"NATURE and Art - Art and Nature," wrote Goethe more oracular on 
this occasion in manner than in matter, "should be one and the 
same thing on the stage." And surely, if his added explanation be 
accepted, the axiom holds good, not only of the theatre, but of 
creative literature.  For when "Art succeeds in transmuting itself 
into Nature," then "Nature fully asserts herself in Art."
        There cannot be any dispute as to Mrs. Gaskell having in 
Cousin Phillis among all her shorter stories approached most nearly 
to literary perfection; while the human sympathies of many a 
generation of readers to come may be trusted to, respond 
unreservedly to the direct appeal made to them in this simple tale.  
Thus Art and Nature have here, whether consciously or not matters 
little, joined in achieving that triumph which is so commonly 
marred by some defect, some oversight, some misapprehension, in 
the one direction or the other. In a diamond such as Cousin Phillis, 
"of purest ray serene," there is no flaw; and I do not know how 
better to describe what seems to me the rare felicitousness of this 
exquisite production.  It is at the same time an admirable e~ ample 
of a species of fiction in which Mrs. Gaskell was one of the first 
among English writers to excel; nor has the "short story," in which, 
though the canvas is comparatively small in extent, room is left for 
a delineation and working - out of character to which the "Christmas 
story" of the Dickensian type made no pretence, reached, quite the 
same height of success in any other English hands.
        But it may be worth while to recall how simple were the 
materials of which Mrs. Gaskell made use in this beautiful little 
work, and out of which she composed one of the loveliest prose 
idylls in our literature. The freedom with which she has combined 
these materials is in itself a sign of the happy ease of her 
workmanship.  Thus there can be no doubt as to the original 
locality - northern, but with no strongly marked northern 
characteristics - of the scene in which the story plays. There is no 
mystery about the Hope Farm at Heathbridge, described so 
faithfully both in its unchanging indoor domesticity and in a series 
of outdoor pictures that seem to bring the seasons themselves home 
to us - corn - harvest following on hay - making, and apple - gathering 
on corn harvest. The Heathbridge of Cousin Phillis is Sandlebridge 
in Cheshire, within easy reach of Knutsford, for which "Eltham" may 
be here supposed to do duty; and the Hope Farm is, with 
differences, the house owned by Mrs. Gaskell's grandfather, Mr. 
Samuel Holland, the home of her mother, familiar to herself for 
many years, and, again with differences, described in Cranford as 
Woodley, the residence of Mr. Holbrook, who quoted Tennyson 
under the cedar - tree, as the minister quoted Vergil in the light of 
the sunset.  Sandlebridge had come into the possession of the 
Holland family through the marriage, in 1718, of John Holland to 
Mary, daughter of Peter Colthurst, whose family had held the estate 
of Sandlebridge for several generations.  It is noticeable that in 
Cousin Phillis particular mention is made of the "two great gates 
between pillars, crowned with stone balls, for a state entrance to 
the flagged path leading up to the front - door " - the door which, 
being " handsome and all for show," was by nonconformist wit 
dubbed "the rector."  Beyond a doubt these were the identical balls, 
from one to the other of which the great Clive, on a visit to 
Sandlebridge in his thoughtless youth, had been wont to jump, 
greatly to the alarm of the Holland household.
        On the other hand, it is difficult to resist the impression that 
in the minister - farmer Holman, who was master at the Hope Farm, 
there are some very interesting reminiscences of Mrs. Gaskell's own 
father, William Stevenson. He was at one time a Unitarian minister; 
and, after quitting the ministry, devoted himself to agricultural 
pursuits, and became an authority on many subjects connected with 
them.  As has been said elsewhere in this edition, he seems to have 
been a man of much originality; and it was the combination of 
intellectual power and practical good sense with deep religious 
feeling which evidently had strongly impressed itself upon his 
daughter. This combination came home to her inmost nature; nor 
has there ever been a more striking picture drawn than this of a 
man desirous of putting religion into the whole of this life.  But the 
humorous aspect of these blended qualities also struck her; not only 
does he pray for the cattle and live creatures at evening "exercise, " 
but, while still on his knees, he orders John to see that the sick cow 
has her warm mash.  And, again, the minister (though his is not the 
kind of faith to be sapped by doubts) is unable quite to ignore the 
difference between himself and his brethren, even when, at the 
time of his daughter's dangerous illness, they come to console him 
(not without references to the Book of Job). In the grand outlines of 
his patriarchal personality, minister Holman is like a figure from 
Hermann and Dorothea; but the pulse of human emotion beats 
vehemently in him, and his love for his child is strong enough to 
unman him.
        What thoughts of others near and dear to her entered into 
Mrs. Gaskell's conception of further personages in the little drama 
that ran its course at the Hope Farm, who can tell? Cousin Phillis 
herself is a creation of indescribable charm; but, lovely as it is, 
there comes to it an irradiation which seems to make it lovelier 
than itself, while all the time we are but too well aware that this 
vision of love will prove delusive. The birds, we know, are the 
friends of poets, and they have rendered good service in poetic 
literature from the days of Dante and Chaucer onwards.  But when 
have they, without leave asked or granted, ventured to make 
melody in a printed page, like that in which they alternate with 
sweet Phillis in her hour of happiness?
        "I never saw her so lovely, or so happy. I think she hardly 
knew why she was so happy, all the time. I can see her now, 
standing under the budding branches of the grey trees, over which 
a tinge of green seemed to be deepening day after day, her sun - 
bonnet fallen back on her neck, her hands full of delicate wood - 
flowers, quite unconscious of my gaze, but intent on sweet mockery 
of some bird in neighbouring bush or tree. She had the art of 
warbling, and replying to the notes of different birds, and knew 
their song, their habits, and ways, more accurately than any one 
else I ever knew. She had often done it at my request, the spring 
before; but this year she really gurgled, and whistled, and warbled, 
just as they did, out of the very fulness and joy of her heart. She 
was more than ever the very apple of her father's eye; her mother 
gave her both her own share of love and that of the dead child who 
had died in infancy."

