Elizabeth Gaskell’s episodic second novel, sometimes dismissed as nostalgically “charming,” is now considered by many critics to be her most sophisticated work. The country town of Cranford is home to a group of women, affectionately called “Amazons” by the narrator, whose seemingly uneventful lives are full of conflicts, failures, and unexpected connections. A rich commentary on Victorian culture by one of its most astute observers, Cranford owes its enduring popularity to the complex pleasures it offers the reader.
This Broadview Edition provides an assortment of historical materials to put the novel in context, including Gaskell’s letters from the period of the novel’s writing, excerpts from texts read by the characters, illustrations from the novel and from contemporary periodicals, and other Victorian writings on industrialization, etiquette, and domestic life.
“Elizabeth Langland’s edition of Cranford is likely to introduce a new generation of readers to the pleasures of Gaskell’s most delightful but least immediately appreciated novel. By including in her appendices of historical materials choice selections from conduct books and writings on political and domestic economy, as well as in her informed, accessible introduction, Langland demonstrates that, appearances aside, the world of Cranford is firmly located in its Victorian context and addresses, however obliquely, some of the most intractable problems of its age—and of ours.” — Eileen Gillooly, Columbia University