THE first instalment of Wives and Daughters, Mrs. Gaskell's latest 

work, and I think universally regarded as the most artistically 

perfect of all her productions, appeared in the August number of 

The Cornhiil Magazine of the year 1864. The last, but uncompleted, 

portion of the story was published in the January, 1866, number of 

the same periodical.  It was supplemented by at editorial note, 

mainly conjectural, from the hand of Mr. Frederick Greenwood.  

Mrs. Gaskell had died on November 12th, 1865, in her fifty - sixth 


		It has not been thought right to omit this admirably 

expressed note, which reverently treated "what promised to be the 

crowning work of a life" as "a memorial of death," from its proper 

place in the present edition. These "concluding remarks" were 

written by Mr. Frederick Greenwood, to whom the late Mr. George 

Smith had addressed an analogous request two years earlier, when 

the death of Thackeray had left the story of Denis Duval less than 

"half - told" in the pages of the same magazine.  I feel, however, 

compelled to say that I entirely agree with Mr. Basil Champneys 

(see his well - judged appreciation of "Mrs. Gaskell" in The Pilot of 

June 28th, 1902) in deprecating Mr. Greenwood's comparison of the 

character of Cynthia in Wives and Daughters with that of Tito in 

Romola. As between these two characters, I can discover little 

either of likeness in unlikeness or of unlikeness in likeness; while, if 

comparison there must be, I have no hestitation in avowing that the 

character of Cynthia seems to me the more composite, and, if I may 

be excused the phrase, the more subtly - conceived of the pair.

	In a review, published not long since by another critical 

journal of high reputation, I came across a reference to "the faculty 

that some writers display of bearing fresh fruit in their old age, 

making a new start on lines quite unlike those to which they have 

accustomed the public. Lord Lytton," the writer continued, "Mrs. 

Gaskell, and Coventry Patmore, in their several ways, are examples 

of this."  I fancy that this obiter dictum represents an impression 

shared by not a few with regard to the position of Wives and 

Daughters in Mrs. Gaskell's literary biography. Yet, as already 

noted, she was only in her fifty - fourth year when she took up her 

pen to write Wives and Daughters; and, though unhappily she did 

not live to bring it to actual completion, not only it there in the 

work no symptom whatever of declining powers, but there was no 

reason (to human eye or intelligence) why there should have been. 

Wives and Daughters seems to me a signal instance, not of genius 

setting forth to conquer new worlds, but of genius matured in the 

full sunlight of its mid - day course, and consciously directed 

towards compassing, as it had never compassed them before, those 

ends which had become manifest to it as its own. Neither the pathos 

nor the humour of Wives and Daughters is unfamiliar to the readers 

of Mrs. Gaskell's earlier books; while the irony, keen as well as 

kindly, which in both humour and pathos here makes itself 59 

distinctly perceptible, was already part of the mellow charm 

characteristic of such works as Sylvia's Lovers and Cousin Phillis. 

Thus it is not less incorrect to describe the manner of Wives and 

Daughters as something new in its author, than to designate the 

book itself as the fruit of her "old age."

		Curiously enough - but one cannot help thinking Dickens 

pacing the streets of Paris in uncontrollable grief for the death of 

Little Nell, which had befallen earlier in the day - a considerable part 

of this most English, as well as "every - day," story was written 

abroad. Much of it was written at Pontresina, where in 1864 Mrs. 

Gaskell was making "holiday" with all her daughters. They were 

accompanied by her son - in - law, Mr. Charles Crompton, Q.C.; by Mr. 

Thurstan Holland, the betrothed of her eldest daughter, Marianne; 

and by Mrs. Gaskell's intimate friend Miss Mary Ewart (a daughter 

of Mr. William Ewart, M.P., known as one of the chief promoters of 

the Free Library Act), whom the present writer remembers in her 

more advanced years as a lady of great kindliness and charm.  

Then, after a visit to Madame Mohl, at Paris - in the congenial 

atmosphere of whose drawing - room the writing continued, and 

whose interest in the progress of the work naturally became of the 

keenest - much of the concluding portion of the story was brought to 

paper in a quiet hotel at Dieppe.  Here, among other visitors, 

Mrs.Gaskell found a French novelist of repute, from whom she 

heard of his method of composition (very far removed from her 

own) - how he was wont to stand in an archway between two rooms, 

with an amanuensis in each, to one or the other of whom he 

dictated alternately sentences of two different novels.

