The Gaskell Society

The Gaskell Society

Celebrating the life and work of Elizabeth Gaskell

We now visit Chapters 40-50 in our continuing series of quotes from Wives and Daughters, compiled by Dr Diane Duffy. These chapters will be covered in her March 2023 meeting and you can read her discussion Points to Ponder at the March meeting page. Follow the Gaskell Society on Twitter and look out for the hashtag #wivesanddaughters for daily tweets. 

Chapter 40

Mamma does not know it; it is not in her to know what I might have been if I had only fallen into wise, good hands.

“Oh! a little bird told us,” said Miss Browning. Molly knew that little bird from her childhood, and had always hated it, and longed to wring its neck.

“But you are good, Cynthia,” put in Molly.
     “No, I’m not. You’re just as much mistaken as he[Roger] is; and some day I shall go down in your opinions with a run, just like the hall clock the other day when the spring broke.”

Chapter 41

When I look back to those happy days, it seems to me as if I had never valued them as I ought. To be sure—youth, love,—what did we care for poverty!

If Mr. Kirkpatrick had but taken care of that cough of his; but he was so obstinate! Men always are, I think. 

Chapter 42

Mrs. Gibson subsided into her arm-chair, holding a sheet of The Times before her, behind which she took a quiet and lady-like doze. 

Molly gazed into the soft outer darkness, striving to discern the outlines of objects—the cottage—the great beech-tree—the wire arches, up which summer roses had clambered; each came out faint and dim against the dusky velvet of the atmosphere. 

Chapter 43

“How easy it is to judge rightly after one sees what evil comes from judging wrongly! 

Mrs. Donaldson gave me my ticket, but she rather looked grave at my idea of going to the Ball in my white muslin, which I had already worn two evenings at their house. Oh dear! how pleasant it must be to be rich!

I began to feel how awkward it was to be in his debt. I couldn’t give myself airs to him as I did to others. Oh! it was so awkward and uncomfortable!

He made me feel as if I was in his power; and by too often reminding me of my engagement to him, he made me critical of his words and ways.

Once or twice I’ve thought I would marry Mr. Preston out of pure revenge, and have him for ever in my power—only I think I should have the worst of it;

Molly was compelled to perceive that there must have been a great deal of underhand work going on beneath Cynthia’s apparent openness of behaviour; and still more unwillingly she began to be afraid that she  might be led into the practice.

Chapter 44

It would be charming,” said Mrs. Gibson, rapidly revolving the changes necessary …,—calculating the consequent inconveniences, and weighing them against the probable advantages, even while she spoke.

Mrs Gibson:  I never really took to Roger? I respected him and all that, of course; but to compare him with Mr. Henderson! Mr. Henderson is so handsome and well-bred, and gets all his gloves from Houbigant!”

Mr Preston to Molly: “Young ladies are very fond of the words ‘hate’ and ‘detest.’ I’ve known many who have applied them to men whom they were all the time hoping to marry.”

Chapter 45

Mrs Gibson: ‘… you may really judge of the state of the weather by my spirits, I have always been such a sensitive creature! It is well for Cynthia that she does not inherit it.

The Hollingford Book Society: Everybody who pretended to gentility in the place belonged to it. It was a test of gentility, indeed, rather than of education or a love of literature. No shopkeeper would have thought of offering himself as a member

Chapter 46

Scandal sleeps in the summer, comparatively speaking. Its nature is the reverse of that of the dormouse. 

But when evenings grew short, and people gathered round the fires, and put their feet in a circle—not on the fenders, that was not allowed—then was the time for confidential conversation!

Miss Browning: Without offence to the present company, I am inclined to look upon matrimony as a weakness to which some very worthy people are prone; but if they must be married, let them make the best of it, and go through the affair with dignity and propriety

Villagers on Dr. Gibson: when first he came here,—glad of a mutton-chop in his surgery, for I doubt if he’d a fire anywhere else; we called him Bob Gibson then, but none on us dare Bob him now; I’d as soon think o’ calling him sweep!”

Chapter 47

Servants heard part of what was said in their mistresses’ drawing-rooms, and exaggerated the sayings amongst themselves with the coarse strengthening of expression common with uneducated people.

Mrs Goodenough to friends: women should mind what they’re about, and never be talked of; and if a woman’s talked of, the less her friends have to do with her till the talk has died away, the better.

Chapter  48

Dr. Gibson: You don’t know, Molly, how slight a thing may blacken a girl’s reputation for life. I’d hard work to stand all she said, even though I didn’t believe a word of it at the time.

Mrs Gibson: one would calculate one’s behaviour at the present time so much better if one only knew what events were to come. 

Chapter 49

It was always Lady Cumnor’s habit to snub those she loved best. Her husband was perpetually snubbed by her.

Chapter 50

Mrs Gibson to Cynthia: You’ve entangled yourself with him, and you’ve done something of the sort with Mr. Preston, and got yourself into such an imbroglio” (Mrs. Gibson could not have said “mess” for the world, although the word was present to her mind),