Books

The Old Nurse's Story

Elizabeth Gaskell

'Even in the stillness of that dead-cold weather, I had heard no sound of little battering hands upon the window-glass...'

A phantom child roams the Northumberland moors, while a host of fairytale characters gone to seed gather in the dark, dark woods in these two surprising tales of the uncanny from the great Victorian novelist.

Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of blossom in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th-century California and the Russian steppe. Here are stories lyrical and savage; poems epic and intimate; essays satirical and inspirational; and ideas that have shaped the lives of millions.

Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865). Gaskell's works available in Penguin Classics are Cranford, Cranford and Cousin Phillis, Gothic Tales, Mary Barton, North and South, Ruth, Sylvia's Lovers, The Life of Charlotte Brontë and Wives and Daughters.

Wives and Daughters

Elizabeth Gaskell

The Penguin English Library Edition of Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

"Eh, miss, but that be a rare young lady! She do have such pretty coaxing ways ..."

Seventeen-year-old Molly Gibson worships her widowed father. But when he decides to remarry, Molly's life is thrown off course by the arrival of her vain, shallow and selfish stepmother. There is some solace in the shape of her new stepsister Cynthia, who is beautiful, sophisticated and irresistible to every man she meets. Soon the girls become close, and Molly finds herself cajoled into becoming a go-between in Cynthia's love affairs. But in doing so, Molly risks ruining her reputation in the gossiping village of Hollingford - and jeopardizing everything with the man she is secretly in love with.

The Penguin English Library - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.

Mary Barton

Elizabeth Gaskell

The Penguin English Library Edition of Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

"The rich know nothing of the trials of the poor; I say, if they don't know, they ought to know. We're their slaves as long as we can work; we pile up their fortunes with the sweat of our brows, and yet we are to live as separate as if we were in two worlds"

Mary Barton, the heroine of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel, is beautiful but has been born poor. Her father fights for the rights of his fellow workers, but Mary wants to make a better life for them both. She rashly decides to reject her lover Jem, a struggling engineer, in the hope of marrying the rich mill-owner's son Henry Carson and securing a safe future. But when Henry is shot down in the street and Jem becomes the main suspect, Mary finds herself hopelessly torn between them. She also discovers an unpleasant truth - one that could bring tragedy upon everyone, and threatens to destroy her.

The Penguin English Library - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.

Cranford

Elizabeth Gaskell

With an essay by Anna Unsworth.

'Just at this moment he passed us on the stairs, making such a graceful bow, in reply to which I dropped a curtsey - all foreigners have such polite manners, one catches something of it'

Cranford is an affectionate and often moving portrait of genteel poverty and intertwined lives in a nineteenth-century village. One of Elizabeth Gaskell's most beloved works, it centres on a community dominated by women and governed by old-fashioned ways. The formidable Miss Deborah Jenkyns and the kindly Miss Matty's days revolve around card games, tea, thriftiness and an endless appetite for scandal, until change comes into their world - whether it is the modern ideas of Captain Brown, a bank collapse, rumours of burglars or an unexpected reappearance from the past.

The Penguin English Library - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.

North and South

Elizabeth Gaskell

The Penguin English Library edition of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

'How am I to dress up in my finery, and go off and away to smart parties, after the sorrow I have seen today?'

Elizabeth Gaskell's compassionate, richly dramatic novel features one of the most original and fully-rounded female characters in Victorian fiction, Margaret Hale. It shows how, forced to move from the country to an industrial northern town, she develops a passionate sense of social justice, and a turbulent relationship with mill-owner John Thornton. North and South depicts a young woman discovering herself, in a nuanced portrayal of what divides people, and what brings them together.

The Penguin English Library - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.

Stop What You’re Doing and Read…To Warm You in Cold Weather: Little Women And Good Wives & The Cranford Chronicles

Elizabeth Gaskell (and others)

To mark the publication of Stop What You're Doing and Read This!, a collection of essays celebrating reading, Vintage Classics are releasing 12 limited edition themed ebook 'bundles', to tempt readers to discover and rediscover great books.

LITTLE WOMEN & GOOD WIVES
Life in the March household is full of adventures and accidents as the four very different March sisters follow their varying paths to adulthood, always maintaining the special bond between them. Sensible Meg, impetuous Jo, shy Beth and artistic Amy each have to confront different challenges as they grow up together and attempt to learn how to be both happy and good.