		Before the publication of the story began, a title had to 

be found for it. The Two Mothers seems to have been the name 

originally thought of; but this I almost think must have been before 

the design of the story had completely evolved itself in the mind of 

the writer. One or two names, less suitable for different reasons, 

were likewise discarded; as were the more or less obvious Molly 

and Cynthia and Mr. Gibson's Daughters; and, finally, the choice fell 

on Wives and Daughters, a title felicitous in itself, though perhaps 

not quite exactly balanced in its relation to the story, where one of 

the "Wives" after all plays only a subordinate part. But in the case 

of none of the titles which had successively suggested themselves 

was the addition An Every - Day Story omitted.  It was a story of 

actual life that Mrs. Gaskell meant to tell. following the precept of 

Goethe's well - known line:

"Lay hold upon the abounding life of man!"

	As, in the course of its publication in the monthly numbers of 

the Cornhill, the story drew near its close, Mrs. Gaskell - very 

unnecessarily - began to fear that it "was getting very long on her 

hands."  Indeed - how pathetic the thought seems to us now!  - she 

even had a fleeting notion of leaving "Molly and Roger's love story 

(for, of course, that has to come round)" to another novel, in a single 

volume.  It may have been in connection with this passing design 

that the title of Round the World and Back Again momentarily 

suggested itself. Had Mrs. Gaskell actually reconciled herself to the 

adoption of the device which was borrowed from Balzac by 

Anthony Trollope, and which exactly suited his easy - going public, 

Roger must, of course, have become still more of a protagonist in 

the action of PartII.than he is in that of the story as it stands. The 

travelled hero was a familiar personage to that generation, and was 

particularly affected by French comedy, in the days when Sardou 

reigned supreme on the contemporary stage.

	But the idea was never seriously entertained, and on the 

other side of the question, there was Madame Mohl giving 

expression to an opinion from which few readers of the magazine, 

with whom Wives and Daughters had become extraordinarily 

popular, would have been found to dissent:

	"I have this very evening read the last number of the Cornhill, 

and am as pleased as ever.  The Hamleys are delightful, and Mrs. 

Gibson  - oh, the tricks are delicious; but I am not up to Cynthia yet. 

Molly is the best heroine you have had yet. Every one says it is the 

best thing you ever did. Don't hurry it up at the last; that [is] a rock 

you must not split on."

	Fortunately, this advice, or the consciousness of its soundness, 

prevailed; and the story was, without undue haste, approaching its 

actual close, when its formal completion was stayed by a Resistless 


	Mrs. Gaskell had all but finished the manuscript of Wives and 

Daughters when she paused - as it seemed only for a moment - in 

order to inform herself precisely through a scientific friend of the 

kind of public acknowledgment or appointment which Roger 

Hamley might have been likely to obtain on his return from his 

brilliantly successful biological expedition.  She was, therefore, very 

near indeed to the conclusion of what, during the course of its serial 

publication, had already proved to be one of the most - and of the 

most immediately - successful of her books; but her strength had 

begun in some measure to fail her as she approached the 

completion of her work.  In November, 1865, she was staying with 

three of her daughters and her son - in - law, Mr. Charles Crompton, 

Q.C., at Holybourne, near Alton in Hampshire, where she had quite 

recently bought a countryhouse.  This house she intended, on the 

completion of the MS. of her story, to present to her husband, to 

whom purchase and gift were to come as a surprise.  It has been 

thought that the readers of this edition will be interested to see the 

view reproduced as the frontispiece to its concluding volume; but it 

should be understood that this most artistic picture gives only one 

end of the house. Here Mrs. Gaskell had during a fortnight carried 

on her usual work, with so many around her of those whom she 

loved best.  On Sunday, November 12th, 1865, as already stated, 

she died, without one moment's warning.

