Currently reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s “Life of Charlotte Bronte” and I’ve begun to remember why I loved rereading North and South so much. Her writing is …elegant, unfrivolous, observant and heartfelt. I have no doubt each adjective can be earned with some effort by an ordinary writer, but only remarkable ones can win all of them simultaneously.

Some snippets from the book (and mind you, I’m still in Chapter one) to illustrate what the above adjectives means to me

“From rarely requiring the assistance of others, he comes to doubt the power of bestowing it”

“A solitary life cherishes mere fancies until they become manias”

And this paragraph is just lovely.

“The woollen manufacture was introduced into this district in the days of Edward III. It is traditionally said that a colony of Flemings came over and settled in the West Riding to teach the inhabitants what to do with their wool. The mixture of agricultural with manufacturing labour that ensued and prevailed in the West Riding up to a very recent period, sounds pleasant enough at this distance of time, when the classical impression is left, and the details forgotten, or only brought to light by those who explore the few remote parts of England where the custom still lingers. The idea of the mistress and her maidens spinning at the great wheels while the master was abroad, ploughing his fields, or seeing after his flocks on the purple moors, is very poetical to look back upon; but when such life actually touches on our own days, and we can hear particulars from the lips of those now living, details of coarseness – of the uncouthness of the rustic mingled with the sharpness of the tradesman – of irregularity and fierce lawlessness – come out, that rather mar the vision of pastoral innocence and simplicity. Still, as it is the exceptional and exaggerated characteristics of any period that leave the most vivid memory behind them, it would be wrong, and in my opinion faithless, to conclude that such and such forms of society and modes of living were not best for the period when they prevailed, although the abuses they may have led into, and the gradual progress of the world, have made it well that such ways and manners should pass away for ever, and as preposterous to attempt to return to them, as it would be for a man to return to the clothes of his childhood.”

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