        "Look," says Shakspere, "where the painter would surpass the 
life!"  It may be so; but out of the fulness of the heart it cometh; 
and the last touch, too, in the enchanting passage which I have 
quoted, could not be omitted.  No human joy, not even that of 
contemplating a creature, a child, of such exquisite loveliness, but 
brings with it some remembrance, some regret.
        But the charm of this story is a homely charm; all its 
characters, with the single exception of Holdsworth, whom a fatal 
chance brings into this scene of peace to disturb it, partake of this 
simplicity - a simplicity of manners and of that which lies at the root 
of manners. The intellectual curiosity of Phillis - who reads Dante 
like Margaret in North and South - is as unaffected as her mother's 
complete lack of it Betty's affection is as unvarnished as that of 
Sally in Ruth, though in such a household as the minister's she 
instinctively "knows her place," and administers the naked truth 
only to so defenceless an offender as Cousin Paul. Poor Paul himself, 
the narrator of the story, is as delightfully natural as any of the 
characters in it.  His discovery of Phillis's maiden love, is told with 
simple delicacy and his "tactical" blunder in revealing to her 
Holdsworth's affection is so perfectly consistent with his 
sympathetic point of view as to be altogether excusable.
        Thus the plot, itself quite simple, unfolds itself without jarring 
on us at any stage of its progress; and I do not remember any 
instance of so delicate a treatment of so tender a theme, unless it be 
the exquisite little play, Carmosine, by Alfred de Musset, treating 
the same story as that on which George Eliot founded her poem 
How Lisa loved the King.
        And so, even the ending of Paul's narrative, like the whole of 
its previous course, leaves the harmony of our sympathies 
unbroken.  What is the actual end, we do not know, though 
something has been said to suggest a fear. The idea of a "last scene 
long years after," suggested to Mrs. Gaskell, was (fortunately, I 
think) not entertained by her.  There might have been a 
melancholy charm in the picture of a beneficent womanhood 
assuaging the melancholy remembrance of a broken youth, and 
suggesting what Mrs. Gaskell, half - humorously, half - tenderly, 
describes as a sort of moral "T is better to have loved and lost, 
than never to have loved at all.'" But it is quite enough that we 
should know what Paul tells us of the time when Phillis was slowly, 
slowly recovering.  "I sometimes grew desponding, and feared that 
she would never be what she had been before; no more she has, in 
some ways."
        Cousin Phillis. first appeared in the Cornhill Magazine, from 
November, 1863, to February, 1864; and was reprinted with "other 
Tales" by Messrs. Smith, Elder & Co. in November, 1865, with three 
illustrations by Du Maurier. A French translation, by F. D. Forgues, 
which first appeared in 1867, went through several editions; that 
published in 1879 with a version of A Dark Night's Work was 
accompanied by a very appreciative study on Elisabeth Gaskell et 
ses Ouvrages by Mme. Louise Sw. Belloc.

        Lois the Witch, which first appeared in All the Year Round 
from October 8th to 22nd, 1859, and was first reprinted in a 
volume entitled Right at Last, and other Tales, published by Messrs. 
Sampson, Low, and Co. in 1860, belongs to a date rather earlier than 
what may be described as the latest group of Mrs. Gaskell's literary 
productions. Among the characteristics of that group are a rare 
finish of style, and an exquisite blending of delicate humour with 
deep pathos, which I think Thirlwall, who was so greatly impressed 
by Sylvia's Lovers, would not have hesitated to qualify as partaking 
of that "irony" which he traced in the serenest of Attic tragedians. 
Of this there are but few instances in the story, not less painful 
than powerful, of Lois the Witch. The authoress seems to fall back 
upon that idea of fate or destiny, which makes its presence felt in 
more than one of her minor stories, and against the oppressiveness 
of which she, like many great authors before and after her - I do not 
scruple to say, like the great Greek tragedians themselves - found it 
so difficult to contend. "Human nature," truly observes William 
Arnold, in a note on what he terms the prevalence of this motive in 
Mrs. Gaskell's writings, "rebels against undeserved misfortune, and 
finds it hard to swallow even in art. The great artist, nevertheless, 
makes us swallow what is so difficult, and shows us an inner, 
further harmony." This harmony, which is fully evolved in Sylvia's 
Lovers, and tenderly indicated in Cousin Phillis, is not to be found 