	The "Knutsford Edition" of Mrs. Gaskell's works appropriately, 

as well as in accordance with chronological sequence, closes with 

Wives and Daughters.  For this story, of which the main theme is 

after all the happiness and the trials of girlhood, once more takes us 

back to the unforgotten home of the writer's own girlish days - the 

little country town which will live in story so long as Mrs. Gaskell's 

own literary fame endures. Not that in her last book we have 

chronicles of Hollingford which are simply, under another name, 

chronicles of Cranford over again.  Now and then, indeed - but not 

very often - as in the account of Lady Harriet's surprise visit to the 

Miss Brownings, or in the meditations of Mrs. Goodenough, passim, 

we have the actual Cranford brought back to us: and quite 

exceptionally, as in the passage concerning Mrs. Gibson's Methodist 

cook, a slightly out - of - date flavour of humour, occasionally 

traceable in the earlier work.  But, speaking generally, the aspects 

under. which the familiar localities are presented in Wives and 

Daughters are as fresh as the incidents of which they are the scene 

and as the characters who appear in them.

	In the first place, we now become acquainted with the 

relations between the good folk of the town and the Towers, the 

seat of the "belted earl," who is the magnate par excellence of the 

whole division of the county, with his far more majestic countess.  

No "actualities" are, of course, here transferred to the story except 

the local association, which has been well described by a writer 

whom I have already had the pleasure of citing:

	"Then, about the town, too, were the tree - shaded woods, the 

old halls, among them those of Tatton, Tabley, and Toft with their 

broad park - lands; that of Tatton having its lodgegate at the end of 

the main street, which was in [Mrs. Gaskell's] mind, no doubt, and 

perhaps a personal reminiscence, when in Wives and Daughters we 

are given a description of Molly Gibson's first visit to the Towers." 

	We have it on excellent authority t that the account of Lady 

Cumnor's garden - party is "a facsimile" of those which the first Lady 

Egerton of Tatton used to give to certain inhabitants of Knutsford, 

and that "the scene of Molly Gibson's mishap can be easily 

identified by any one familiar with the garden at Tatton."

	In the account of Hamley Hall I am unable to say whether 

reminiscences of Sandlebridge are not interwoven with those of 

other Cheshire halls of a larger type; I should be glad to think that a 

feature or two had been borrowed either from Tabley or from Toft, 

both of which have remembrances of their own dear to every lover 

of fine literature.  What, however, is well assured is that no family 

reminiscences contributed to the life - like, though rather saddening, 

picture of the Hamley household; and quite equally certain is it that 

there is nothing of Dr. Peter Holland, Mrs. Gaskell's uncle, who 

resided as a practising physician at Knutsford, in the personality of 

Mr. Gibson - except the honour in which he was held in the 

community around him.  Mr. Gibson is the type of a country doctor 

such as may still be found here and there in the south of England as 

well as in the north, even in the days when motors have 

superseded the traditional dog - cart, in which Molly rejoiced to sit 

by her father's side - 

"the back - seat shut up, and the light weight going swiftly and 

merrily bumping over the stone - paved lanes.

	"'Oh, this is charming!' said Molly, after a toss - up on her seat 

from a tremendous bump."

	Molly - for in speaking of what seems to me most noticeable in 

this delightful book, I must speak first of that which is nearest to 

my heart - is perhaps the loveliest conception to be found in all Mrs. 

Gaskell's writings: and this conception is brought before us without 

a flaw in the execution.  Some great masters of fiction - I think, to go 

no further back, Fielding might be cited as one instance, and 

Dickens as another - seem at their very best, when they are 

picturing to themselves and to their readers what, in a noble 

passage, the former describes as more glorious than the sun in all 

his majesty - an exemplar of true human beneficence.  But the 

golden warmth of the radiance that seems to emanate from the 

character of Molly Gibson is explicable only if we remember that in 

her virgin mind the impulses of her noble nature have free play, 

while that nature remains immutably true to itself. Thus she 

confronts the hard trials of her young life with a spirit which, like 

that of the knight who is sure to meet dragons in his path, is never 

impar congressui. The first of Molly's dragons is an "every - day" 

one; indeed, there would have been little that was appalling in Mr. 

Coxe (who must have been cousin, though a long way removed, to 

Mr. Toots), even had his designs not been concealed from Molly by 

her father's vigilance.  But these designs are the motive cause of 

her first exile from home, and of the first serious trial of her life - 

the second marriage of this kind and faithful father.  He carries the 

news of his intention to her while she is on a visit to Hamley Hall, 

where the sweet child has become the loved companion of Mrs. 

