GREAT writers, even if like Mrs. Gaskell exceptionally free from the 
habit of self - imitation, are rarely unlike themselves; but no 
pretence need be made that there is any special kind of unity in the 
contents of the present volume.  Indeed, one of its attractions will 
probably be found in the stimulating diversity of the intellectual 
interests which it shows its writer to have possessed, and in the 
fresh imaginative power with which she here finds fit and natural 
expression for all of them in turn. These tales range in their themes 
from the cloud - laden spheres of tragedy and weird mystery to the 
gentle tranquillity of the domestic idyll; their characters and 
incidents are gathered in from the past and from the present; and 
their scenes are laid in the remote mountainvalleys of Wales and 
Lancashire, in the troubled streets of revolutionary Paris, and in the 
green seclusion of rural England.  I do not know whether, like 
Steele when superscribing the miscellaneous section of his 
contributions to The Tatler, Mrs. Gaskell might have dated all these 
tales "from my own apartment"; but, even had not most of them 
professed to have been told "round the sofa," they would all alike 
remain instinct with the human kindness and sympathy which 
were part of herself, and of the atmosphere breathed by her in her 
home life. The frontispiece of the present volume, not 
inappropriately I think, recalls the centre of that life, the drawing - 
room at 84, Plymouth Grove, where more than one of the stories 
here reprinted may have found their earliest readers, and where 
their writer may have first welcomed the clear - sighted criticisms of 
a watchful affection.  Even to those of us who were admitted to the 
hospitality of that drawing - room in later years its kindly and 
inspiring associations seemed continuous: may they long remain 
        All the tales included in this volume were first published as 
contributions to periodical literature.  My Lady Ludlow appeared in 
Household Words from June 19 to September 25, 1858; and in the 
same journal had been previously printed, An Accursed Race 
(August 25, 1855), Half a Lifetime Ago (October 6, 13, and 20, 
1855), and The Poor Clare (December 13 to 27, 1855). The Doom of 
the Griffiths appeared in Harper's Magazine in 1858, and The Half - 
Brothers in The Dublin University Magazine, in November of the 
same year. Finally, The Manchester Marriage seems to have been 
first printed in Littell's Living Age, a paper published at Boston, 
U.S.A., in 1859.  In that year all the tales included in the present 
volume, with the exception of Mr. Harrison's Confessions and The 
Manchester Marriage, were collected together by their authoress 
into a single volume, which was published by Messrs. Sampson Low 
and Co., under the title of Round the Sofa, with the "prologue" and 
"links" here reprinted. The literary device of which Mrs. Gaskell 
thus made use has commended itself to the tellers of stories from 
the days of Apuleius - and no doubt from far earlier days than his - to 
those of Boccaccio and Chaucer; and again from theirs to the days of 
Charles Dickens, who worked it with a will, and perhaps rather 
overworked it, though both "gods" and "columns" may be trusted to 
provide against its extinction. In this form the tales in question 
have been repeatedly reprinted. As early as 1860 there appeared a 
French translation, by Mme. H. Loreau, under the, of course, 
inevitable title of Autour du Sofa - which suggests the name of a 
once famous book, the Voyage autour de ma Chambre, by a man of 
genius, X. de Maistre.
        Although the general idea of the framework of Round the Sofa 
could lay no claim to novelty, a certain biographical interest 
attaches to the particular form invented for it with ready tact by 
Mrs. Gaskell. It will be remembered that in her younger days, when 
a girl of eighteen or nineteen years of age, she spent a winter at 
Edinburgh; and nothing could have been more felicitous than the 
way in which she utilised this transient experience for her present 
purpose.  Of course it is the old Edinburgh of which she speaks - the 
Edinburgh of some three - quarters of a century ago, though a good 
many of its old - fashioned ways survived after one of those 
quarters had passed, and some may survive even yet, together with 
the incomparable beauty of the city, the greatness of its University, 
and the ancient odours of the Canongate.  Most things on the 
southern side must have seemed beautiful in 1830 to the young 
visitor, whose marble counterfeit remains as a memento of one 
beautiful sight there was to be seen in the Scottish capital that 
winter; but her opportunities of enlarging her experience of the 
world must still have been limited.  Mrs. Dawson's Monday 
evenings, we learn, were of a quite unpretentious kind; but the 
young stranger who does duty as preludist confesses that "if it had 
been to spend an evening at the dentist's, I believe I should have 
welcomed the invitation, so weary was I of the nights in our 
lodgings." And, indeed, Edinburgh householders used to have a way 
of secluding their establishments which, as I well remember, 
rendered them ideal localities in which to prepare for an 
examination, for an unobserved exit from this life. Equally true to 
one's remembrances of old Edinburgh and some aspects of its 
"society" are the figures of Mr. Sperano, the Italian exile and 
teacher of his native tongue, and of the wife of Mr. Preston, the 
Westmorland squire - not Mr. Preston himself - who had come to the 
northern Athens for the education of their numerous children.
        The story of My Lady Ludlow, far the longest of those 
contained in the present volume, only just, as it seems to me, 
misses making good its claim to rank among the more important 
works of its writer.  Mrs. Gaskell was strongly attracted to old - 
world figures like that of the high - bred and high - spirited, but at 
heart God - fearing and humble, chatelaine of this pathetic tale. 
Somewhere - I think in a letter to Dickens - she writes that she would 
find pleasure in describing the life of a country squire of many 
ancestors and acres; and in My Lady Ludlow she found a figure 
exactly to her taste. "Very small of stature, and very upright," this 
quaint but commanding little personage in the great lace cap, black 
silk mode gown and quilted lavender petticoat, with her great gold - 
headed cane, more for dignity than for use, has walked straight out 
of the gilt frame round her portrait by Romney or Hoppner into our 
story. It is she, not the late Earl, her husband, who spent so much of 
her income on improving his Scotch estates, or his successor, the 
diplomatist absentee - the last of their nine children, whom she is to 
survive - that holds sway at Hanbury Court, and in the village of 
which she esteems herself the "liege lady"; to her both estate and 
supremacy come by right of inheritance, and she has identified 
herself with the traditions and the duties of place and position for 
good and all.  She had at one time been lady of honour to good 
Queen Charlotte, but had hardly more in common with that 
admirable, though rather insipid, mother of a very large family, 
than had the excellent Medlicott with the formidable Schwellenberg 
of Fanny Burney's Diary. The character of Lady Ludlow is drawn 
with great skill and delicacy, and even tenderness; if it fails in 
completely carrying away - or, as the phrase is, "convincing" - the 
reader, the cause may probably be found in the disproportion 
between My Lady's educational theories and general social 
philosophy, the origin which she ascribes to them, and the process 
by which they are finally uprooted. These factors may alike be 
necessary for the purposes of the story, which as such cannot be 
said to be very well or evenly constructed; and (what is of greater 
moment) they are, it must be conceded, all brought into action by 
means of the very best scene in the whole story. The arraignment 
of little Harry Gregson, the gipsy poacher's son, who, to My Lady's 
horror, has been secretly taught reading and writing, and on the 
principle - 

