearing days - Mr. Daniel Scott in his Bygone 
Cumberland and Westmorland (1899), speaks of them as formerly 
high festivals on the fells and in the dales of both counties.  He 
refers his readers to the chapter in John Richardson of St. John's 
Cumberland Talk (1871 - 6) on Auld Fashint Chippins and Sec Like in 
Stwories at Canny uset to Tell.
        Was Mrs. Gaskell inspired to this delightful tour de force -  - for 
the last thing that would have occurred to her would be to go in 
search of the picturesque - by the resemblance of a much more 
conscious effort on the part of a remote collateral ancestor of her 
own? In the course of the book Summer, the author of The Seasons, 
after describing with amplitude the preliminary process of washing 
in the brook

" - - - the troubled flocks, by many a dog Compell'd"

and the subsequent removal of "the harmless race" to where

"ranged in lofty rows
The shepherds sit, and whet the sounding shears,"

winds up with a satisfactory recognition of the imperial importance 
of the British cloth industry:

"A simple scene! yet here Britannia sees Her solid grandeur rise," 

        Better known to modern readers, as it probably was to Mrs. 
Gaskell - who, in this paper, refers to "Mr. Wordsworth" - is the 
twenty - third of the Duddon Sonnets, which describes, not indeed 
the sheep - shearing, but the sheep - washing, which immediately 
precedes it. (The passage on p.468 of this volume should be read 
carefully, as attesting this natural order of sequence, which a 
misprint in Household Words inverted).

"Sad thoughts, avaunt! partake we their blithe cheer
Who gathered in betimes the unshorn flock,
To wash the fleece, where haply bands of rock,
Checking the stream, make a pool smooth and clear
As this we look on. Distant mountains hear,
Hear and repeat, the turmoil that unites
Clamour of boys with innocent despites
Of barking dogs, and bleating from strange fear.
And what ii Duddon's spotless flood receive
Unwelcome mixtures as the uncouth noise
Thickens, the pastoral River will forgive
Such wrong; nor need we blame the licensed joys,
Though false to Nature's quiet equipoise
Frank are the sports, the stains are fugitive."

        The details of Mrs. Gaskell's paper might seduce me into much 
desultory comment, but I have no desire to over - burden with 
useless illustration a production of so spontaneous a freshness, into 
which the references to Wordsworth and Coleridge, as well as to 
classics unconnected with the Lakes - Spenser, Marvell, and Jane 
Austen - enter quite naturally.  Yet the paper deserves careful 
reading; for Mrs. Gaskell was not in the habit of doing things by 
halves, and, as will be seen immediately, she had a strong liking for 
the study of popular customs and traditions.  I have had the 
advantage of showing the Cumberland Sheep - shearing to a friend 
who is at the same time a distinguished scholar and a devoted lover 
of the Lake country.  Dr. E. B. England, of High Wray, Ambleside, 
mentions two things within his own knowledge as confirming his 
general expression of the correctness of all the local details in this 
paper.  "I have a master's cupboard in my dining room; only, there 
is a door to it.  Perhaps the door is a late addition.  Also, a farmer 
near here has a dog named 'Fly.'" I may add that some curious 
illustrations of the extraordinary value formerly set in this part of 
the country on tea, before it became a common and indispensable 
article of consumption, will be found on pp. I78 - 9 of Mr. Scott's 
book, already cited.

        It is a far cry from the Cumberland fells to the slopes of 
Parnassus; but the warm interest which Mrs. Gaskell took in 
popular customs and traditions, and in all kinds of folklore, was not 
confined to any particular district or country.  Her books and her 
letters are full of observation of such relics and reminiscences of 
the past among her own conservative neighbours in Lancashire and 
Cheshire; and they attracted her in the course of her wanderings at 
home and abroad, and 6f her readings about distant lands and their 
inhabitants. The paper on Modern Greek Songs appeared in 
Household Words on February 25, 1854, on the 18th of which 
month Dickens, then at work on Hard Times, wrote to Mrs.

        "Such has been the distraction of my mind in my story, that I 
have twice forgotten to tell you how much I liked the 'Modern 
Greek Songs.' The article is printed and at the press, for the next 
number as ever is."

        It is in substance a review of Claude Fauriel's justly 
celebrated book, Chants Populaires de la Grece Moderne, which 
appeared in 1824 - 5, in two volumes, and of which, in the latter 
year, an abbreviated English version was brought out by Charles 
Brinsley Sheridan.  I am under the impression that Mrs. Gaskell, 
who only very exceptionally wrote special articles about books, 
made acquaintance with Fauriel's work by the advice of her learned 
friend, Mr. Julius Mohl, who was intimate with his brother - 
professor, and, after Fauriel's death, edited two important 
posthumous works from his indefatigable hand.

