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Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
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Wives and Daughters (1865)

by Elizabeth Gaskell

Other authors: Frederick Greenwood (Author), Graham Handley (Editor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,678572,215 (4.15)269
  1. 70
    Persuasion by Jane Austen (Shuffy2)
    Shuffy2: In addition to North and South by Gaskell, Wives and Daughters is another great read for people who love Austen's Persusion and Sense and Sensibility!
  2. 70
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Cecilturtle)
  3. 40
    Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope (wisewoman)
    wisewoman: Trollope's Mary Thorne and Gaskell's Molly Gibson have much in common: both their father-figures are country doctors with connections to the local nobility, both fall in love with a man above them in station and wealth, both face undeserved public shame in their social circles, and both are sensible, intelligent heroines.… (more)
  4. 20
    Daniel Deronda by George Eliot (Siliverien)
  5. 10
    Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England by Judith Flanders (susanbooks)
  6. 00
    Middlemarch by George Eliot (christiguc, Hollerama)
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The novel opens with young Molly Gibson, who has been raised by her widowed father. Visiting the local 'great house', Molly feels tired so she is sent to rest in the former governess's room. The woman, Clare, makes noise about her kindness to Molly, but is actually careless and thoughtless of Molly's concerns. The afternoon passes and Clare forgets about Molly and she misses her ride home after the picnic. The little girl is distressed at the idea of staying the night away from home and is relieved when her father comes to collect her.

Seven years later, Molly is now an attractive and rather unworldly young woman, which arouses the interest of one of her father's apprentices. Mr Gibson discovers the young man's secret affection and sends Molly to stay with the Hamleys of Hamley Hall, a gentry family that purportedly dates from the Heptarchy but whose circumstances are now reduced. There she finds a mother substitute in Mrs. Hamley, who embraces her almost as a daughter. Molly also becomes friends with the younger son, Roger. Molly is aware that, as the daughter of a professional man, she would not be considered a suitable match for Squire Hamley's sons. The elder son in particular, Osborne, is expected to make a brilliant marriage after an excellent career at Cambridge: he is handsome, clever and more fashionable than his brother. However, he has performed poorly at university, breaking the hearts of his parents. Molly also discovers his great secret: Osborne has married for love, to a French Roman Catholic ex-nursery maid, whom he has established in a secret cottage.

Meanwhile, after a startlingly brief love affair (of which Molly knows nothing), Mr Gibson abruptly decides to remarry, less from his own inclination than from a perceived duty to provide Molly with a mother to guide her. He is seduced by Clare, the former governess whom Molly remembers with no affection. Dutiful Molly does her best, for her father's sake, to get on with her socially ambitious and selfish stepmother, but the home is not always happy. However, Molly immediately gets on well with her new stepsister, Cynthia, who is about the same age as Molly. The two girls are a study in contrasts: Cynthia is far more worldly and rebellious than Molly who is naive and slightly awkward. Cynthia has been educated in France, and it gradually becomes apparent that she and her mother have secrets in their past, involving the land agent from the great house, Mr. Preston.

Osborne Hamley's failures make his invalid mother's illness worse and widens the divide between him and his father, which is amplified by the considerable debts Osborne has run up in maintaining his secret wife. Mrs Hamley dies, and the breach between the squire and his eldest son seems irreparable. Younger son, Roger, continues to work hard at university and ultimately gains the honours and rewards that were expected for his brother. Mrs. Gibson tries unsuccessfully to arrange a marriage between Cynthia and Osborne, as Clare's aspirations include having a daughter married to landed gentry. Molly, however, has always preferred Roger's good sense and honourable character and soon falls in love with him. Unfortunately, Roger falls in love with Cynthia and when Mrs. Gibson overhears that Osborne may be fatally ill, she begins promoting the match. Just before Roger leaves on a two-year scientific expedition to Africa, he asks for Cynthia's hand and she accepts, although she insists that their engagement should remain secret until Roger returns. Molly is heartbroken at this and struggles with her sorrow and the lack of affection that Cynthia feels for Roger.