Hamley - an intimacy which irresistibly recalls the charming first 

sketch of a similar intimacy (between Mrs. Buxton and Maggie) in 

Mrs. Gaskell's early tale of The Moorland Cottage.  With 

consummate art, we are made to understand how Molly's thoughts 

are unconsciously familiarised with the notion of her father 

marrying again by Squire Hamley's loose talk of what might have 

been; but now the fact of his avowed intention all the more 

completely overpowers her, because she is unable to realise it all at 

once. It must not be forgotten how utterly overwhelming great 

grief - like great joy - is to the young, if the whole force of the scene is 

to be acknowledged in which Molly receives the news of her 

father's resolve from his own faltering lips.  How magnificent (I use 

the word deliberately) is the following passage - one of those which 

prove how, where words can be found for describing supreme 

moments of passion, the true tragic touch is not out of place in the 

simplest prose:  - 

	"She had cast herself on the ground - that natural throne for 

violent sorrow  - and leant up against the old moss - grown seat 

sometimes burying her face in her hands; sometimes clasping them 

together, as if by the tight painful grasp of her fingers she could 

deaden the mental suffering."

	But even this trial - in its first sharp incidence, and as 

afterwards long drawn - out by the girl's growing conviction of the 

hollowness of her step - mother's nature, irretentive, like Quarles' 

emblem of the world:  "She's empty; hark! she sounds " - was not the 

hardest that befell the pure - hearted, high - souled Molly.  Gradually 

she came to love Roger, at whose first crossing of her orbit 

everything had been in his disfavour, but whom she had learned to 

honour as a counsellor and friend, before she became conscious, 

without confessing it to herself, that he was master of her heart.  

Gradually - but not too soon, since with unreasoning suddenness 

Roger himself had fallen in love with the bewitching Cynthia.  So it 

is as Cynthia's, not as her own, accepted lover that Molly sees Roger 

depart on his journey into remote regions and perils incalculable.  

And I do not think that a picture more cruelly devised a serrer le 

caeur of all beholders was ever painted than that of Roger, after his 

last farewells had been spoken, running back to catch the London 

coach, and turning round and shading his eyes from the westering 

sun, as he looked back to the Gibsons' house, in the hope of catching 

one more glimpse of Cynthia.

"But apparently he saw no one, not even Molly at the attic 

casement; for she had drawn back when he turned, and kept 

herself in shadow; for she had no right to put herself forward as the 

one to watch and yearn for farewell signs. None came - another 

moment - he was out of sight for years."

	Molly was to make great sacrifices for Cynthia's sake before 

the end of her own troubles was reached.  But it was without her 

telling herself why, that her woman's courage quailed at parting 

with one who "had been to her as a brother," and that "her weary, 

aching head in that supreme moment sought a loving pillow" on the 

shoulder of her whom this "prince amongst men" had "honoured 

with his love."

	Cynthia - the fascinating, the irresistible Cynthia - in everything 

except charm Molly's opposite - is the other "daughter" of the story.  

Molly is, in more respects than one, a more perfect, while an 

entirely natural, variation of a type specially sympathetic to Mrs. 

Gaskell; but she never, I think, drew any character really similar to 

Cynthia.  The difficulty of making such a personality the twin 

heroine of the story did not lie in its want of verisimilitude.  For 

who would hesitate in approving from experience the statement 

that to some women (it is better to confine oneself to their sex) is 

given the unconscious power of fascination which Cynthia is 

represented as possessing; and who will gainsay the surmise that 

the constant exercise of such a power is incompatible with very 

high principle; as its essence seems to consist in the most exquisite 

power of adaptation to varying people and still more varying 

moods; "being all things to all men." The difficulty of representing 

such a character in fiction lies rather in the almost unavoidable 

danger that in an imaginary narrative a personality of this kind is 

apt to sink into a type which fails to give pleasure to gods or men, 

when not themselves the objects or the victims of its wiles - a type 

which cannot be regarded as quite extinct, but which we shun so 

instinctively that now the term by which it used to be known is all 

but tabooed by lips polite - namely that of a flirt.  Now Cynthia was 

something better than this.  Not only was she, according to her own 

assertion, "capable of a great jerk and effort" of virtue (followed, to 

be sure, as she admitted, by a "relaxation"); but hers was a sweet 

nature in itself, and she was loyal in her friendships, if not in her 

loves.  I must confess that to my mind the only detail out of 

drawing in a protrait which seems to me, as a whole, perfectly 

natural and quite in harmony with itself, is her temporary turning - 

away from Molly, at a time when that dear child is running so 

serious a risk for her "sister," "because Molly knew things to her " - 

Cynthia 's - discredit.  Ingratitude of this sort should not have been 

placed to the debit account of so loveable a creature as Cynthia - 

loveable in spite of her errors, of her changefulness, of her 

preference for what is not the very highest - but hardly to be 

forgiven such a fault as this.

