The Gaskell Society

The Gaskell Society

Celebrating the life and work of Elizabeth Gaskell

Continuing our series of quotes from Wives and Daughters, compiled by Dr Diane Duffy, we now have chapters 11-20, covered in her November meeting. You can read her discussion Points to Ponder at the November meeting page. 

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Chapter 11

…is she [Cynthia] very clever and accomplished?” asked Molly,   
   “She ought to be; I’ve paid ever so much money to have her taught by the best masters.

It is odd enough to see how the entrance of a person of the opposite sex into an assemblage of either men or women calms down the little discordances and the disturbance of mood.

…it had slipped off the smooth surface of Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s mirror-like mind without leaving any impression.

Thinking more of others’ happiness than of her own was very fine; but did it not mean giving up her very individuality, quenching all the warm love, the true desires, that made her herself?

“No, I shan’t!” said Molly, shaking her head. “It will be very dull when I shall have killed myself, as it were, and live only in trying to do, and to be, as other people like. I don’t see any end to it. I might as well never have lived. …, I shall never be happy again.”

Chapter 12

Mrs Kirkpatrick on marriage: Indeed, many a little circumstance of former subjection to the will of others rose up before her during these quiet hours, as an endurance or a suffering never to occur again.

Mrs Kirkpatrick’s liking for Mr. Gibson grew in proportion to her sense of the evils from which he was going to serve as a means of escape.

Chapter 13

Miss Browing on etiquette: Why, my mother would have given us a fine scolding if she had ever caught us in our bedrooms in the daytime. We kept our out-door things in a closet downstairs; and there was a very tidy place for washing our hands, which is as much as one wants in the daytime.

“I wonder if I’m pretty,” thought Molly. “I almost think I am—in this kind of dress I mean, of course. Betty would say, ‘Fine feathers make fine birds.'”

Chapter 14

Lady Harriet on Mr Preston: I cannot bear that sort of person,…giving himself airs of gallantry… [when] simple respect is all his duty. I can talk to one of my father’s labourers with pleasure, while with a man like that underbred fop I am all over thorns and nettles.

Miss Browning on a visit from Lady Harriet: Lady Harriet was quite struck with our tea, and asked where we got it, for she had never tasted any like it before; and I told her we gave only 3s. 4d. a pound for it, at Johnson’s—

Chapter 15

The cook did not like the trouble of late dinners; and, being a Methodist, she objected on religious grounds to trying any of Mrs. Gibson’s new receipts for French dishes.

So the cook followed in Betty’s track, and Mr. Gibson had to satisfy his healthy English appetite on badly-made omelettes, rissoles, vol-au-vents, croquets, and timbales; never being exactly sure what he was eating.

Mrs Gibson: …being an unperceptive person, except when her own interests were dependent upon another person’s humour, never found out how [her husband] was worried by all the small daily concessions which he made to her will or her whims.

Chapter 16

Mrs. Gibson was dressed for receiving callers, and made the effect she always intended to produce, of a very pretty woman, no longer in first youth, but with such soft manners and such a caressing voice, that people forgot to wonder what her real age might be.

Lady Harriet’s letters were short and amusing. She had that sort of regard for her old governess which prompted her to write from time to time, and to feel glad when the half-voluntary task was accomplished.

Chapter 17

“I think I’ve been very weak, Molly,” said Mrs. Hamley… “I’ve made such an idol of my beautiful Osborne; and he turns out to have feet of clay, not strong enough to stand firm on the ground.

Chapter 19

“Why, how you are grown, darling! You look quite a woman.”

“And so I am,” said Cynthia. “I was before I went away; I’ve hardly grown since,—except, it is always to be hoped, in wisdom.”

Cynthia to Molly: I don’t know that I am easy to get on with; mamma and I didn’t suit when we were last together. But perhaps we are each of us wiser now.

Cynthia’s unconscious power of fascination had been exercised upon her. Some people have this power. Of course, its effects are only manifested in the susceptible.

A school-girl may be found in every school who attracts and influences all the others, not by her virtues, nor her beauty, nor her sweetness, nor her cleverness, but by something that can neither be described nor reasoned upon.

Cynthia was not remarkable for unflinching morality; but the glamour thrown over her would have prevented Molly from any attempt at penetrating into and judging her companion’s character, even had such processes been the least in accordance with her own disposition.

A woman will have this charm, not only over men but over her own sex; it cannot be defined,… Perhaps it is incompatible with very high principle; as its essence seems to consist in the most exquisite power of adaptation to varying people and still more various moods; “being all things to all men.”

Cynthia to Molly: But it’s no use talking; I am not good, and I never shall be now. Perhaps I might be a heroine still, but I shall never be a good woman, I know.

Cynthia…did not consider herself bound to be truthful;… But there was no ill-nature,…no attempt at procuring any advantage for herself in all her deviations…and such a latent sense of fun in them that Molly could not help being amused, though she condemned them in theory.

I have grown up outside the pale of duty and ‘oughts.’ Love me as I am, sweet one, for I shall never be better.”

Mr  Gibson had grown accustomed to his wife by this time, and regarded silence on his own part as a great preservative against long inconsequential arguments.

A death that had come out of time; a wonder whether the dead knew what passed upon the earth they had left—the brilliant Osborne’s failure, Roger’s success; the vanity of human wishes

On Cynthia: They were first struck with her personal appearance; and then with her pretty deprecating manner, which appealed to them much as if she had said, “You are wise, and I am foolish—have mercy on my folly.”

Cynthia, too, was extremely quiet; she was always much quieter with men than with women; it was part of the charm of her soft allurement that she was so passive.