Scandals begin to show themselves when it is revealed that several years before, Cynthia promised herself to Mr Preston for a loan of 20 pounds. Mr Preston is violently in love with Cynthia but she hates him. Molly intervenes on Cynthia's behalf and breaks off the engagement, giving rise to rumours of her involvement with Preston and endangering her own reputation. Cynthia breaks off her engagement to Roger, sustaining both family and public rebukes and insults for her inconstancy, then quickly accepts and marries Mr Henderson, a professional gentleman she met in London. Osborne, convinced that he will die soon, begs Molly to remember his wife and child when he is gone. Osborne dies shortly thereafter, and Molly reveals the secret to the grieving Squire Hamley. Osborne's widow, Aimee, arrives at Hamley Hall after receiving word that her husband is ill, bringing with her their little son, the heir to Hamley Hall. Roger has rushed home to be with his father, and his affection and good sense bring the squire to see the possible joy to be had in this new family, especially the grandson.

As he resettles into the local scientific community, Roger begins to realise that his brotherly affection for Molly is really more. Aided by the kind interference of Lady Harriet, who has always recognized Molly's worth and charms, he finds himself pained at the thought of Molly with anyone else. Still, he hesitates at giving in to his feelings, feeling unworthy of her love after throwing away his affection on the fickle Cynthia. Before he returns to Africa, he confides his feelings to Mr Gibson, who heartily gives his blessing to the union. Tragically, Roger is thwarted, this time by a scarlet fever scare, and is unable to speak to Molly before he leaves. At this point, Gaskell's novel stops, unfinished at her death. She related to a friend that she had intended Roger to return and present Molly with a dried flower (a gift to him before his departure), as proof of his enduring love. This scene was never realised and the novel remains unfinished. In the BBC adaptation, an alternate ending was written, in which Roger is unable to leave Molly without speaking of his love, and they marry and return to Africa together. ( )
  mrsdanaalbasha | Mar 12, 2016 |
The novel opens with young Molly Gibson, who has been raised by her widowed father. Visiting the local 'great house', Molly feels tired so she is sent to rest in the former governess's room. The woman, Clare, makes noise about her kindness to Molly, but is actually careless and thoughtless of Molly's concerns. The afternoon passes and Clare forgets about Molly and she misses her ride home after the picnic. The little girl is distressed at the idea of staying the night away from home and is relieved when her father comes to collect her.

Seven years later, Molly is now an attractive and rather unworldly young woman, which arouses the interest of one of her father's apprentices. Mr Gibson discovers the young man's secret affection and sends Molly to stay with the Hamleys of Hamley Hall, a gentry family that purportedly dates from the Heptarchy but whose circumstances are now reduced. There she finds a mother substitute in Mrs. Hamley, who embraces her almost as a daughter. Molly also becomes friends with the younger son, Roger. Molly is aware that, as the daughter of a professional man, she would not be considered a suitable match for Squire Hamley's sons. The elder son in particular, Osborne, is expected to make a brilliant marriage after an excellent career at Cambridge: he is handsome, clever and more fashionable than his brother. However, he has performed poorly at university, breaking the hearts of his parents. Molly also discovers his great secret: Osborne has married for love, to a French Roman Catholic ex-nursery maid, whom he has established in a secret cottage.

Meanwhile, after a startlingly brief love affair (of which Molly knows nothing), Mr Gibson abruptly decides to remarry, less from his own inclination than from a perceived duty to provide Molly with a mother to guide her. He is seduced by Clare, the former governess whom Molly remembers with no affection. Dutiful Molly does her best, for her father's sake, to get on with her socially ambitious and selfish stepmother, but the home is not always happy. However, Molly immediately gets on well with her new stepsister, Cynthia, who is about the same age as Molly. The two girls are a study in contrasts: Cynthia is far more worldly and rebellious than Molly who is naive and slightly awkward. Cynthia has been educated in France, and it gradually becomes apparent that she and her mother have secrets in their past, involving the land agent from the great house, Mr. Preston.