THE CRANFORD CHRONICLES
Follow the small absurdities and major tragedies in the lives of the people of Cranford, a small Cheshire market town, during one extraordinary year.
The railway is pushing its way relentlessly towards the town from Manchester, bringing fears of migrant workers and the breakdown of law and order. The arrival of handsome young Doctor Harrison causes yet further agitation not just because of his revolutionary methods but also because of his effect on the hearts of the ladies. Meanwhile Miss Matty's memories of long-ago heartache are rekindled.

Wives and Daughters

Elizabeth Gaskell

Set in the watchful society of Hollingford, this is a warm tale of love and longing. Molly Gibson is the spirited, loyal daughter of the local doctor. Their peaceful close-knit home is turned upside down when Molly's father decides to remarry. Whilst Molly struggles to adjust to her snobbish stepmother, she forms a close relationship with her glamorous new stepsister Cynthia. The strength of this friendship is soon tested as their lives become entwined with Squire Hamley and his two sons.

Mary Barton

Elizabeth Gaskell (and others)

Mary Barton is beautiful but has been born poor. Her father fights for the rights of his fellow workers, but Mary wants to make a better life for them both. She rashly decides to reject her lover Jem, a struggling engineer, in the hope of marrying the rich mill-owner's son Henry Carson and securing a safe future. But when Henry is shot down in the street and Jem becomes the main suspect, Mary finds herself hopelessly torn between them. She also discovers an unpleasant truth - one that could bring tragedy upon everyone, and threatens to destroy her.

Lois the Witch

Elizabeth Gaskell

Fear of Satan becomes murder in the name of God.

Newly orphaned, the God-fearing and heart-broken Lois is sent across the Atlantic to live with her uncle’s family in Salem, but on her arrival she finds herself the object of cruel hostility, potent jealousy and mad desire.

When the local Pastor’s daughters are contorted and convulsed by apparently satanic powers, the whole town is whipped into a hysterical witch hunt. And when Lois’s cousins start to resent her presence in their household, life becomes precarious and an old woman’s curse returns to haunt her.

North and South

Elizabeth Gaskell (and others)

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY JENNY UGLOW

Milton is a sooty, noisy northern town centred around the cotton mills that employ most of its inhabitants. Arriving from a rural idyll in the south, Margaret Hale is initially shocked by the social unrest and poverty she finds in her new hometown. However, as she begins to befriend her neighbours, and her stormy relationship with the mill-owner John Thornton develops, she starts to see Milton in a different light.

Mary Barton

Elizabeth Gaskell

Mary Barton is the pretty daughter of a factory worker who finds herself dreaming of a better life when the mill-owner's charming son, Henry, starts to court her. She rejects her childhood friend Jem's affections in the hope of marrying Henry and escaping from the hard and bitter life that is the fate of the workers, who are resentfully dependent on the callous mill-owners for their livelihoods. But when Henry is shot dead in the street Jem becomes the prime suspect and Mary finds her loyalties tested to the limit.

The Cranford Chronicles

Elizabeth Gaskell

In this witty and poignant story the railway is pushing its way relentlessly towards the town from Manchester, bringing fears of migrant workers and the breakdown of law and order. The arrival of handsome young Doctor Harrison causes yet further agitation not just because of his revolutionary methods but also because of his effect on the hearts of the ladies. Meanwhile Miss Matty Jenkyns nurses her own broken heart after she was forced to give up the man she loved when she was a young girl.

Cranford

Elizabeth Gaskell (and others)

From the author of North and South and Mary Barton, Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford is a standalone publication of Elizabeth Gaskell's best-known work, with a critical introduction by Patricia Ingham in Penguin Classics.

Cranford depicts the lives and preoccupations of the inhabitants of a small village - their petty snobberies, appetite for gossip, and loyal support for each other in times of need This is a community that runs on cooperation and gossip, at the very heart of which are the daughters of the former rector: Miss Deborah Jenkyns and her sister Miss Matty, But domestic peace is constantly threatened in the form of financial disaster, imagined burglaries, tragic accidents, and the reapparance of long-lost relatives. to Lady Glenmire, who shocks everyone by marrying the doctor. When men do appear, such as 'modern' Captain Brown or Matty's suitor from the past, they bring disruption and excitement to the everyday life of Cranford.