"Please, my lady, I always hearken when I hear folk talking secrets; 
but I mean no harm" - 

has possessed himself of the contents of a letter entrusted to him 
for delivery, is one of the most irresistible, and at the same time 
one of the subtlest, things in modern fiction - I will not say in 
educational literature I  But though thus set in motion, the 
mechanism does not work with the consummate ease which in 
general is second nature to Mrs. Gaskell.  Lady Ludlow's prejudices, 
as Dryden said of Jeremy Collier's strictures, were "urged a step too 
far"; the narrative by which she seeks to justify them has 
obviously no very close connexion with them; and we know that 
she will get rid of them in spite of it - or rather, without any 
reference to it.
        We shall probably not err in concluding that in this story Mrs. 
Gaskell either attempted too much, or allowed herself insufficient 
space and time for harmonising all that she attempted.  It is not, of 
course, that the reader is unwilling, on the pretext of Lady Ludlow's 
desire to point a moral, to be taken away from worthy Mr. Gray and 
his pastoral troubles, into the midst of the "Terror" of the French 
Revolution.  Carlyle's marvellous book had impressed Mrs. Gaskell 
as it impressed Dickens, whose singularly powerful Tale of Two 
Cities, curiously enough, made its appearance in Household Words 
in the year following on that of the publication of My Lady Ludlow 
in the same journal. And the details of this thrilling episode are 
elaborated with the care never absent from Mrs. Gaskell's literary 
excursions into French life, past or present.  But the story of 
Clement and Virginie de Crequy remains an episode only; and we 
have hardly turned the page, when we are asked to interest 
ourselves once more in the vicissitudes of the Hanbury estate and 
its agency, and in the oddities of Miss Galindo, with the history of 
their raison d'etre.  We are again quite ready to do so; for Miss 
Galindo, whose eccentricity is not quite in the line of humorous 
creation most congenial to Mrs. Gaskell, is, notwithstanding, a true 
bit of humanity; but we are obliged to confess to ourselves that the 
varied interest, the swift play of humour, and the intensity of 
feeling which mark this interesting story, fail to make up in sum for 
its chief defect - a want of balance in its construction, discernible in 
the midst of its many and characteristic beauties.