Osborne Hamley's failures make his invalid mother's illness worse and widens the divide between him and his father, which is amplified by the considerable debts Osborne has run up in maintaining his secret wife. Mrs Hamley dies, and the breach between the squire and his eldest son seems irreparable. Younger son, Roger, continues to work hard at university and ultimately gains the honours and rewards that were expected for his brother. Mrs. Gibson tries unsuccessfully to arrange a marriage between Cynthia and Osborne, as Clare's aspirations include having a daughter married to landed gentry. Molly, however, has always preferred Roger's good sense and honourable character and soon falls in love with him. Unfortunately, Roger falls in love with Cynthia and when Mrs. Gibson overhears that Osborne may be fatally ill, she begins promoting the match. Just before Roger leaves on a two-year scientific expedition to Africa, he asks for Cynthia's hand and she accepts, although she insists that their engagement should remain secret until Roger returns. Molly is heartbroken at this and struggles with her sorrow and the lack of affection that Cynthia feels for Roger.

Scandals begin to show themselves when it is revealed that several years before, Cynthia promised herself to Mr Preston for a loan of 20 pounds. Mr Preston is violently in love with Cynthia but she hates him. Molly intervenes on Cynthia's behalf and breaks off the engagement, giving rise to rumours of her involvement with Preston and endangering her own reputation. Cynthia breaks off her engagement to Roger, sustaining both family and public rebukes and insults for her inconstancy, then quickly accepts and marries Mr Henderson, a professional gentleman she met in London. Osborne, convinced that he will die soon, begs Molly to remember his wife and child when he is gone. Osborne dies shortly thereafter, and Molly reveals the secret to the grieving Squire Hamley. Osborne's widow, Aimee, arrives at Hamley Hall after receiving word that her husband is ill, bringing with her their little son, the heir to Hamley Hall. Roger has rushed home to be with his father, and his affection and good sense bring the squire to see the possible joy to be had in this new family, especially the grandson.

As he resettles into the local scientific community, Roger begins to realise that his brotherly affection for Molly is really more. Aided by the kind interference of Lady Harriet, who has always recognized Molly's worth and charms, he finds himself pained at the thought of Molly with anyone else. Still, he hesitates at giving in to his feelings, feeling unworthy of her love after throwing away his affection on the fickle Cynthia. Before he returns to Africa, he confides his feelings to Mr Gibson, who heartily gives his blessing to the union. Tragically, Roger is thwarted, this time by a scarlet fever scare, and is unable to speak to Molly before he leaves. At this point, Gaskell's novel stops, unfinished at her death. She related to a friend that she had intended Roger to return and present Molly with a dried flower (a gift to him before his departure), as proof of his enduring love. This scene was never realised and the novel remains unfinished. In the BBC adaptation, an alternate ending was written, in which Roger is unable to leave Molly without speaking of his love, and they marry and return to Africa together. ( )
  mrsdanaalbasha | Mar 12, 2016 |
Molly Gibson is a kind-hearted, intelligent, sensitive girl who is thrown into society when her father, the equally sensible but far more sarcastic Mr.Gibson, marries. His new wife is flighty, hypocritical, and manipulative, but all in such a soft, pliant way that it is difficult to oppose her. With her comes her daughter Cynthia Fitzpatrick, who is Molly's own age but beautiful where Molly is pretty, and socially brilliant where Molly is genuine. Cynthia and Molly immediately become best friends, but Cynthia is so constantly charming young men that (by trying to help her get out of scrapes) Molly's own reputation suffers.

