BRITISH WRITERS, Volume 5 by Ian Scott-Kilvert

By Ian Scott-Kilvert

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Carlo lay on the worsted-worked rug, and ungraciously barked at us as we entered. Mrs Jamieson stood up, giving us each a torpid smile of welcome, and looking helplessly beyond us at Mr Mulliner, as if she hoped he would place us in chairs, for, if he did not, she never could. I suppose he thought we could find our way to the circle round the fire, which reminded me of Stonehenge, I don't know why. (ch. VIII) interest. We had none of us been there; but Miss Pole had an uncle who once had passed a night there, which was very pleasant.

4) Cousin Phillis Cousin Phillis, a short idyll with Wordsworthian overtones, is more subtle in feeling than Cranford; indeed, it is one of Mrs. Gaskell's finest pieces of prose. She links her heroine with the figure in William Wordsworth's Lucy poems—the young cousin who tells Phillis' story thinks of her as "a maiden whom there were few to love and none to praise"—and her writing captures some of the appropriate freshness and ease. The steady cycle of the seasons provides a commentary on the troubled human emotions in the foreground, and the restraint of the narrative adds to its poignancy.

After explaining how much she "honoured and loved her," she went on, "If I live long enough, and no one is living whom such a publication would hurt, I will publish what I know of her, and make the world . . " Two weeks later she received the letter from Charlotte's father asking her to write an account of his daughter's life and work. She set to work at once, and finished the book after two laborious years. If the material is remarkable, so is Mrs. Gaskell's treatment of it. 'It is perhaps as difficult to write a good life as to live one," wrote Lytton Strachey in the preface to his book Eminent Victorians (1918); he was thinking of the "two fat volumes, with which it is our custom to commemorate the dead.

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