A story of romance, scandal and intrigue within the confines of a watchful, gossiping English village during the early nineteenth century
When seventeen-year-old Molly Gibson’s widowed father remarries, her life is turned upside down by the arrival of her vain, manipulative stepfather. She also acquires an intriguing new stepsister, Cynthia, glamorous, sophisticated and irresistible to every man she meets. The two girls begin to confide in one another and Molly soon finds herself a go-between in Cynthia’s love affairs – but in doing so risks losing both her own reputation and the man she secretly loves. Set in English society before the 1832 Reform Bill, Elizabeth Gaskell’s last novel – considered to be her finest – demonstrates an intelligent and compassionate understanding of human relationships, and offers a witty, ironic critique of mid-Victorian society.
This text is based on the 1866 Cornhill Magazine version of the novel. It also includes notes on textual variants between this edition and the original manuscript, a note on the story’s ending and an introduction discussing the novel’s challenging investigation of themes of Englishness, Darwinism and masculine authority.
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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… More about Elizabeth Gaskell