        Fauriel was a very remarkable man, into whose long literary 
life (he was born in 1772, and died in 1844, after half a century of 
varied labours) was crowded a quite extraordinary literary 
productivity.  He was not, as Mrs. Gaskell seems to have been 
informed, a Greek, but a native of Saint Etienne, whose childhood 
was partly spent in the Vivarais.  Almost directly from the training 
of the Oratorians he passed into the military service of the young 
French Republic, to emerge again, after an interval of obscuration, 
as private secretary to - Fouche!  But literature - comparative 
literature in particular - was the real vocation of his life; and among 
his many important contributions to different parts of its wide 
field, none was more conspicuous, and, in France, at least, more 
read, than the book which suggested Mrs. Gaskell's paper.  Fauriel's 
work was, of course, inspired by the enthusiasm for the cause of 
the liberation of Hellas, which was at that time at its height in the 
whole civilised West - 1824 was the year in which Sultan Mahmud 
II. called in the help of his Egyptian vassal to arrest the progress of 
the Greek insurrection.  Fauriel was a thorough republican at heart, 
as well as animated by a special sympathy for the cause of a people 
striving to recover its national existence.  This spirit shows itself in 
part of the Preliminaire, or Introduction to the book, especially in 
the masterly account of the Klephts reproduced in part by Mrs. 
Gaskell.  But the work is at the same time conceived in a thoroughly 
scientific spirit, and may be said to have been the real beginning in 
France of that close study of popular poetry which Herder had 
commended in Germany half a century before, and of which, in our 
own country, Percy had set a still earlier example, to be followed by 
Ritson, and, as Mrs. Gaskell notes, by Sir Walter Scott. Fauriel's 
translations of the songs given by him are in prose - but in a prose 
which catches the spirit of the poetic original far more satisfactorily 
than that kind of verse translation which is so apt to become 
conventional. This danger was not avoided by Fauriel's English 
translator, who dates his volume from Duke Street, the refuge of so 
many generous causes, and who intended that its profits should 
supplement the funds of the Society for the Promotion of Education 
among the Greeks - a branch of the British and Foreign School 
        Always observant and always sympathetic, Mrs. Gaskell had 
evidently for some time taken an interest in Greece and the Greeks; 
doubtless, even before she, rather late in the day, fell in with 
Fauriel's book. This interest may have been stimulated by 
Manchester experiences; for it may be conjectured that the Greek 
lady who invited her to be present at the family Easter ceremonies, 
was a resident of Acro - Broughton, a suburb which has probably a 
larger, and certainly a far wealthier Greek population than all the 
islands of the AEgean put together.
        For a fuller explanation of the technical terms in this paper, 
the reader must be referred to Fauriel's general and special 
introductions, and to his notes. Mrs. Gaskell gives the substance of 
his account of the village festivals called "paneghyris"; his definition 
of a "myriologia" may be worth quoting.  He describes it as une 
improvisation funebre, inspiree par la douleur; it is always 
extemporaneous, and always addresses itself to an individual.  One 
of these "myriologues," by the way, was translated, or adapted, 
from Fauriel's collection by Mrs. Hemans, among whose 
inexhaustible store of themes for verse Greek subjects not 
unfrequently recur.  Whether at the present day "every one 
remembers" her stanzas, The Message to the Dead, I will not 
undertake to say.  It will be found on p.459 in the complete 1849 
Edition of her Poems.

        Company Manners, which appeared in Household Words on 
May  20, 1854, and was reprinted with Lizzie Leigh, and other 
Tales, in the following year, cannot fairly be set down as a review.  
In the good - or bad - old Saturday Review days, we should have 
frankly called it a "middle" - and an uncommonly taking middle, too, 
though perhaps rather in J. R. Green's style than in the slightly 
earlier of Fitzjames Stephen. The opening is particularly happy; 
though, if one might venture to criticise so delightful a criticism, it 
would be worth pointing out that it was the travesty rather than 
the tradition of the Hotel Rambouillet which Moliere held up to 
ridicule.  Madame de Sable herself, even in Victor Cousin's 
sympathetic pages, hardly leaves on us the impression of a woman 
of special intellectual instincts; but justice is hardly done here to  
the excellent sense - le bon sens  is something different from our 
plain "common - sense" - which sufficed to make the twenty years of 
her Port - Royal life harmonise so satisfactorily with the three - score 
or thereabouts that had preceded them.  After all, if the truth were 
confessed, the art of making few mistakes should he allowed to 
count for something in the supreme function of tenir un salon.
        The application of the moral which Mrs. Gaskell drew from 
the more or less august example of Victor Cousin's type - and 
perhaps from one which she had nearer to hand in that of her 
favourite Parisian friend and hostess, Madame Mohl - is altogether 
felicitous.  Here her "good sense," and her sense of fun, could work 
together in perfect harmony.  Her precepts, and the impression 
(which stands in need of no biographical verification) that she was 
in the habit of carrying out these precepts in practice, are quite 
irresistible.  The essay (as Elia would have designated it) on 
Company Manners may perhaps induce a younger generation to 
believe that, given a pleasant hostess, there was such a thing as 
pleasant society even in the "earlier" Victorian age; though the 
dogmatics of Walker's Original on the subject of good dinners were 
already beginning to be forgotten, and the flood of enlightenment 
as to the secret of cutting all social "functions" short had not yet set 

        With Lizzie Leigh, and other Tales were also reprinted, in ~ 
the two sketches of homely Manchester life, respectively entitled 
Bessy's Troubles at Home and Hand and Heart, which, forming 
admirable counterparts to one another, effectively enforce the 
supreme lesson of unselfishness.  They must have proved 
satisfactory to the simple and youthful readers for whom they were 
doubtless intended, and who were, according to their kind, good 
judges of what comes home, and of what falls wide of the mark.  
For us elders the charm of these little tales, the latter in particular, 
lies in their natural piety.

June, 1906

(Provided by Souhei Yamada and Mitsuharu Matsuoka, Nagoya University, Japan, on 17 January 2002.)

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