        The second contribution to the Hexameron, Round the Sofa, is 
the paper entitled An Accursed Race. It purports to have been 
prepared for the (Edinburgh) Philosophical Society; and, inasmuch 
as the author, Mr. Dawson, was an old and respected fellow - citizen, 
it no doubt there received a less chilling welcome than that with 
which the august society in question used to chasten the elation of 
young lecturers invited to address it.  Mr. Dawson's lecture had 
been "in a great measure compiled from a French book, published 
by one of the Academies" - very possibly from Francisque Michel's 
Histoire des races maudites de la France et d'Espagne (2 vols., Paris, 
1847). The researches of which so luminous and interesting an 
abstract is given in Mrs. Gaskell's sketch were, however, materially 
supplemented by the publication, in 1876, of M. V. de Rochas's 
work on Les Parias de France et d'Espagne (Cagots et Bohemiens); 
which was in its turn summarised in an excellent article by M. L. 
Louis - Lande in the Revue des Deux Mondes (vol. xxv., 1878).  M. de 
Rochas, at the time an active member of a young scientific society 
at Pau, had taken a hint from an eighteenth century savant named 
Palasson, and had brought a careful personal physiological enquiry 
to bear upon a problem which antiquarian learning had hitherto 
failed to settle satisfactorily. Thus, while Mr. Dawson and Mrs. 
Gaskell, following their authorities, seem to regard the explanation 
that the Cagots were originally lepers as merely one of several 
more or less plausible theories proposed by way of accounting for 
the widespread persecution of this unfortunate race during many 
centuries, there can now be no doubt but that there is no other 
admissible solution of the question. This is not the place in which to 
attempt to explain the distinctions drawn by modern medical 
science between leprosy proper, the loathsome disease of common 
occurrence in Western Europe in the earlier Middle Ages, and the 
mere traditions of that disease which by descent or "equivocal 
symptoms" clung to large bodies of population free from the actual 
disease itself. Such were the Cagots or Agotes of Bearn, Navarre, 
and Aragon, the Gafets or Gahets of Guienne, and the Cacoux or 
Caqueux of Brittany. The difficulty (if there is such a thing as 
difficulty in the diversions of etymology) as to the derivation of 
these names, I must - though unconscious of superstitious restraints - 
decline from so much as approaching; but I will take leave to cite a 
single sentence from M. Louis - Lande, which would, I think, have 
commended itself to Mrs. Gaskell, and which will explain what to 
some readers of her admirable paper might seem a strange 
application of a blessed name to an "accursed race."  If the solution 
advocated by the French reviewer is the true one, then - 

"The name of chrestiaa, chrestian, chrestien is nothing else than a 
charitable euphemism for designating lepers - in the same way as 
frere malau (frere malade), or, better still, as ladre, an abbreviation 
of Lazare (Lazarus). Lepers were called pauperes Christi, pauperes 
Sancti Lazari - in the vulgar tongue, les pauvres du Christ, les 
pauvres de Saint Ladre; and, if gradually the one word ladres came 
to be used by them, there is no reason why chrestian or chrestien 
should not have alike been an abbreviation of the other formula, les 
pauvres du Christ. The term Christiannerie was certainly employed 
to signify a hospital or community of lepers, together with the 
terms maladrerie and mezellerie (from the old French mezel 
[Anglice: 'measel'], a leper."