In her introduction, Patricia Ingham places the novel in its literary and historical context, and discusses the theme of female friendship and Gaskell's narrative technique. This edition also contains an account of Gaskell's childhood in Knutsford, on which Cranford is based, appendices on fashion and domestic duties supplemented by illustrations, a chronology of Gaskell's life and works, suggestions for further reading, and explanatory notes.

Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-65) was born in London, but grew up in the north of England in the village of Knutsford. In 1832 she married the Reverend William Gaskell and had four daughters, and one son who died in infancy. Her first novel, Mary Barton, was published in 1848, winning the attention of Charles Dickens, and most of her later work was published in his journals. She was also a lifelong friend of Charlotte Brontë, whose biography she wrote.

If you enjoyed Cranford, you may like Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, also available in Penguin Classics.

Gothic Tales

Elizabeth Gaskell (and others)

Elizabeth Gaskell's chilling Gothic tales blend the real and the supernatural to eerie, compelling effect. 'Disappearances', inspired by local legends of mysterious vanishings, mixes gossip and fact; 'Lois the Witch', a novella based on an account of the Salem witch hunts, shows how sexual desire and jealousy lead to hysteria; while in 'The Old Nurse's Story' a mysterious child roams the freezing Northumberland moors. Whether darkly surreal, such as 'The Poor Clare', where an evil doppelgänger is formed by a woman's bitter curse, or mischievous like 'Curious, if True', a playful reworking of fairy tales, all the stories in this volume form a stark contrast to the social realism of Gaskell's novels, revealing a darker and more unsettling style of writing.

The Life of Charlotte Bronte

Elizabeth Gaskell (and others)

Elizabeth Gaskell's biography of her close friend Charlotte Brontë was published in 1857 to immediate popular acclaim, and remains the most significant study of the enigmatic author who gave Jane Eyre the subtitle An Autobiography. It recounts Charlotte Brontë's life from her isolated childhood, through her years as a writer who had 'foreseen the single life' for herself, to her marriage at thirty-eight and death less than a year later. The resulting work - the first full-length biography of a woman novelist by a woman novelist - explored the nature of Charlotte's genius and almost single-handedly created the Brontë myth.

Ruth

Elizabeth Gaskell (and others)

Ruth Hilton is an orphaned young seamstress who catches the eye of a gentleman, Henry Bellingham, who is captivated by her simplicity and beauty. When she loses her job and home, he offers her comfort and shelter, only to cruelly desert her soon after. Nearly dead with grief and shame, Ruth is offered the chance of a new life among people who give her love and respect, even though they are at first unaware of her secret - an illegitimate child. When Henry enters her life again, however, Ruth must make the impossible choice between social acceptance and personal pride. In writing Ruth, Elizabeth Gaskell daringly confronted prevailing views about sin and illegitimacy with her compassionate and honest portrait of a 'fallen woman'.

Sylvia's Lovers

Elizabeth Gaskell (and others)

Elizabeth Gaskell's only historical novel, Sylvia's Lovers, is set in 1790 in the seaside town of Monkshaven (Whitby) where press-gangs wreak havoc by seizing young men for service in the Napoleonic wars. One of their victims is whaling harpooner, Charley Kinraid, whose charm and vivacity have captured the heart of Sylvia Robson. But Sylvia's devoted cousin, Philip Hepburn, hopes to marry her himself and, in order to win her, deliberately withholds crucial information - with devastating consequences. With its themes of suffering, unrequited love, and the clash between desire and duty, Sylvia's Lovers is one of the most powerfully moving of all Gaskell's novels, reputedly described by its author as 'the saddest story I ever wrote'.

Biography

Elizabeth Gaskell was born on 29 September 1810 in London. She was brought up in Knutsford, Cheshire by her aunt after her mother died when she was two years old. In 1832 she married William Gaskell, who was a Unitarian minister like her father. After their marriage they lived in Manchester with their children. Elizabeth Gaskell published her first novel, Mary Barton, in 1848 to great success. She went on to publish much of her work in Charles Dickens's magazines, Household Words and All the Year Round. Along with short stories and a biography of Charlotte Brontë, she published five more novels including North and South (1855) and Wives and Daughters (1866). Wives and Daughters is unfinished as Elizabeth Gaskell died suddenly of heart failure on 12 November 1865.