BRITISH WRITERS, Volume 5 by Ian Scott-Kilvert

By Ian Scott-Kilvert

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By Ian Scott-Kilvert

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But Mrs. " Mary Barton—reminding us a little of Jeanie Deans in The Heart of Mid-Lothian (1818)—sets off to Liverpool to find Will, the one man who can prove Jem's alibi: she must save her lover without betraying her father, a situation full of strong dramatic possibilities. Her journey by train (a great undertaking to such a woman at the time), her alternations of hope and despair on learning that Will's ship is far out in the Mersey, her long chase after him in the fishermen's boat, Will's voice at last calling out reassurance from the tall merchantman, his part in the dramatic climax at the trial—all this is satisfactory storytelling, handled without a sign of the novice.

At last, Miss Pole, who had always a great deal of courage and savoir faire, spoke to Lady Glenmire, who on her part had seemed just as much puzzled to know how to break the silence as we were. " "I never was there in my life," said Lady Glenmire, with a broad Scotch accent, but in a very sweet voice. And then, as if she had been too abrupt, she added: "We very seldom went to London—only twice, in fact, during all my married life; and before I was married my father had far too large a family" (fifth daughter of Mr Campbell was in all our minds, I am sure) "to take us often from our home even to Edinburgh.

Gaskell, anxious to allay criticism by impartiality, shows a prejudiced "outsider," a young girl who is a southerner, gradually overcoming her hostility to the hardheaded northern master manufacturers: "North" and "South," as well as employers and employed, are to be reconciled, Mrs. Gaskell urges, by the exercise of mutual understanding and Christian charity. These books are examples of a new kind of fiction first appearing in the troubled 1840's. Disraeli in Coningsby (1844) and Sybil (1845), Charles Kingsley in Yeast (1848) and Alton Locke (1850), and Dickens in Bleak House (1853) and Hard Times (1854) are all concerned with the distressing contrast between the lives of the rich and the poor, the "two nations," as Disraeli calls them in Sybil.

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