        The essence of Mrs. Gaskell's account of An Accursed Race 
remains unaffected by any additional light that may have been 
thrown upon its details by historical or linguistic enquiry. As she 
says at the beginning of her paper, we may not "have been so bad 
as our Continental friends" - she might have added, especially those 
of the Latin race - in the way of persecution. But, as she likewise 
says, we too "have our prejudices;" and she was herself well fitted, 
by the associations of her life and by the serene humanity of her 
nature, to hold up to the abhorrence of English readers an awful 
example of that intolerance from which few, if any, nations have 
refrained, and from which hardly a single creed has consistently 
sought to keep its adherents free.

        Little or nothing need be said by way of introduction to any of 
the three tales which follow, alike instinct with imaginative force, 
and alike tinged with a melancholy difficult to resist in treating of 
human beings at issue with their destiny. The scene of The Doom of 
the Griffiths is laid in a gloomy valley in North Wales, running 
down from fir - woods, seemingly impenetrable, to the mist - 
shrouded vicinity of the sea.  Here is enacted in pursuance of a 
curse ascribed to the half - legendary times of the great chieftain 
who "could summon spirits from the vasty deep," a homely 
OEdipodean tragedy of. half - conscious crime and of woe 
unutterable. To my mind, however, Half a Lifetime Ago, which 
plays in the midst of scenery consecrated to so many of us by 
associations of which Mrs. Gaskell's love of it forms part, exhibits a 
far more powerful, and at the same time a far more attractive, 
aspect of her genius.  Susan Dixon, the Westmorland "Stateswoman 
" - I wonder whether "her house is yet to be seen on the Oxenfell 
road, between Skelwith and Coniston" ? - is also called upon to 
struggle against her fate; but the difficulty which she has to face, 
and which she overcomes at the cost of a broken heart, is that of 
the old conflict between duty (rightly or wrongly seen) and 
affection (worthily or unworthily bestowed). The conflict is a real 
one, and the figure of Susan Dixon that of a true and noble - hearted 
woman; while the solution which this pathetic tragedy finds is in 
harmony with the eternal laws of justice and mercy that "banish 
the ghosts from the haunted hearth."

        The third, and much the longest, of these stories, The Poor 
Clare, carries us still nearer home, to scenes most familiar to the 
authoress, and naturally haunted by her imagination. The north - 
east of Lancashire - and especially that part of it which adjoins the 
Craven district, the home proper of the Lancashire witches of 
Elizabethan days, and which includes the so - called Trough of 
Bolland or Bowland, where lay Starkey Manor - house is, or used to 
be, a strangely isolated part of the county. The late William Arnold, 
who, as I see from his recently published memoir, was fond of 
exploring the Trough (he compares its name to that of the Trouee 
de Belfort), speaks of it as "the least known district of all England." 
The gentry hereabouts long comprised (and probably still 
comprises) a considerable Roman Catholic element. Stonyhurst, 
mentioned in the story, owes its origin as an important seat of 
Catholic higher education to this circumstance.  As a matter of 
course, in the days to which the historiographer of The Poor Clare 
looks back, Jacobitism largely prevailed here, as it did in so many 
parts of Lancashire.  No locality could, therefore, have been more 
appropriately chosen for a story in which faith and superstition, 
bitter hatred and passionate devotion, are the "antithetically mix'd" 
        Bridget Fitzgerald, however, the unhappy mother whose 
mysterious sin with its wonderful expiation is the real theme of this 
tragic tale, is Irish - born, and dies as Sister Magdalen in the 
Antwerp convent of the Poor Clares.  I cannot tell what suggested to 
Mrs. Gaskell the invention of the striking close of her story. The 
Poor Clares - the second Order of St. Francis, called the Povere Donne, 
or, in French, Clarisses - in the second quarter of the fifteenth 
century returned, especially in Flanders and in France, to the 
unmitigated rule of their foundress, whose rigours towards herself 
her very ensample, St. Francis, sought to restrict; and, even at the 
present day, I believe, much of the severity of that rule is 
maintained. That during any troubles in the Austrian Netherlands, 
at Antwerp or elsewhere, the Sisters should have enjoyed the 
respect of both the insurgents and the Austrian soldiery, is quite in 
accordance with probability; but the particular occasion of these 
troubles, somewhere towards the middle of the eighteenth century, 
is left conveniently vague. Though the French Revolution probably 
swept away their convent at Antwerp, as it did most of their houses 
elsewhere, some of these, I learn, survived in Austria;  their 
activity in Ireland (where they are known as admirable lace - 
makers) is well known; and a few of their communities are to be 
found in England. Among these is one at Levenshulme, within a 
quarter of an hour's walk from Plymouth Grove, Manchester; and it 
is quite possible that this circumstance may have suggested to Mrs. 
Gaskell the form given by her to the final episode of her story.