in Lois the Witch. The cruelty of poor Lois's doom, unmitigated 
except by her own charity in the hour of death towards a fellow - 
sufferer, rests upon us unrelieved; and, sad as the story is, nothing 
in it is so pitiful as the formal apology of her persecutors and the 
thrice - repeated lament of her broken - hearted lover:
"All this will not bring my Lois to life again, or give me back the 
hope of my youth." Yet here, too, Mrs. Gaskell cannot forget where 
all contradictions are reconciled, and all sorrows healed; for Lois's 
true lover is most true to her, and to the spirit in which she 
suffered, when he prays for forgiveness for those that brought her 
to her cruel death.
        In itself, the construction of this story is both even and skilful, 
and the authoress acquits herself with remarkable success of the 
task which she had set herself of making truth seem probable.  In 
the whole ghastly and grotesque chapter of that history of human 
delusions whose final volume still seems so far distant - in the whole 
of the annals of witchcraft - no passages are so melancholy and so 
humiliating as the latest.
                But the problems which here suggest themselves cannot 
be discussed on the present occasion. More considerations than one 
help to explain the appalling fact of its having been at the close of 
the Middle Ages, in the very period of the dawn of the New 
Learning, that one of the most awful and prolonged of all the 
morale epidemics which have ever pervaded Western Europe took 
hold upon us in the shape of a general persecution of witches and 
witchcraft. The Prevalence of this epidemic during the sixteenth 
and a great part of the seventeenth centuries in Protestant 
countries was partly due to the desire of Protestant: divines and 
governments not to fall behind their Catholic neiglibours in meeting 
what was regarded as a common peril, but still more to the control 
which theology had assumed over the minds of men, and the 
formalism - the belief in the letter of the Bible  - into which theology 
seemed to have succeeded in compressing the Christian religion.  In 
England, the belief in witchcraft was, with its terrible practical 
consequences so long as it remained an accepted tenet, specially 
prolonged by a sinister combination of influences - the perverseness 
of a sovereign of King James I.'s intellectual activity, the desire for 
authority which possessed the Church, and the immovable stolidity 
of the judges of the Realm. Even the Great Revolution, which 
overthrew throne and bishops, failed to break down the edifice of 
superstition of which I am speaking; nor was it (as Buckle has 
shown in a Well - known passage of his well - known work) till the 
next generation - the period from the Restoration to the second (or 
"glorious" ) Revolution - that the belief in witchcraft gradually ceased 
to possess the majority of educated Englishmen, and that persons 
charged with this offence found (in Chief Justice Holt) protection on 
the Judicial Bench. But the law against witchcraft passed by 
Parliament in the year of Queen Elizabeth's accession (1559) 
remained on our statute - book till 1736; and there seems no doubt 
that isolated cases of execution for a crime, in whose reality even 
Wesley had not ceased to believe, occurred in England in the early 
years of the eighteenth century.
        Meanwhile, many, though not all, of the Puritan emigrants, 
who during the civil troubles of the previous century had, in order 
to preserve intact their civil and religious freedom, found their way 
across the Atlantic to New England, had taken with them the deadly 
superstition of which we are speaking, and which had so long 
infected the life of the old country.  In the long winters among the 
mysterious forests, in the perilous vicinity of savage races of whose 
own life little was known beyond tales of strange traditions and 
dark practices, an atmosphere must have been created round many 
of the immigrants with which their own inherited superstitions 
readily mingled.  Mrs. Gaskell has herself well described these 
experiences and their effect in an admirable passage of her story, 
illustrating her quick sensitiveness to such historical and social 
phenomena. The terrible experiences of "Philip's War" in 1675 - 6, 
though it had ended with the destruction of the power of the 
Indians in southern New England, had intensified the feelings of 
repugnance which these people inspired; and when war broke out 
between France and England in '1690, the French took large bodies 
of Indians into their pay. In the year 1692, when the witch - finding 
and witch - killing epidemic came to an outbreak at Salem, there 
were other causes of anxiety and' depression - such as visitations of 
the small - pox, and a series of great fires at Boston - which disposed 
the public mind in Massachusetts to give way with special 
readiness to delusive terrors.
        The story of the witchcraft "discoveries" and persecution at 
Salem, all of which belong to the year 1692, may be read in Bryant 
and Gay's Popular History of the United States (vol. ii., 1878), and in 
earlier authorities of which a list is given there.  It will be seen 
from a reference to this narrative with what skill Mrs. Gaskell has 
made use of the suggestions supplied by her historical material. The 
Indian element is there; for it was an old Indian female slave, 
called Tituba, whose tricks first infected some precocious children 
at Salem village with a morbid desire to dabble in the practices of 
sorcery.  In Lois the Witch the motive of the wicked Prudence's 
action is therefore in no sense far - fetched. Other details are worked 
into the progress of the story, without violence being done either to 
its general probability, or to its general agreement with the actual 
course of events. The proceedings against Lois seem more or less 
modelled upon those against Rebecca Nourse, of whom the 
historians say that in the midst of a happy married life she was 
suddenly, because of a business quarrel in which her husband had 
become involved, subjected to an accusation from which there was 
no escape.

