The Gaskell Society

The Gaskell Society

Celebrating the life and work of Elizabeth Gaskell

We now visit Chapters 21-30 in our continuing our series of quotes from Wives and Daughters, compiled by Dr Diane Duffy. These chapters will be covered in her January 2023 meeting and you can read her discussion Points to Ponder at the January meeting page. 

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

Chapter 21

To be sure, sometimes prophets can help on the fulfilment of their own prophecies; and Mrs. Gibson was not passive.

Osborne on Roger Hamley: “Ah, Roger!” he said one day…He is a fellow in a thousand—in a thousand, indeed! I don’t believe there is his match anywhere for goodness and real solid power combined.”

Mrs Gibson about Molly: “She wants the refinement which good society gives in several ways,” said Mrs. Gibson, returning to the attack on poor Molly. “She’s very apt to come upstairs two steps at a time.”

The grave eyes that the latter raised when she had to be presented to Roger had a sort of child-like innocence and wonder about them, which did not quite belong to Cynthia’s character.

Chapter 22

Quiet and passive as Mrs. Hamley had always been in appearance, she was the ruling spirit of the house as long as she lived. 

Mrs Hamley: Her children always knew where to find her; and to find her, was to find love and sympathy. Her husband, who was often restless and angry from one cause or another, always came to her to be smoothed down and put right.

Squire Hamley: He loved the trees he had played under as a boy as if they were living creatures; …. looking at them as representing so many pounds sterling, he had esteemed them highly, and had had, until now, no opinion of another by which to correct his own judgment.

There is nothing like wounded affection for giving poignancy to anger.

You public schoolboys have a kind of freemasonry of your own, and outsiders are looked on…as I look on rabbits… You may laugh, but…your friends will throw their eyes askance at me, and never think on my pedigree, which would beat theirs all to shivers.

As regarded his position as head of the oldest family in three counties, his pride was invincible; as regarded himself -ill at ease in the society of his equals, deficient in manners, and in education—his morbid sensitiveness was too …self-conscious to be called humility.

Chapter 23

Osborne: One could hardly have thought that this elegant young man, standing there in the midst of comfort that verged on luxury, should have been turning over that one great problem in his mind; but so it was. “What can I do to be sure of a present income? 

Roger replied: “Some one told me that the Duke of Wellington’s maxim was never to give advice unless he could enforce its being carried into effect; now I can’t do that; and …you don’t follow out my advice when you’ve got it.”

“A deal of a man’s life comes and goes in three years—I’ve found that out;” and he puffed away at his pipe again. While Roger was turning over in his mind what answer to make to this truism…

Chapter 24

“And I object to the distinction implied in what you say,” said Roger. “It was not deep, ergo, it was very interesting. Now, a book may be both deep and interesting.”

“How could you talk such nonsense, Cynthia!” said Mrs. Gibson…. “You know you are not a dunce. It is all very well not to be a blue-stocking, because gentle-people don’t like that kind of woman; but running yourself down.

…a man must take the consequences when he puts himself in a false position.

 Mrs. Gibson wakened up gracefully, as was her way of doing all things, and slid into the subjects they were talking about so easily, that she almost succeeded in making them believe she had never been asleep.

Chapter 25

Easter … always required new clothing of some kind, for fear of certain consequences from little birds, who were supposed to resent the impiety of those that did not wear some new article of dress on Easter-day.

Mrs Gibson …was afraid of Mr. Preston, and admired him at the same time. 

Such were the facts, but rose-colour was the medium through which they were seen by Mrs. Gibson’s household listeners on her return.

Cynthia to Molly: I never would allow sentiment to interfere with my choice of colours; and pink does tie one down. Now you, in white muslin, just tipped with crimson, like a daisy, may wear anything.”

The French girls would tell you, to believe that you were pretty would make you so.

Chapter 26

an annual charity-ball,… was a very allowable and favourite piece of dissipation to all the kindly old maids who thronged the country towns of England. They aired their old lace and their best dresses…

Papa has found a great many friends to talk to..Patients, my dear—hardly friends. 

Mrs. Gibson was just the person to come to the rescue with her honeyed words on such an occasion as the present

…it must be the duchess; but what was a duchess without diamonds?—and in a dress which farmer Hudson’s daughter might have worn! 

Such a shabby thing for a duchess I never saw; not a bit of a diamond near her! They’re none of ’em worth looking at except the countess

Lady Harriet to Molly:…don’t you see, we’re a show and a spectacle—it’s like having a pantomime with harlequin and columbine in plain clothes.

What d’ye mean by that? Do you suppose I was going to desert the principles of my family, and curry favour with the Whigs? No! leave that to them. They can ask the heir of the Hamleys fast enough when a county election is coming on.

Chapter 28

I consider the thought as everything,” said Mrs. Gibson. “Thought is spiritual, while action is merely material

You had better take my brother for your companion; he is practical in his love of flowers, I am only theoretical.”…”Does that fine word ‘theoretical’ imply that you are ignorant?” asked Cynthia.