        The last of the Round the Sofa tales is another adventure of 
the Fells, in which, as in The Old Nurse's Story, a snowstorm plays - 
this time a tragic - part. The Half - Brothers is endeared to those best 
acquainted with the heights and depths of Mrs. Gaskell's nature, 
because this story seems to them to typify the spirit of self - 
sacrifice which pervaded her life.  It illustrates a famous passage in 
Thomas a Kempis (Imitation of Christ, chap. xlix., sections 4 and 5) 
which she was accustomed to cite with peculiar solemnity - the 
passage beginning, "That which pleaseth others shall go well 
forward; that which pleaseth thee shall not speed," etc. Herself a 
stranger to the passion of envy - like the sister - fury of jealousy, one 
of the chief enemies of all human happiness - she knew what it 
meant to recognise its approach, and to set a firm foot on its 
monstrous neck.
        The difference between sentimentalism and a pathos which 
wells up resistlessly by the side of a humour equally spontaneous, 
and equally true, was never more clearly shown than in the 
delightful little story which follows in the present volume, and for 
which, in its way, no praise could be excessive.  It should be noted 
that Mr. Harrison's Confessions does not appear here in its proper 
place of chronological sequence; but it is only quite recently that 
the indefatigable bibliographer in - chief of Mrs. Gaskell's 
publications has discovered that the story made its first appearance 
in a monthly magazine, entitled The Ladies' Companion, at as early 
a date as February, March, and April, 1851. Mr. Harrison's 
Confessions, although the story first became widely known when 
reprinted by Messrs. Chapman & Hall with Lizzie Leigh, and other 
Tales, in 1855 was therefore anterior in date of publication, and 
doubtless also in date of production, to Cranford, of which a 
scientific literary biographer would very probably incline to 
classify it as a "Vorstudie."  Duncombe is manifestly Knutsford - and 
I am glad that the volume of Mrs. Gaskell's works containing her 
earliest description of the little Cheshire town and its life should be 
illustrated by a drawing of the house which was the home of Mrs. 
Gaskell during so many years. The charming drawing of Mrs. 
Lumb's house included in this volume is by Mr. Watt, to whose 
kindness this edition thus owes a twofold debt. The old doctor in 
the story (another variety of the profession of which Mrs. Gaskell 
had so early a knowledge) tells his young partner - 

"You will find it a statistical fact, but five - sixths of our householders 
of a certain rank in Duncombe are women. We have widows and old 
maids in rich abundance. In fact, my dear sir, I believe that you 
and I are almost the only gentlemen in the place - Mr. Bullock [the 
lawyer], of course, excepted" - 

and the entire little story is not less unmistakably in the Cranford 
manner so familiar to us all.  Yet the merits of the earlier 
production are such as to be perfectly self - supporting.  Here and 
there its comedy is just a little broader than that of Cranford; and 
the situation at the height of the plot, when the hero is surrounded 
by ladies who, or whose parents, have marked him for their own, is 
pure farce. The diction, too, to say nothing of the action, of Mr. John 
Marsland of Guy's, and a phrase or two at the opening of the story, 
betray a rather conventional conception of a happily extinct species 
of medical student.  On the other hand, there is in this charming 
little story a touch of the influence of Dickens at his very best and 
tenderest - in other words, an unconscious remembrance of some of 
the exquisite love - making in that most irresistible of all English 
works of fiction, David Copperfield.  But the original genius of Mrs. 
Gaskell fully asserts itself in this early effort; nowhere has she 
drawn a sweeter picture than that as seen through the door - frame, 
of Sophy teaching her little brother the alphabet at the sunny 
garden - window; nowhere has she more pathetically touched a 
chord which vibrates through so much of her writing, than in the 
passage telling of little Walter's death - 

"The street was as quiet as ever; not a shadow was changed; for it 
was not yet four o'clock. But during that night a soul had departed."