        "The children" cried out "one day against Rebecca Nourse; the 
usual display of hysterics, fits, possessions, took place, terrible to 
the overwrought feelings of the spectators. A clergyman, named 
Lawson, delivered a most exciting discourse, which put the 
witchcraft trials upon Scripture grounds and confirmed all minds. A 
blameless life and a sweet demeanour at her trial could not save 
Rebecca. The jury were forced to believe her innocent but were 
sent out till they consented. She went the way of all the rest to 
Witches' Hill."
        Of the one or two historical personages introduced into the 
tale, the redoubtable Dr. Cotton Mather al all events, the author of 
The Wonders of the Invisible World, being an Account of the Trial 
of several Witches, etc." (1693), could have no right to complain of 
the prominence here given to his personality. When Stephen 
Burroughs, one of the victims of the Salem panic, was hanged, 
Cotton Mather stood by, and, "when the people seemed impressed 
by" the "sweet and lofty words" of the condemned man, "explained 
that Satan often transformed himself into an angel of light to 
delude men's souls."  While his distinguished father, Dr. Increase 
Mather (President of Harvard), is stated to have been one of those 
who, as the Salem trials continued, had the courage to declare his 
disbelief in the guilt of the accused, Dr. Cotton Mather never 
flinched, and, when all was over, persisted that, though errors 
might have been, committed on both sides, "which will never be 
understood till the day when Satan shall be bound after another 
manner than he is at this day," yet, "for my own part, I know not 
that ever I have advanced any opinion in the matter of witchcraft, 
but what all the ministers of the Lord that I know of in the world 
whether English or Scotch, or French or Dutch, are of the same 
opinion with me."  Among the Massachusetts justices, whose ill - 
fortune it was to be concerned in these trials, one at least quitted 
the bench rather than go through with them; and of those who "sat 
through the tragedy. . . Judge Sewall. . . afterwards read a 
recantation in the Old South Church, bowed down with mortification 
and sorrow."  This incident is not only mentioned by Mrs. Gaskell, 
but gives occasion for the very tender and touching close of her 
        The authoress of Lois the Witch was thus only too well 
provided with material out of which to shape her story. That such a 
theme should have suggested itself to her for treatment in a 
narrative which would need little adventitious interest to heighten 
its tragic force was natural enough. The supernatural always had a 
strong attraction for Mrs. Gaskell, and her imagination could not fail 
to concern itself with those human delusions which are closely 
connected with the terrors largely fed by an instinctive tendency to 
which her own mind was no stranger.  But, while her sweet 
reasonableness subdued all such fancies, no principle which 
influenced her was stronger than her abhorrence of injustice, and 
no conviction held by her was so much part of herself as the belief, 
that what is most divine in man is the forgiveness of those who sin 
against him.  Very possibly an incident which occurred not many 
years before she wrote Lois the Witch may have first suggested 
such a tale to her. Some time in the early fifties, she was staying 
with her husband in a country - house in Essex, when - early one 
Sunday morning - their host, a county magistrate, was hastily 
summoned to prevent an attempt to bring to her death an old 
woman in a neighbouring village, who was suspected by the 
inhabitants of being a witch. The incident, which is not the less true 
because of its seeming improbability, made a deep impression upon 
Mrs. Gaskell, who frequently made mention of it in her family.  It is 
an interesting illustration of her artistic instinct that Lois, the gentle 
English girl whom across the seas blind chance and blinder 
superstition, egged on by jealousy and malice, turn into a witch and 
put to death as a criminal, is a native not of Puritan Essex, but of a 
quiet little village among the green meadows through which flows 
the silver, glittering Avon, the heart of the royalist west.  To Mrs. 
Gaskell herself that was a country full of remembrances of a happy, 
romantic girlhood; and a touch of personal sympathy seems thus to 
be added to her story of the innocent victim of slanderous tongues 
and more inhuman misbeliefs.

        The volume (Right at Last, and other Tales) in which Lois the 
Witch was first reprinted also contained the tragic story of The 
Crooked Branch, which had made its first appearance in the 1859 
Christmas number of All the Year Round, where it formed part of 
the collective series called The Haunted House under the separate 
title of The Ghost in the Garden Room.  As such, it was reprinted in 
1903 in one of the pretty volumes of Christmas stories from 
Household Words and All the Year Round, edited by Charles 
Dickens; so that the story has led a kind of double life, well suited 
to its original presentment. The' introductory page or "link" to The 
Ghost' in the Garden Room is palpably from the hand of the Editor.
        The dramatic qualities of this story, under whatever name, 
were certain to command immediate interest; nor is it surprising to 
learn that when, on one occasion, it formed the subject of a 
dramatic reading by the late Sir Henry Irving (a great admirer, as I 
am informed, of Mrs. Gaskell's writings), its effect was quite 
extraordinary.  Even Irving's rare power of intensification could 
hardly have added to the pitiful suspense of the final scene of this 
domestic tragedy, the most tragic episode in all Mrs. Gaskell's 
stories; for in A Dark Night's Work the accidental element is 
paramount. The solemn gloom of the catastrophe contrasts very 
effectively with the kindly humour of the opening of the story, in 
which the laconic wooing of Nathan Huntroyd reminds us of that of 
Mr. Openshaw in the Manchester Marriage rather than of that of 
the immortal Mr. Barkis.  An incomparable turn in Nathan's offer of 
his heart and hand and farm - "Wilt like to come? I'll not mislead 
thee.  It's dairy and it might have been arable " - Mrs. Gaskell owed 
to the humour of a friend.  It was taken from a passage in the (then 
unprinted, now only privately printed) Country Conversations, 
admirable transcripts of actual talks with poor people which had 
been read to her in manuscript. The general idea of the story of The 
Crooked Branch, the unspeakable "sharpness" of the anguish caused 
by the thanklessness of a wicked son, is here worked out with far 
stronger emotional force than either in The Moorland Cottage or in 
Ruth.  Mrs. Gaskell very rarely indeed merely repeated herself. 

        Nothing could be more different in tone and manner from the 
preceding stories than the gay and graceful fancy mockingly 
entitled Curious if True.  It delighted the readers of the Cornhill 
Magazine of February, 1860, and was reprinted in 1865 by Messrs. 
Smith, Elder & Co. in a volume named The Grey Woman, and other 
Tales. The title, suggested, to Mrs. Gaskell, by the late Mr. George 
Smith, is extremely happy; as she wrote shortly before the 
publication of Curious if True, "it just makes people have a notion 
that it might be true, which is what is wanted from the beginning." 
The little piece opens with the sober precision of statement 
befitting a descendant of "that sister of Calvin's who married a 
Whittingham, Dean of Durham," to which we are accustomed in 
stories of the supernatural, narrated by Provosts or other 
dignitaries of unimpeachable accuracy.  But we soon find that the 
region into which we are translated is peopled by the harmless 
denizens of fairy - land, and that the fairy - godmother who has 
assembled the ghostly evening - party in the enchanted chateau for 
our delectation, is our old friend Madame D'Aulnoy.  The company 
to whom Mr. Whittingham has the honor of a fleeting introduction, 
Puss - in - Boots, the Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding - hood, and the 
rest, are identified with admirable variety of humour. Hardly any 
one of them, however, is touched off quite so well as the tender - 
hearted widow, who in our own day would probably not have failed 
to produce an "intimate" memoir of her late much misunderstood 
husband - if only from natural sympathy with the colour which his 
name recalls:

        "'Alas! alas!' said she, 'you too accurately describe a miserable 
passage in my life, which has often been represented in a false 
light. The best of husbands ' - here she sobbed, and became slightly 
inarticulate with her grief - 'will sometimes be displeased. I was 
young and curious - he was justly angry with my disobedience - my 
brothers were too hasty - the consequence is, I became a widow.'" 