	So much as to the "Daughters," though there is a good deal 

more one would like to have said of them, without, like the 

philosophical Roger or the frankly amorous Mr. Coxe, claiming the 

privilege of human frailty, and the consequent right of being 

attached first to the one and then to the other.  As to the "Wives" of 

the story it is easier to be brief.  Indeed on the character of Mrs. 

Hamley there is no need to dwell; her picture, as that of a wife 

whom affection has served to console for much that she has missed, 

and of a mother fondly cherishing a love more delusive than that 

which she gives to her husband, is drawn with great tenderness 

and sweetness, and with a deep sense of the irony of relations 

which in real life rarely excite even so strong an emotion as pity.  

With her the hot - tempered, soft - hearted Squire, a copy from nature 

of a kind in which Mrs. Gaskell excels - " the life of a Yorkshire 

squire of the last century," she incidentally confesses', she thinks 

she "could have done pretty well" - is contrasted as effectively as is 

the sarcastic but magnanimous doctor with his second choice.  She 

is the wife without whom, as the advertisements say, no gallery of 

wives could be called complete, after she had once become known; 

the wife who (leaving the late Mr. Kirkpatrick out of the question) 

is, to all intents and purposes that may be summed up in the word 

companionship, no wife at all.  "Clare" - what an inspiration there is 

in the very name which suggests dependency, not by the necessity 

of fate, but by the preference of temperament! For Clare is a person 

whose very principle of existence is that she cannot call her soul 

her own - a proposition of which the inevitable corollary is that' her 

soul must be Lady Cumnor's, or, failing the Countess, the property 

of whosoever ranks next to her in the tables of Debrett.  That Clare 

is a woman, cannot be called' an accident; still the fact only 

harmohises with, it does not constitute the primary element in, the 

amalgam of her personality.  Nor does it account for so extravagant 

an assumption as that of her eating no luncheon in order not to be 

thought in the habit of dining early: and, in matters of greater 

moment, it renders rather less probable a certain transparency of 

sheer worldliness which feminine tact is apt to veil, while the 

masculine tendency is to accentuate every faux pas by a firm 

putting - down of one's foot.  But of the type which she represents 

Clare, no doubt with subtle accuracy, reproduces the feminine 

species or variety.  To begin with, she is not exactly false - a thing 

not to be borne for a moment in man or boy - but (could she help 

it?) she does not ring true.  It is her unchangeable fate to be seen 

through by every one with whom she is brought into closer contact - 

except by the noble family at the Towers to whom she is so perfect 

a treasure; and, for that matter, when do we ever take the trouble 

to see through our dependants and servants, and what would it 

advantage us if we were to succeed in the attempt?  But Clare has 

been seen through all along by her rather too clearsighted 

daughter; and by her step - daughter she was seen through long 

before the child could so much as dream of their future relations to 

one another.  Also, the man whom she is to render happy en 

secondes noces sees through her, before his first (and final) effort 

at wooing is fairly over.  But, though found out, she is never found 

out completely, or perhaps is not regarded as worthy so prolonged 

a research.  And so she goes her way through the world, trusting, 

and with good reason, to the success of her method; keeping up 

"that sweet, false tone which of late had gone through Molly, like 

the scraping of a slate pencil on a slate"; and nobody (for the sake 

of that quiet which the verb implies)is found more ready to 

acquiesce in her ways than her sagacious husband - unless, indeed, 

an ethical difficulty or so should intervene between them.  Of 

course, this very acquiescence helps to deteriorate a character - or, 

at least, the outward presentment of a character - which will not, so 

to speak, bear much deterioration; and it must be allowed that this 

particular Clare, as a conversationalist in her own drawing - room, 

occasionally draws dangerously near to the level of Mrs. Nickleby. 

Yet she is capable of illustrating her maxims of social morality by 

quotations (or the ghosts of quotations) suggestive of the fact that it 

was at one time her professional duty to impart oral instruction.  