Easily one of the most charming, romantic Victorian novels I've ever read. Victorian novels generally put so much emphasis on morals or virtues that I find alien and silly, or are so long-winded in their explanations, descriptions, and dialog, that I grow quite out of patience with them. Instead, Gaskell seems to have a good deal of sympathy for characters like Cynthia, who would have been treated very severely by authors like Trollop or Bradden, and quietly pokes fun at the sexist, classist, xenophobic notions of her main characters. She seems to like her characters, and want to explain them to her readers, instead of trying to use them as puppets to force her readers into higher morals. Gaskell is nearly as witty as Dickens, but turns her attention in much the same direction as Austen, with that same satirical edge to her domestic descriptions. Gaskell is particularly adept at portraying characters' personalities and interests through dialog alone. I quite loved this, and was horrified to learn, when I was 75% done and utterly wrapt up in the story, that it was never finished. It ends on a satisfying note, however, so though one does not get to actually read the resolution, one is not left without hope that it did take place. In a way, by ending this novel before the hero and heroine confess their love for each other, one is left to resolve it in the manner most satisfactory to oneself, and not bound to the author's choices. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
It was my first foray into classical literature in a very very long time. I loved it and its the reason why I read more classics even to this day! ( )
  nraichlin | Jan 26, 2016 |
Brimming with incredible insights into human psychology, the novel is measured and purposeful in its depiction of the relationships between the inhabitants of a small sleepy English town. The nuanced characterisations - the understanding that flaws and strengths are often two sides of the same coin -, along with the sporadic interrupting wit of the authorial comments, elevate what could have been just another frivolous period drama.

As the title itself suggests, the story revolves mostly around women, but also as the title suggests, it is mostly about their roles in relation to men. Nevertheless, the range of women from forthright to meek, from artful to artless, populate and drive the plots from disasters, and it is clear that they could have truly been independent were it not for the patriarchal setting. For example, Clare, though the blurb/story deigns her vain and manipulative - which really is just another way of saying she knows the value of appearances and getting people to do what she wants -, would have been a brilliant and successful boss.

Then there is Molly, who is presented as a simple, country girl but is also capable of amazing underhanded threats while also being irrational in her unrequited love to the point of reacting to Roger's romantic interest in Cynthia with "but his dying mother once called me by the name of his dead sister!" The psychology behind the compatibility between Osborne and Aimée - the needy and the need to be needed - is the one of the most scathing and realistic accounts of (fictional) relationships I have ever read.

Of course, the novel is not without its flaws, even with its strength in understandably flawed characters. Roger's casual, abnormal perfection - senior wrangler, published researcher of physiology, amateur estate lawyer, now at the forefront of a scientific expedition and breakthrough - is mindboggling. At one point, the story even seemed to be replaying the ridiculous misfortunes-and-deaths domino effect of the Hales from North and South.

For a plot which could be summed up sensationally in three lines, it is all the more impressive how substantial and fully fleshed out the characters are, that we are able to understand and justify their motives in every step. I particularly enjoyed the unintended abrupt ending, which, far from discrediting all that has happened beforehand, imbues the novel with an ineffable quality. ( )
  kitzyl | Jan 22, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth Gaskellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Greenwood, FrederickAuthorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Handley, GrahamEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alou, DamiánTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Arping, ÅsaPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Arping, ÅsaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bailey, JosephineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kwiatkowska, KatarzynaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lane, MargaretIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maurier, George DuIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morris, PamEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ott, AndreaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reinhard-Stocker, AliceAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scales, PrunellaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sundström, Gun-BrittTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vierne, BéatriceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The answer was silly enough, logically; but forcible in fact. Cynthia was Cynthia, and not Venus herself could have been her substitute. In this one thing Mr. Preston was more really true than many worthy men, who, seeking to be married, turn with careless facility from the unattainable to the attainable, and keep their feelings and fancy tolerably loose till they find a woman who consents to be their wife. But no one would ever be to Mr. Preston what Cynthia had been, and was; and yet he could have stabbed her in certain of his moods.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 014043478X, Paperback)

Set in English society before the 1832 Reform Bill, Wives and Daughters centres on the story of youthful Molly Gibson, brought up from childhood by her father. When he remarries, a new step-sister enters Molly's quiet life – loveable, but worldly and troubling, Cynthia. The narrative traces the development of the two girls into womanhood within the gossiping and watchful society of Hollingford.

Wives and Daughters is far more than a nostalgic evocation of village life; it offers an ironic critique of mid-Victorian society. 'No nineteenth-century novel contains a more devastating rejection than this of the Victorian male assumption of moral authority', writes Pam Morris in her introduction to this new edition, in which she explores the novel's main themes – the role of women, Darwinism and the concept of Englishness – and its literary and social context.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:31 -0400)

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A Victorian country gentleman's new marriage produces mixed reactions from family and close associates in his English village.

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