        From this "interlude of fairies" we return to real life in Right 
at Last, which, as has been only quite recently discovered, was first 
printed in Household Words, November 27, 1858, under the title 
The Sin of a Father, and republished in 1860 with "other Tales" by 
Messrs, Sampson, Low & Co. Right at Last can hardly be described 
as one of Mrs. Gaskell's most successful efforts of its kind; though 
there is no want of fidelity to nature in some of the characters of 
the story, from the rough, kindly professor in familiar Edinburgh to 
the "treasure" of a man - servant, a respectful villain of the Littimer 
type. The plot (in the course of which the dubious liberality of the 
convict father remotely recalls the onerous gifts of Magwitch in 
Great Expectations, of which the publication, it will be remembered, 
did not begin till December, 1860), is not managed with perfect 
consistency; for had the brave Margaret before her marriage 
become aware of her lover's compromising parentage, she could not 
for a time have failed to guess the cause of her husband's moody 
depression.  In any case, she is drawn with verve, and with the 
sympathy due to that muchdiscussed species of courage which, for 
want of a simpler term, we are accustomed to call "moral."  The 
incident of her cleaning her own door - step in the days of small 
means, brought upon her husband and herself by their resolution to 
tell the truth and take the consequences, appears to have been 
borrowed by Mrs. Gaskell from the actual experience of a well - 
known Edinburgh lady. This high - minded wife had encouraged her 
husband as an advocate to plead the cause of one on whom the 
powers that were looked askance; and when he was hereupon 
suddenly involved in professional ruin, she who had been an 
admired beauty of Edinburgh ball - rooms did not scruple to become 
her own housemaid.

        The Grey Woman first appeared in All the Year Round on 
January 5, 12, and 19, 1861, and was reprinted with "other Tales" 
by Messrs. Smith, Elder & Co. in 1865. The mise - en - scene of its 
opening was no doubt suggested to Mrs. Gaskell by the 
remembrance of a happy journey she made in 1858 up the Rhine, 
before a long and happy stay at Heidelberg with her daughters 
Meta and Florence. Two years afterwards, Mrs. Gaskell, with her 
daughters Marianne, Florence, and Julia, again visited Heidelberg, 
where they were lionised by a young English Professor, who was 
there carrying on the researches which have made the name of Sir 
Henry Roscoe famous in the scientific world.  "The mill by the 
Neckar - side" is an admirably - chosen scene of smiling peace and 
prosperity, from which the unhappy Anna Scherer of the tale is 
hurried away into the unspeakable terrors of her early married life. 
The fruitful hills and valleys, and the lighthearted population of the 
Palatinate have, in the eventful course of its history, undergone 
more utter devastation and more terrible sufferings than have 
fallen to the lot of any other part of Germany and its people.
        But the main action of the story of The Grey Woman is laid 
further to the north - west, in that part of France which lies on the 
left bank of the Middle Rhine, and south of the Moselle.  As a 
matter of fact, in the course of the story the miscreants whose evil 
doings are recounted in it are identified with "the savage and 
mysterious band of robbers called the Chauffeurs, who infested all 
the roads leading to the Rhine, with Schinderhannes at their head."
        The annals of brigandage - more especially in the Rhinelands 
and the south - west generally, and in the neighbouring districts of 
the Low Countries and France - form a very curious chapter in the 
history of German civilisation in the eighteenth century.  The 
institution was really a legacy of the Thirty Years' War, after the 
termination of which it had never died out in these and some other 
parts of Germany; but it was revived with the outbreak of 
hostilities between Prussia and France in the days of the Seven 
Years' War, and rose to its height with the advent of the French 
Revolution and the troubles consequent upon it.  I need hardly 
remind the readers of Schiller of the young poet's attempt to infuse 
something like idealism into the hero of The Robbers; and in his less 
known tale of The Criminal because of a lost good - name (Der 
Verbrecher aus verlorener Ehre) there is at least a touch of 
sentiment. Among the leaders or members of the robber - bands 
which towards the close of the century infested the Franco German 
frontier - lands there may have been some whose story, character, or 
manners appealed to the sense of the romantic which at that time 
was so prevalent on both sides of the Rhine. Der bairische Hiesel 
(Matthaeus Klostermann), for instance, whose misdeeds, beginning 
with poaching exploits, and interrupted by successive periods of 
imprisonment, ended with his undergoing a hideous death in a 
pious frame of mind, was actually celebrated in popular poetry.  No 
such sympathy is evoked by the story of the scoundrel whose 
nickname Schinderhannes" (to which he rather objected himself) 
has had the singular fortune of surviving, while the appellations of 
nearly all his associates and competitors are forgotten. Johannes 
Buckler, born at Muhlen near Nastatten in Nassau, on May 25, 1778, 
and hanged at Mainz, in the company of nineteen fellow - culprits, on 
November 21, 1803, seems to have been, except in the amount of 
crime he managed to crowd into his brief career, and the blaze of 
notoriety in which it ended, a somewhat ordinary kind of rascal.  
Certainly, there is hardly a redeeming feature to be found in what 
is handed down of his actions and conduct - he was neither very 
courageous nor very faithful to his comrades; but extenuating 
circumstances may be found in the times in which he lived and the 
circumstances in which he had - partly as a child in a soldiers' camp - 
been brought up. But he seems to have suited the popular fancy, 
with his long knife, rifle, brace of pistols, and axe, and the display 
which was part of his character; and it is possible that his special 
hostility to the Jews may not have unfavourably affected the 
impression which he made. After the first promise of his 
subsequent career had been shown forth in his conduct, he was 
apprenticed to an executioner (Schinder); but soon he relapsed into 
his chosen line of felony, and, having about 1798 found his way 
into the company of Mosebach of Liebhausen, the first organizer of 
systematic robbery of horses and other property in the Hundsruck, 
he began a regular career of crime.  There is no necessity for 
pursuing this on the present occasion, since it will be clear from 
what has bee~ already said that the story of The Grey Woman is not 
specially based on any part of the biography of "Schinderhannes."  
One or two incidents in the latter may however have suggested 
certain details in Mrs. Gaskell's narrative.
        Near Coblenz Schinderhannes and a wandering minstrel, 
Christian Reinhard, whom he had picked up on the way, are stated 
to have robbed a Marquis La Ferriere of his money and equipage, 
Schinderhannes even changing clothes with the Marquis.  (This may 
have conceivably suggested the nobleman's disguise assumed by 
the robber - chief of our story.)  They sold the carriage to two 
Frenchmen, who were afterwards arrested at Frankfort as 
Schinderhannes and Reinhard.
        The castle, so admirably described in the story, recalls the 
dismantled castle of Schmittburg, which Schinderhannes at one 
time inhabited with a girl who was his paramour, while the robbers 
of his band settled themselves in the castle - chapel.  Not far from 
the Schmittburg was the Kallenfels, a sheer rock surmounted by a 
farmstead, whither, after the commission of a violent robbery, 
Schinderhannes, with his female companion and four of the 
robbers, for safety's sake migrated for a sojourn of eleven days.
        Finally, the mysterious consigne by which the Chauffeurs in 
the story mark the successive stages of what they deem to be their 
accomplished vengeance, has its counterpart in the three successive 
warnings issued by Schinderhannes to a farmer who responded too 
slowly to a process of blackmailing:

"Nro I
" consider;"
with "Nro II." and "Nro III." following.  The first of these missives 
was signed "Johann durch den Wald," a title which Johann Buckler 
preferred to the opprobrious designation under which he still lives 
in popular tradition.
        On the whole, and in the absence of any record on the subject, 
I am inclined to conclude that Mrs. Gaskell had met with some 
French version of the story of Schinderhannes or some other 
robber - chief of his times; and that from this source she derived the 
name of the "Chauffeurs," and perhaps some of the incidents of her 
story. At the same time, there is no reason whatever for supposing 
that by far the most interesting portion of it - the escape of Anna 
and her faithful, self - sacrificing maid Amante from the robbers' 
castle, and their long and almost desperate flight - was not the 
original invention of the writer.  It must be allowed that M. de La 
Tourelle from his own point of view committed a quite inexplicable 
blunder in sending for a maid to attend his wife; but the character 
of the brave Amante is the best thing in the story, and her death its 
saddest incident.

        Six Weeks at Heppenheim, which was first published in the 
Cornhill Magazine in May, 1862, and reprinted with The Grey 
Woman and other Tales by Messrs. Smith, Elder & Co. in 1865, 
forms a charming pendant to the rather gruesome story which Mrs. 
Gaskell had brought home from her German travels. This time we 
are transported: into the very heart of the genial wine - country of 
the Upper - Rhine, into the so - called Bergstrasse opposite Worms, 
down which, in the dire days of the Thirty Years' War, the invading 
hosts passed into the Palatinate, without meeting with much 
resistance from the ecclesiastical rulers of this by - street of the 
great Pfaffengasse.  In 1803 the famous 
Reichsdeputationshauptschluss secularised the archiepiscopal 
electorate of Mainz, to which Heppenheim and Lorsch belonged, and 
these possessions, with not a few others (103 square geographical 
miles and 210,000 "souls" in all), passed into the willing hands of 
Duke Lewis X. of Hesse - Darmstadt. As, three years later, he 
assumed the title of "Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine," I have 
ventured to correct Herr Muller's designation of his vigilant 
sovereign by an inferior title.  For the rest, the nicety with which 
this singularly truthful little picture of real life is fitted into its 
frame bears a striking testimony to Mrs. Gaskell's extraordinary 
quickness and accuracy of observation.  She had no very familiar 
knowledge of South German peasant life - such as that which the late 
Lady Verney possessed of the peasant life of France - and 
"Heppenheim" was probably only a name happily chosen to suit a 
village and a village - inn by which she was attracted, when in the 
vicinity of the Rhine.  But she had that true interest in all things 
human - of which things national, provincial, and local are after all 
only sections or subsections - which makes all travelling delightful 
and ambulando instructive. Thus, while she informed herself as to 
the rules of the vineyards, and the marriage customs of their 
cultivators, she had an eye for every detail of daily life and for 
every idiom of language. ("Du armes Wurm" is a real bit of German, 
the full significance of which is only known to those who are 
familiar with the aspect of a real Wickelkind.)  Six Weeks at 
Heppenheim in its reality, freshness, and wholesome avoidance of 
anything approaching to artificial pathos, breathes the spirit of 
Berthold Auerbach; and, as in the Dorfgeschichten, so a touch of 
poetry is not wanting in the gentle young Oxonian's simple tale of 
Thekla and her faithful master.
        A Dark Night's Work, which appeared in successive numbers 
of All the Year Round from January 24, 1863, to March 21, 1863, 
and was published in book - form, with four illustrations by Du 
Maurier, in the following April by Messrs. Smith, Elder & Co., seems 
to belong to a rather earlier period of her productivity than that of 
Sylvia's Lovers and Cousin Phillis, with which in date of publication 
it was so nearly contemporary.  Perhaps the nature of the interest 
excited by the story did not admit of its being as it were bathed in 
the same atmosphere of charm, but as I find William Arnold noted, 
it would be an error to reckon A Dark Night's Work among the 
"grim stories" for which Mrs. Gaskell undoubtedly had something of 
a penchant; "it is a study of a human Soul, not merely a murder - 
story."  But the "human soul," if thereby that of Ellinors father is 
meant - for in Ellinor herself there is nothing abnormal, and Dixon, 
admirably drawn as he is, plays only a subordinate part till the real 
catastrophe of the story is reached - has no very great interest for 
us, and hardly rises above ordinary ignobility. That the character 
does just rise above it, is due to the refinement which gives 
distinction even to a story of this genre in Mrs. Gaskell's hands.  It 
is interesting to compare A Dark Night's Work, not with the 
productions of Wilkie Collins, with which, notwithstanding the 
careful planning of its scheme of locality, it has no real affinity, but 
with one of Mrs. Oliphant's shorter stories, such as The Prodigals, 
which, by a curious coincidence, I happened to take up just as I was 
re - reading Mrs.Gaskell's story, and which, in the general character 
of plot and treatment, bears a certain resemblance to it. As the 
teller of a story Mrs. Oliphant was perhaps the more expert 
craftsman; she avoided certain longueurs which are not absent from 
A Dark Night's Work, and certain repetitions which are to be found 
there.  She was an acute observer of life, and of the deeper 
significance of common experiences; but she lacked that delicacy of 
touch and spiritual sympathy which were characteristic of all Mrs. 
Gaskell's creations.  In every period or phase of her literary 
labours, A Dark Night's Work illustrates very signally the wide 
difference between this delicacy of touch and insipidity.  The figure 
of Canon Livingstone, whom in most stories of the kind one would 
have been prepared to take for granted, and who has really as little 
to do with the plot of the piece as he has with the boisterous 
hilarity of the Roman corso, is by no means the least sympathetic 
among its dramatis personae.  But there is something more than 
delicacy of touch in at least part of the story. The effect of the deed, 
in which he was not even a participant, upon the simple single - 
minded Dixon is depicted with extraordinary truthfulness; and his 
solemn, mournful figure - in the dock and in prison - haunts the 
memory like an actual experience of the sorrowfulness of life.

