The Themes of Elizabeth Gaskell by Enid L. Duthie (auth.)

By Enid L. Duthie (auth.)

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Her country gardens are full of the fragrance of flowers and the pungent odour of herbs. The sweet smells of the hayfield at Hope Farm are 'a balm in themselves', and the clover-field bordering the forest in 'My French Master' has 'its one pure fragrance'. The country scenes have their appropriate sounds: the lowing of cattle, the clatter and cackle of poultry, the humming of bees , the 'gentle perpetual sounds, such as mill-wheels and bubbling springs', bird song in its infinite variety, from the dawn chorus and the full-throated tones oflark or thrush to the last song of the robin before he goes away into the stillness of night.

She was brought up by a widowed aunt, and the two unmarried daughters of her uncle Peter Holland, the Knutsford surgeon, by his first marriage, Mary and Lucy, are usually thought to have supplied some of the traits of Miss Deborah and Miss Matty Jenkyns. After her marriage she sometimes stayed at her uncle's house on visits to Knutsford, and it was doubtless no coincidence that the first episode of Cranford was written, as Winifred Gerin has pointed out, after she had returned from such a visit.

Each individual setting, until the last, is rich in correspondences between nature· and feeling, from Ruth's delight in the flowers on the wall panel, which remind her of her country home, to her moment of utter despair, after the ordeal on Abermouth sands, when 'the expanse of grey, wild, bleak moors, stretching away below a sunless sky, seemed only an outward sign of the waste world within her heart .. '26 In Sylvia's Lovers nature and life are interwoven from the start, effortlessly and inevitably.

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