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Ruth

Ruth

Elizabeth Gaskell Easson Angus
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A fallen woman sympathetically portrayed would seem a less-than-ideal choice as the central focus of a Victorian novel. Yet despite her own misgivings and fears of public censure, Elizabeth Gaskell created just such a portrait in Ruth (1853), the book that followed her highly successful debut novel, Mary Barton. Overturning the conventional assumption that a woman once seduced is condemned to exclusion from respectable society, Gaskell draws a heroine whose emotional honesty, innate morality, and the love she shares with her illegitimate son are sufficient for redemption. Ruth is at heart a romance, and Gaskell employs the conventions of the genre to limn the nineteenth-century world of women and family -- a world in which love, religion, and the devotion of friends provide a haven from the cruelty of Victorian morality's hypocritical "double standard".Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell was born in London in 1810, but she spent her formative years in Cheshire, Stratford-upon-Avon and the north of England. In 1832 she married the Reverend William Gaskell, who became well known as the minister of the Unitarian Chapel in Manchester’s Cross Street. As well as leading a busy domestic life as minister’s wife and mother of four daughters, she worked among the poor, traveled frequently and wrote. Mary Barton (1848) was her first success. Two years later she began writing for Dickens’s magazine, Household Words, to which she contributed fiction for the next thirteen years, notably a further industrial novel, North and South (1855). In 1850 she met and secured the friendship of Charlotte Bront?. After Charlotte’s death in March 1855, Patrick Brontchose his daughter’s friend and fellow-novelist to write The Life of Charlotte Bront(1857), a probing and sympathetic account, that has attained classic stature. Elizabeth Gaskell’s position as a clergyman’s wife and as a successful writer introduced her to a wide circle of friends, both from the professional world of Manchester and from the larger literary world. Her output was substantial and completely professional. Dickens discovered her resilient strength of character when trying to impose his views on her as editor of Household Words. She proved that she was not to be bullied, even by such a strong-willed man. Her later works, Sylvia’s Lovers (1863), Cousin Phillis (1864) and Wives and Daughters (1866) reveal that she was continuing to develop her writing in new literary directions. Elizabeth Gaskell died suddenly in November 1865."A generally good teaching edition at a reasonable price."--Christopher C. Dahl, University of Michigan, Dearborn"Essential that this remain in print for Victorian culture studies."--Linda Shires, Syracuse University"I'm happy that you have made Ruth affordable for classroom use. Ruth illuminates many of the conflicts over 'the fallen woman' as Christian martyr or feminist hero seen in more famous Victorian novels such as Tess and The Scarlet Letter. Your edition is well-edited and readably printed."--Dr. Jeanette Shumaker, San Diego State University --Imperial Valley Branch"OUP is the only publisher of this in paperback. It's a significant book for any Victorian literature course and particularly for one on Victorian women." --Eleanor McNees, University of Denver --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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