        The three papers entitled French Life, which originally 
appeared in Fraser's Magazine in April, May, and June, 1864, and 
are now for the first time reprinted, gave great pleasure when they 
introduced themselves to the public, and are in their way 
thoroughly characteristic of the writer. Mrs. Gaskell had in a 
singular degree the gift of what I may call intimacy; and these 
papers, which pretend to nothing but giving some glimpses of 
particular sides of French life from within, most successfully 
accomplish this particular purpose.  It was said of Madame 
Recamier, who is mentioned in one of these papers as having had in 
perfection "the sixth sense, which taught her when to speak, and 
when to be silent," qu'elle se souvenait avec gout - to which a more 
cynical critic added, "qu'elle savait s'ennuyer avec une grace 
parfaite." Of Mrs. Gaskell it may be asserted that, while she 
observed with quick insight, she chronicled with unfailing tact. For 
the things she noted, whether in Madame A - 's hospitable bed - room, 
or in the silken chamber of the condescending lionne, or in the 
ample drawing - room where Madame E - dispensed tea at a guinea a 
pound to those who cared for the beverage, were always things 
distinctive and things possessed of a human interest. And there is 
one special association which gives a charm of its own to these 
papers.  When in 1862 she set forth on her excursion into Brittany 
in the company of her daughter Meta and their intimate friend Miss 
Isabel Thompson (now Mrs. William Sidgwick), it was "with a happy 
mixture of sea, heath, rocks, ferns, and Madame de Sevigne in their 
hands," that the happy company started on its visit of investigation.  
I may leave her to describe that pleasant journey from Paris (past 
Rambouillet) to Chartres, and thence to Vitre, only a few miles from 
which lies the central object of this pilgrimage, Madame de 
Sevigne's chateau of Les Rochers. Readers who have not themselves 
visited the scene, with a sketch of which, taken on the occasion, I 
am allowed to embellish this volume, may compare with Mrs. 
Gaskell's description of the chateau and its surroundings, which 
cannot have changed very much since Madame de Sevigne looked 
upon them (especially as in her eyes its chief beauties lay in its 
parterre and its parc), with the more elaborate picture drawn by 
Gaston Boissier, in his exquisite little monograph in the Grands 
Ecrivains Francoise series.  Should any of my readers turn to that 
book, I think they can hardly fail to be attracted by what is said in 
it of the way in which Madame de Sevigne looked upon and treated 
nature.  She deliberately absorbed herself in it; so that one spring, 
after having observed and noted every detail of the return of life in 
bush and tree, she could sit down, and with "amusing confidence" 
remark: "Il me semble qu'en cas de besoin je saurais bien faire un 
printemps."  Like her favourite Madame de Sevigne, whose life, as 
we know, she purposed to have written, and would have written 
with no common inner sympathy, Mrs. Gaskell could write as she 
saw, and the fresh springtide, like the golden summer and the chill 
winter, transferred themselves to her page as they took possession 
of her mind.  "The quietness of all things," she writes on a dark 
night at Avignon in the solitude of her lofty chamber, where she 
has been reading the narrative of a fearful domestic tragedy of long 
ago, "the dead stillness of the hour, has made me realise all the 
facts deposed to, as if they had happened to - day."
          The associations of the past then, whether grave or gay - the 
grim memories of the Revolution which always seem to have 
haunted Mrs. Gaskell in Paris, or in thinking of Paris, and the 
irrecoverably pleasant customs which are what we all prefer to 
remember of the ancien regime - add both interest and distinction to 
these papers.  But the Marquise de Villette, and Marly, and the 
conscientious Robespierre, and the witty Prince de Ligne 
themselves, are but shadows of the past; it is only those who live 
for us in their writings to whom we are drawn as to contemporaries 
and friends. There is, however, in these papers at least one most 
interesting portrait (for the gracious figure of Montalembert only 
flits across the scene) which Mrs. Gaskell was enabled to paint from 
the life, though it was not more than a year after their meeting 
that, in the words of the late Sir Mountstuart Grant - Duff - words 
which must have been used by many other of her friends - Madame 
de Circourt was "released from her long martyrdom." Sainte - Beuve, 
whom the English diarist quotes, spoke of her as "torn away from 
Parisian society and her friends of every country. All who have 
known and been admitted to share in the trueness of her heart and 
her intellect will understand the significance of this loss and the 
gap which it leaves behind it." And he sums up he social gifts and 
charms in words which I will venture to translate, as specially 
germane to Mrs. Gaskell's own tribute:

        "The special feature of Madame de Circourt's salon was that 
intellect gave the right of admission to it as by a kind of freedom of 
the city. Pious as she was and firmly fixed in her beliefs, no 
prejudice stood in her way, so soon as she had become aware that 
she had to do with a man of mind and of talent. Whatever might be 
your political associations or your philosophical starting point, a 
friendly and sympathetic welcome awaited you from that armchair, 
to which for years she had been confined by cruel sufferings 
concealed beneath an irresistible grace and an unchangeable art of 
        Mrs. Gaskell, as was to be expected, recognised not only the 
exquisite charm of Madame de Circourt's presence, but the final 
cause of that charm. "Is not Christianity," she asks, "the very core of 
the heart of all gracious courtesy?" And she appeals to Elizabethan 
authority for a quaint way of stating this profound truth.  But she 
might have gone further back - to Chaucer at all event - and  recalled  
the  noble lines:

"Crist wol we claime of him our gentillesse,
Not of our elders for hir old richesse,"
It was their virtuous living. which made them to be called 

        The bright little paper entitled The Shah's English Garden is, 
thanks to good offices already acknowledged in my Prefatory Note, 
here for the first time reprinted from Household Words, where it 
made its original appearance on June 19, 1852.  It therefore 
belongs to an early period in Mrs. Gaskell's literary life; and, indeed, 
carries us back to the days of one of her earliest stories. For 
Teddesley (near Penkridge in Staffordshire), where Mrs. Gaskell 
"interviewed" Mr. Burton, formerly headgardener to Shah Nasr - ed - 
Din, "King of Kings," was the country - seat of Lord Hatherton, who 
married the beautiful widow, Mrs. Davenport, of Capesthorne in 
Cheshire (see Introduction to The Sexton's Hero in Vol. I. of this 
edition).  Mr. Burton's not very sympathetic account of the 
"reforming" Shah's restricted interest in his own household affairs 
is worth reading even at the present day, when Teheran, which (in 
Lancashire phrase) he "beautified" in 1870, has become so much 
better known, and when his successor is a personage familiar, not 
only to the West End, but to the City.  Indeed, it was in a Scottish 
garden, not three miles from where I write, that, by a whimsical 
coincidence, I had some years ago the unexpected honour of being 
present at the reception of H. M. the Shah.

        More than two - thirds of the story, here for the first time 
reprinted under the title of Crowley Castle, had been put into type 
for the present edition from a MS. left by Mrs. Gaskell, when it was 
identified with the first of the tales included in the 1863 Christmas 
number of All the Year Round, still so well remembered for Charles 
Dickens' Introduction to Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings.  Mrs. Gaskell's tale 
there had the place of honour as an account of How the First Floor 
went to Crowley Castle, prefaced by the single sentence - 

        "I have come back to London, Major, possessed by a family 
story that I have picked up in the country."

        I have here printed the opening sentences as they appear in 
the MS.; the rest almost exactly as it stands in All the Year Round.  
There is no material difference between the MS., so far as it goes, 
and the printed text, though the latter "every here and there" 
shows signs of compression. The MS. comes to a close, just before 
Theresa's indignation against what she deems the apathy of Bessy 
enters into a violent phase of which Victorine malignantly takes 
note, and before the height of the interest is reached.  But the 
constructive skill with which the ultimate development of the plot 
is prepared, is notable from the first; and this, together with the 
familiarity with French surroundings exhibited in the earlier part of 
the narrative, would have sufficed to show that it belongs to a 
relatively advanced period of Mrs. Gaskell's literary work.  Yet in 
her later years she hardly ever wrote anything so entirely without 
the ingredient of humour which is wanting to none of her larger 
productions, in any period of her life.  Indeed, Victorine, the 
devoted but designing French lady's - maid, belongs to a sphere of 
fiction in which Mrs. Gaskell hardly ever set foot. The contrast 
between Theresa and Bessy, on the other hand, was one of those 
conflicts of personality which no hand was better able to delineate 
with fidelity to nature than her own; but the conditions of her task 
in this case allowed of no elaboration of detail.
                In conclusion, I think that the readers of this edition will 
be pleased by the inclusion in it of two fragments of Ghost Stories 
found, without date or other clue to the period of their production, 
among Mrs. Gaskell's papers, and now for the first time put in print. 
The attraction exercised upon her by mysterious incidents 
suggestive of the supernatural has already been sufficiently 
illustrated; but these fragments are, each in its own way, written 
with so much simple grace, that they will, I think, give to others the 
same pleasure as that which they give to myself.  The earlier of the 
pair is enlivened by a sly humour which, one might almost suppose, 
would have stood the night - capped traveller in good stead during 
the nocturnal interview awaiting her; the second adds a delightful 
page, descriptive of one of those dales - in North Lancashire or 
thereabouts - which Mrs.Gaskell loved, and its moorland 


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

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