        The later passages, describing the anxiety of Sophy's lover for 
Sophy herself, are nature itself in their truthfulness; and, though 
the assortment of wedding - bells with which the story comes to an 
end is almost portentous in its multiplicity, Mr. Harrison's 
Confessions are 'not too long by a line - a rare thing with 

        The last of the short stories reprinted in this volume takes us 
into the humdrum streets of Manchester and suburban London; but 
the tragic tale here unfolded is one which has exercised the 
imagination of more than one writer, though to most English 
readers it is best known as the story of Enoch Arden. Tennyson's 
poem, it should be remembered, was published in 1864; Mrs. 
Gaskell's story of The Manchester Marriage was first printed in 
1859, in a Boston (U.S.A.) journal bearing the name of Littell's 
Living Age.  (It was reprinted in this country, in 1860, with Right at 
Last and other tales, by Messrs. Sampson Low).  On first reading 
Enoch Arden, Mrs. Gaskell was at once struck by the resemblance in 
plot between the poem and her story. But in the homely Lancashire 
version of the theme elaborated by the great poet, when already in 
the decline of his creative power, with a refined delicacy of thought 
and a fluid elegance of diction beneath which the throb of human 
passion remains only just perceptible, the manner of treatment is 
as original as the surroundings are characteristic.  Mrs. Gaskell 
contrives to furnish her story not only with two heroes - the 
husband and his innocent rival, the latter an admirable type of the 
Lancashire man who had been too busy all his days to know that he 
had any tenderness in his nature - but also with a heroine. This 
heroine is not Mrs. Openshaw, for whom, as for Enoch Arden's 
Annie, we hardly know whether to be sorry or not - though even 
this is not her fault - but her Lancashire servant Norah, one of those 
embodiments of self - sacrificing faithfulness whom the authoress 
loved to draw.

        It has not been thought expedient to seek permission to 
reprint in this edition two prefaces written by Mrs. Gaskell for 
books produced by other authors.  But they signally illustrate that 
variety and vivacity of her numerous interests, to which the 
present volume bears exceptional testimony.  In 1857 she edited, 
by arrangement with the authoress, Miss Maria S. Cummins, well 
known to many readers of many generations by her story of The 
Lamplighter, a production of the same class, bearing the title of 
Mabel Vaughan.  The preface (which somehow reads more 
comfortably at the present day than it may have read half a 
century ago) dwells with genial warmth on the closeness of "our 
cousinly connexion with the Americans" - in our pride in the noble 
books which they write, and in the great things which they achieve.  
Neither the authoress of Uncle Tom's Cabin, nor the American 
sailors who brought home the Resolute to our shores, are forgotten; 
and "though I may be thought like the Tanner in the old fable who 
recommended leather as the best means of defence for a besieged 
city," the writer has no scruple in recommending a free interchange 
of English and American novels as an excellent way by which 
nations may become at home with one another.  Mrs. Gaskell suited 
the action to the need; for it has been seen how two of the tales 
reprinted in this volume made their first appearance in American 
journals.  Of less intimate interest is a preface written by Mrs. 
Gaskell to an English translation of Colonel Vecehj's Garibaldi at 
Caprera, published in 1862. It is a picture of the great Liberator's 
home - life amidst his family and friends, and was intended to 
benefit the funds of the girls' schools which an association of ladies 
at Turin were seeking, at the instigation of Garibaldi, to establish at 
Naples. Unless I mistake, the subsequent prosperity of these schools 
owed much to the exertions of Mrs. Salis - Schwabe of Manchester, a 
friend through whom Mrs.Gaskell may have been first interested in 
the wise and generous thought which led to their being instituted.

August, 1906.

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

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