Unlike he! softness of manner, her elegance of bearing, and certain 

other minor claims, Clare's innate selfishness is of no sex; neither, I 

take it, is her morigeration (to use a long word for a common thing), 

nor the meanness of spirit from which it takes its origin.  Yet the 

very distinct type represented by her is, so far as I know, missing 

in every series of "characters" from Theophrastus downwards; 

though there is not to be found in any such collection a more 

common, a more perennial, or a more detestable variety of 

humankind.  Clare is a creation which in fluid subtlety surpasses 

any other previously attempted by Mrs. Gaskell, and which 

Thackeray himself might have envied, had he been prone to 

literary envy.

	There are other characters in Wives and Daughters on which 

it would be a pleasure to dwell; but I can only touch on the contrast 

between the two brothers, Osborne and Roger - a contrast, I think, 

not likely to be charged with exaggeration, either from the point of 

view of psychological probability, or from that of actual experience. 

The different experiences of the two brothers, after all, only very 

happily illustrate a truth well known to all who have watched, and 

rejoiced or grieved over the careers of men, as compared with the 

"promise" of their youth.  It is a truth as old as the parable of the 

ten talents, and the one talent hid in the napkin of impotent self - 

sufficiency - an envelope often much admired for the way in which 

it is folded.  Roger Hamley in particular is a very admirable 

specimen of what - I hope not altogether without grounds - used to be 

regarded as the typical Cambridge man of the best sort.  Indeed, I 

think it must have. suggested itself to Mrs. Gaskell, who in a letter 

compares Roger's scientific expedition to Charles Darwin's, that in 

him, one of the greatest of later members of his university, was to 

be found a striking example of a man who, like Roger Hamley, did 

not know that he was as good as, or better than, most other men - or 

at least took a very long time to find it out. In consideration of a 

divination such as this, a few trifling improbabilities (as viewed 

from the wrong side of college windows) will be readily condoned 

in the account of Roger's university career; as a matter of fact, it is 

only to be regretted that, before Senior Wranglers came to an end, 

so small a proportion of them should have had the elasticity of 

mind as well as the many sidedness of training requisite for taking 

command of a biological expedition immediately on election to their 


	Wives and Daughters is, I believe (with the exception, of 

course, so far as its chief figure is concerned, of My Lady Ludlow), 

the only work of Mrs. Gaskell's in which her readers have the 

honour of being introduced among the aristocracy. The ways of that 

class are in some respects remarkably little liable to change, though 

in others some members of it may be the hopeless slaves of the 

glass of fashion.  It is, of course, possible that a not very distant 

generation may find something obsolete in the highly humorous 

portrait of the Countess of Cumnor, who desired Clare to put off her 

marriage from Michaelmas to Christmas, in order that there might 

be something to amuse Lady Cuxhaven's children on their annual 

visit to the Towers, in the event of there being no skating or 

sledging.  But I do not think that (notwithstanding the succession 

duties) the invaluable type represented by the gossiping patriarch, 

Lady Cumnor's husband, is likely to die out from our country 

districts; and we shall all agree in hoping that some examples may 

long remain of the truest aristocrat among them all - the delightful 

Lady Harriet, who knew exactly how to snub Mr. Preston, and 

proved the good fairy that dissipated the clouds of scandal 

gathering round the innocent Molly.

	Incomparable among the novels of its writer, and equalled by 

few among the best fictions of later English fiction, in respect of its 

wealth of closely observed, delicately drawn and impressively 

contrasted characters, Wives and Daughters is at the same time rich 

in a quality which we are likewise entitled to call distinctly 

Shakespearean. This is the power which, as by a lightning - flash, 

suddenly reveals the processes of nature in the human mind, and 

seems to bring us nearer to the secret of its operations.  It is easier 

to put one's finger on such passages in those of our great 

humourists who, like Thackeray, for instance, or, after a very 

different fashion, George Eliot, have attained to a mastery over the 

analytical method, than in a writer so little inclined to its use as 

Mrs. Gaskell, and at the same time so indisposed to aphoristic 

meditations on the frailities and follies, and the ways and 

deviations in general, of human nature.  But her power of suddenly 

revealing what seems to have been not less suddenly revealed to 

herself by the insight of genius, is illustrated by not a few passages 

in this story.  One is that in which, on Mr. Gibson's mentioning his 

intention of marriage in the presence of Miss Phoebe Browning, that 

good soul, all of a sudden, goes through the experience of "the 

Caliph" (but it was not actually a Caliph) in the Eastern story. "A 

whole life - time of possibilities flashed through her mind in an 

instant, of which possibilities" - how wonderfully pretty and how 

wonderfully true to nature is this pathetic addition - "the question 

of questions was, Could she leave her sister?"  Far more intricate is 

the "coil," as Juliet would have called it, in which Molly finds herself 

on concluding from her bland step - mother's veiled intimations, that 

Roger has proposed to Cynthia; when instead of supplying to Mrs. 

