The Gaskell Society

The Gaskell Society

Celebrating the life and work of Elizabeth Gaskell

To complement our Knutsford meetings, Dr Diane Duffy has compiled quotes from this season’s featured novel, Wives and Daughters. Her October meeting covers chapters 1-10, so here’s her selection from those chapters. You can read her discussion Points to Ponder at the October meeting page. 

Follow the Gaskell Society on Twitter and look out for the hashtag #wivesanddaughters for daily tweets. 

The Cumnors: …the earl” and “the countess,” as they were always called by the inhabitants of the town where a very pretty amount of feudal feeling still lingered, and showed itself in a number of simple ways, droll enough to look back upon, but serious matters…at the time.

They expected to be submitted to, and obeyed; the simple worship of the townspeople was accepted by the earl and countess as a right.

Lady Cumnor: Once a year she was condescending. She…, had set up a school; not after the manner of schools nowadays, where far better intellectual teaching is given to the boys and girls of labourers and work-people than often falls to the lot of their betters in worldly estate.

Still, in every condition of life, there are heavy cares and responsibilities.

Chapter 3

On Dr Gibson: …thin enough to be called “a very genteel figure,” in those days, before muscular Christianity had come into vogue; speaking with a slight Scotch accent; and, as one good lady observed, “so very trite in his conversation,” by which she meant sarcastic.

The popularity of this world is as transient as its glory… Mr. Hall found out before the first year of his partnership was over. He had plenty of leisure left to him now to nurse his gout and cherish his eyesight.

Chapter 4

Lady Cumnor on her son’s guests at the Towers: “All sorts of people” meant really those who were distinguished for science and learning, without regard to rank: and it must be confessed, without much regard to polished manners likewise.

Mr. Ashton, the vicar: …a thoroughly good and kind-hearted man, but one without an original thought in him; whose habitual courtesy and indolent mind led him to agree to every opinion, not palpably heterodox, and to utter platitudes in the most gentlemanly manner.

Mr. Gibson: …if he could not cure the patient, it was surely best to get him out of his misery quietly,…but that it would not do to make away with profitable patients in so speedy a manner;…as long as they were willing and able to pay…, it was his duty to keep them alive.

Chapter 5

“I wish girls could dress like boys,” said Mr. Gibson, with a little impatience. “How is a man to know when his daughter wants clothes? and how is he to rig her out when he finds it out, just when she needs them most and hasn’t got them?”

Chapter 6

The deliciousness of the early summer silence was only broken by the song of the birds, and the nearer hum of bees. Listening to these sounds, which enhanced the exquisite sense of stillness, and puzzling out objects obscured by distance or shadow…

Molly went to the window to see what was to be seen. A flower-garden right below; a meadow of ripe grass just beyond, changing colour…, as the soft wind blew over it; great old forest-trees a little on one side; and, beyond them again,…the silver shimmer of a mere,

Chapter 7

But fate is a cunning hussy, and builds up her plans as imperceptibly as a bird builds her nest; and with much the same kind of unconsidered trifles.

Dr Gibson: “I wish I’d a five-pound house and not a woman within ten miles of me. I might have some peace then.”

“I was going to say that proposal of yours… was just like a woman’s idea—all kindness, and no common sense.

Go and order some strawberries and cream for this father of yours. Such humble offices fall within the province of women.

“Oh, she’s not at all the sort of girl young men of their age would take to. We like her because we see what she really is; but lads of one or two and twenty want all the accessories of a young woman.”

Chapter 8

You’re a real blessing to mothers, child! You give one such pleasant sympathy, both in one’s gladness and in one’s sorrow; in one’s pride, and in one’s disappointment.

Roger was at that age when young men admire a formed beauty more than a face with any amount of future capability of loveliness, and when they are morbidly conscious of the difficulty of finding subjects of conversation in talking to girls in a state of feminine hobbledehoyhood.

Lady Harriet on Mrs Kirkpatrick: I should have thought any one who wasn’t particular about education would have been charmed to keep her as a governess.”

Lady Cumnor on Mrs Kirkpatrick: I’m beginning to think she’ll never get on as a schoolmistress, though why she shouldn’t, I’m sure I don’t know; for she’s an uncommonly pretty woman for her age, and her having lived in our family,…ought to go a good way.

Chapter 10

Mrs Kirkpatrick wondered: how pleasant it would be to have a husband once more;—some one who would work while she sat at her elegant ease in a prettily-furnished drawing-room;

Roger Hamley: He was so great a lover of nature that, without any thought, but habitually, he always avoided treading unnecessarily on any plant; who knew what long-sought growth or insect might develop itself in that which now appeared but insignificant?

Roger to Molly: “It is right to hope for the best about everybody, and not to expect the worst. This sounds like a truism, but it has comforted me before now, and some day you’ll find it useful.

On summer days: It is so charming to be out here in the fresh morning air. I think that made me sleepy. But isn’t it a gloriously hot day? I wonder if the Italian skies they talk about can be bluer than that—that little bit you see just between the oaks—there!”