of Elizabeth Gaskell: The Moorland Cottage

Elizabeth Gaskell. The Moorland Cottage (1850).

The widow of a curate inhabits a rural cottage with her son, daughter, and aging servant. Prone to prizing her weak son higher than her quiet daughter, she manages to secure the interest of the local gentry in his prospects. The two families spend much time together in the ensuing years, as her son develops into an irresponsible and dishonest man and her daughter becomes, by the gentleness and unselfishness of her character, the prop and comfort of both households. Unsurprisingly, the excellent son of the wealthier family discovers the young lady’s charms though his ambitious father objects to the match. Then the girl’s brother comes home in a desperate scrape from which only she can save him. But will she? The unexpected ending has a tinge of Victorian melodrama, the writing is of Gaskell’s usual quality and descriptive wealth.

A short and mildly entertaining read from Gaskell, largely valuable from a literary perspective because it almost undoubtedly provided the inspiration for George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss (1860).

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