Oxford University Press
Gaskell, Elizabeth
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Introduction, Cranford


`Mrs Gaskell confessed in a letter to Ruskin that `whenever I am ailing or ill, I take `Cranford` and ... laugh over it afresh`. This classic portrait of life in a quiet English village in the early nineteenth century has delighted successive generations of readers since its first publication in the 1850s. When the author sent the first instalment to Dickens for serialization in `Household Words` he wrote back: `I was so delighted with it that I put it in the first number.` Drawing on her own experiences of small-town life in Knutsford, Cheshire, she wrote with both wit and affection of the pretensions and prejudices, fears and follies, and pathetic attempts at `elegant economy` of the genteel ladies of Cranford. She started the book at a particularly happy time in her life, and it is consequently the most relaxed and effortless of her writings, narrated in a style of intimate confidence, like gossip exchanged with a friend. But while `Cranford` is mellow in mood, it sparkles...

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