Wives And Daughters
by Elizabeth Gaskel
The first instalment of "Wives and Daughters", Mrs. Gaskell's latest work, and I think universally regarded as the most artistically perfect of all her productions, appeared in the August number of "The Cornhill Magazine" of the year 1864. The last, but uncompleted, portion of the story was published in the January, 1866, number of the same periodical. It was supplemented by an editorial note, mainly conjectural, from the hand of Mr. Frederick Greenwood. Mrs. Gaskell had died on November 12th, 1865, in her fifty-sixth year.
Gaskell s last novel, widely considered her masterpiece, follows the fortunes of two families in nineteenth century rural England. At its core are family relationships father, daughter and step-mother, father and sons, father and step-daughter all tested and strained by the romantic entanglements that ensue. Despite its underlying seriousness, the prevailing tone is one of comedy. Gaskell vividly portrays the world of the late 1820 s and the forces of change within it, and her vision is always humane and progressive. The story is full of acute observation and sympathetic character-study: the feudal squire clinging to old values, his naturalist son welcoming the new world of science, the local doctor and his scheming second wife, the two girls brought together by their parents marriage...