Gibson the sympathy which that lady had thought due to her she at 

so interesting a moment escapes t6 her room.  This passage, on 

which every reader of the story is certain to linger, is a life - study - 

may I say a soul - study - as true as it is tender.

	In mere justice to Mrs. Gaskell's responsiveness to the claims 

of, her art, I should not omit to note that, so far as I can judge, it is 

precisely on that side of literary workmanship in which her earlier 

studies had been relatively defective that Wives and Daughters 

shows almost unmistakable advance.  The construction of this story, 

whose personages are, speaking relatively, so few and whose action 

is so simple, must on the whole be described as admirable.  The 

sympathies and antipathies aroused in the reader throughout 

remain on the alert, and his hopes and fears are almost to the last 

kept in that condition of suspense which is best expressed by the 

commonplace phrase, that his interest in the story, as a story, is 

never allowed to flag. At the same time, every turn in the stage or 

turn in the development of the plot is carefully prepared - from 

Clare's half - kindly, half - oblivious interest in her future step - 

daughter, in the opening chapter, to Roger's generous protection of 

her in her lonely hour of suffering ; - and so with the Squire's fond 

hopes and delusions about his heir, and Mr. Preston's devices, and 

Cynthia's cornucopia of offers. As the action of the story progresses, 

we feel more than once as if the curtain of the "entr'acte" were 

about to drop on the central scene of the piece - the "scene a faire" as 

it used to be called in French scientific dramaturgy, to which 

everything that precedes it in a manner leads up.  But, after Molly's 

meeting with Cynthia and Mr. Preston on the side of Croston Heath, 

a new phase in the story seems to begin; and Cynthia in the toils 

has only proved a prelude to Cynthia at bay.' The solution which 

the narrative approaches, as its threads finally drop out of our 

grasp, is one which we know to be neither forced nor harsh; it is, 

moreover, a real solution which will leave those who bear a share 

in it wiser, perhaps even happier, men and women, but such as 

have the past as well as the future to reckon with.

	It is unnecessary to add more.  In the autumn of 1861, M. de 

Circourt, the husband of the accomplished and high - minded lady to 

whose attractions Mrs. Gaskell paid so sympathetic a tribute in one 

of her papers on French Life, had written to her in terms which 

might have been called flattering, had they not been so very near 

the mark:

	"But you, my dear Madame, are you not to give more of your 

exquisite compositions to the world? They are as useful as a 

treatise on morals, as entertaining as a novel, and often more true 

than historical books."

To this friendly challenge, which seems to have referred to some of 

Mrs. Gaskell's shorter productions, but which would have been 

echoed by all whom her earlier works as a whole had delighted, 

cheered, and raised in both mind and spirit, the reponse was the 

publication of three works  - Sylvia's Lovers, Cousin Phillis, and 

Wives and Daughters,  - which represent the height of their writer's 

literary achievement.  But in that which formed part of her 

innermost nature, and without which therefore neither her literary 

genius nor even her literary style could have been what they were, 

her latest and maturest works were of a piece with those that had 

preceded them, including the earliest of them all. When, 

accordingly, we reach the root of the matter, I see no reason and 

feel no desire for dividing her work into periods or drawing a hard 

and fast line between her earlier and her later "manner"; and, from 

this point of view, her last and greatest novel, Wives and Daughters, 

may be regarded as representative of the whole of her work as a 

writer.  This book of contrasts - as I think it may not inappropriately 

be called - tells us, as everything that Mrs. Gaskell has written tells 

us, by what power such contrasts are effaced, the troubles which 

they help to create removed, and human wrongs set right.  Love is 



October, 1906

(Provided by Souhei Yamada and Mitsuharu Matsuoka on 17 December 2002.)

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