The Gaskell Society

The Gaskell Society

Celebrating the life and work of Elizabeth Gaskell

To mark our new season of Knutsford discussions on Sylvia’s Lovers, Dr Diane Duffy has compiled a series of quotes from Chapters 30-37. These chapters will be covered in her March 2024 session.  Follow the Gaskell Society on Twitter and look out for the hashtag #sylviaslovers for daily tweets. 

Chapter 30

Philip seemed as prosperous as his heart could desire. The business flourished, and money beyond his moderate wants came in….he required very little; but he had always looked forward to placing his idol in a befitting shrine and means for this were now [his]

he would have done much for her if only to gain the sweet, rare smiles which his wife never bestowed upon him so freely as when she saw him attending to ‘mother,’

 it was a strange kind of life where there were no out-door animals to look after; the ‘ox and the ass’ had hitherto come into all her ideas of humanity; and her care and gentleness had made the dumb creatures round her father’s home into mute friends .

She missed the free open air, the great dome of sky above the fields; she rebelled against the necessity of ‘dressing’ …to go out, although she acknowledged that it was a necessity where the first step beyond the threshold must be into a populous street.

The old vanities had been burnt out of her by the hot iron of acute suffering.

Philip…would have given not a little for some of the old bursts of impatience, the old pettishness, which, naughty as they were, had gone to form his idea of the former Sylvia.

Philip found much happiness in only being allowed to love and cherish her; and with the patient perseverance that was one remarkable feature in his character, he went on striving to deepen and increase her love when most other men would have given up the endeavour

Kester, a think yo’ve done pretty well for yo’rsel’, getten a house-full o’ furniture’, ‘an’ vittle an’ clothin’ for t’ axing, belike, an’ a home for t’ missus in her time o’ need; an’ mebbe not such a bad husband as a once thought yon man ‘ud mak’

It seemed to be Sylvia’s fate to captivate more people than she cared to like back again. She turned the heads of John and Jeremiah Foster, who could hardly congratulate Philip enough on his choice of a wife.

she felt all Philip’s kindness, she was grateful to him for his tender regard towards her mother, she was learning to love him as well as to like and respect him. She did not know what else she could have done but marry so true a friend.

Chapter 31

‘Kinraid’s dead, I tell yo’, Sylvie! And what kind of a woman are yo’ to go dreaming of another man i’ this way, and taking on so about him, when yo’re a wedded wife, with a child as yo’ve borne to another man?’

‘I do assure you, Mr. Hepburn, that, in the state your wife has been in for some days, it was little less than madness on your part to speak to her about anything that could give rise to strong emotion.’

Sylvia ‘It’s not in me to forgive; I sometimes think it’s not in me to forget.’ 13

Even with the most domestic and affectionate men, their emotions seem to be kept in a cell distinct and away from their actual lives. Philip had other thoughts and other occupations than those connected with his wife during all this time.

Now she was married, this weekly church-going which Philip seemed to expect from her, became a tie and a small hardship, which connected itself with her life of respectability and prosperity.

The sea: ‘A crust of bread and liberty’ was much more accordant to Sylvia’s nature than plenty of creature comforts.Once here, she was as happy as she ever expected to be in this world. The fresh sea-breeze restored something of the colour of former days to her cheeks, the old buoyancy to her spirits; here she might talk her heart-full of loving nonsense to her baby and many restraints. 

Those cruel waves that, forgetful of the happy lovers’ talk by the side of their waters, had carried one away, and drowned him deep till he was dead.

She paid for these happy rambles with her baby by the depression which awaited her on her re-entrance into the dark, confined house that was her home; its very fulness of comfort was an oppression.

She never knew that Philip had any painful association with the particular point on the sea-shore that she instinctively avoided, both from a consciousness of wifely duty, and also because the sight of it brought up so much sharp pain.

Chapter 32

 Sylvia:  seemed to have no will of her own; she served her mother and child for love; she obeyed her husband in all things, and never appeared to pine after gaiety or pleasure.

Hester thought, or rather a flash came across her mind, as if all things were not as right as they seemed. Philip looked older, more care-worn; nay, even Hester was obliged to allow to herself that she had heard him speak to his wife in sharp, aggrieved tones.

Innocent Hester! she could not understand how the very qualities she so admired in Sylvia were just what were so foreign to her nature that the husband, who had known her from a child, felt what an unnatural restraint she was putting upon herself.

I don’t mind anything but his speaking ill on me to mother. I know I’m for iver trying and trying to be a good wife to him, an’ it’s very dull work; harder than yo’ think on, Hester,

Then Sylvia gazed out at the evening sky, high above the tiled roofs of the opposite houses, and the longing to be out under the peaceful heavens took possession of her once more.

below, the sea rose and raged; …Sylvia heard the sound of the passionate rush and rebound of many waters, like the shock of mighty guns, whenever the other sound of the blustering gusty wind was lulled for an instant. 

Chapter 33

Sylvia, to soothe her, took her hand, and promised never to leave the house without asking her husband’s permission, though in making this promise, she felt as if she were sacrificing her last pleasure to her mother’s wish.

she knew well enough that Philip would always raise objections to the rambles which reminded her of her old free open-air life.

Sylvia, this is Kinraid come back again to wed me. He is alive; he has niver been dead, only taken by t’ press-gang. And he says yo’ saw it, and knew it all t’ time. Speak, was it so?’

‘Sylvia!’ spoke out Kinraid, bold and fervent, ‘your marriage is no marriage. You were tricked into it. You are my wife, not his. I am your husband; we plighted each other our troth. See! here is my half of the sixpence.’

Chapter 34

No light came into her eyes any more than if she had looked upon a perfect stranger; not even was there the contraction of dislike…she saw him no more than she saw the inanimate table. That…withered him up more than any sign of aversion would have done.

Philip shrank from the burst of popular indignation which he knew must follow. Any wrong done to one who stands on the pinnacle of the people’s favour is resented by each individual as a personal injury;

among a primitive set of country-folk, who recognize the wild passion in love, as it exists untamed by the trammels of reason and self-restraint, any story of baulked affections, or treachery in such matters, spreads like wildfire.

The sight Philip saw in the mirror was his own long, sad, pale face, made plainer and grayer by the heavy pressure of the morning’s events.

Chapter 35

‘It were market day, and a’,’ continued Phoebe, ‘just as if iverything mun go wrong together; an’ a’ t’ country customers’ll go back wi’ fine tale i’ their mouths, as Measter Hepburn was strayed an’ missin’ just like a beast o’ some kind.’

‘This life is full o’ changes o’ one kind or another; them that’s dead is alive; and as for poor Philip, though he was alive, he looked fitter to be dead when he came into t’ shop o’ Wednesday morning.’

Chapter 36

Philip saw my heart ache day after day, and niver let on as him I was mourning for was alive, and had sent me word as he’d keep true to me, as I were to do to him.’

Chapter 37

Sylvia  was too much a child, too entirely unaccustomed to any independence of action, to do anything but leave herself in his hands.

If Sylvia had been able to make Philip happy, Hester could have felt lovingly and almost gratefully towards her; but Sylvia had failed in this.

Not read! and thee Philip’s wife as was such a great scholar! Of a surety the ways o’ this life are crooked! 

Hester—poor Hester, whose life she had so crossed and blighted, even by the very blighting of her own.

Philip had told her to take care of his wife and child; but she had the conviction that Sylvia had so materially failed in her duties as to have made her husband an exile from his home—