19th Century Wit


My book club is reading Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell for December. I hadn’t heard of Ms. Gaskell before this. I’ve since learned a little about her, including the fact that Charles Dickens liked her work and included some of it in his weekly publication Household Words.

I was reading this while I was at the library bookstore last night. I kept chuckling out loud, although I tried to stay quiet. I had two different customers give in and ask what I was reading. I am charmed by Gaskell’s dry, biting, observant wit.

Cranford is about the “Amazonian society” of aristocratic women who run the small English town of Cranford. The men in their lives have died or are off to sea or away on business or whatever. A few are spinsters. These women have their strict societal rules.

This is one scene that so tickled me last night:

“…I would fain have looked round at the merry chattering people behind me, Miss Pole clutched my arm, and begged me not to turn, for ‘it was not the thing.’ What ‘the thing’ was, I never could find out, but it must have been something eminently dull and tiresome.”

That certainly gave me a good view of the ladies of Cranford.

This book was a miniseries on PBS in 2007. It is being run again on Masterpiece Theater later this month starting December 20th. Since Cranford was chosen back in July, I’m sure whoever nominated the book didn’t expect this scheduling coup. Isn’t it cool when world forces come together (or one saying goes “God works in mysterious ways…”)?