Sunday, November 30, 2008

Moorland Cottage

I finished Gaskell's Moorland Cottage yesterday. The parallels to Wives and Daughters didn't totally play out with regards to the plot, but I did find more characters that seemed early sketches of the W&D crew. Mr. Buxton had some shades of Squire Hamley, and Frank Buxton really seemed a composite of Osbourne and Roger Hamley. Frank had the promise of university prizes ala Osbourne and ended up disappointing his father in his choice of wife, but with regards to character, Frank had Roger's sweetness and earnestness in full. I kept on expecting Erminia to turn out like Cynthia, but thankfully she didn't and was a loyal friend to Maggie throughout.

Gaskell took another run at the brother who is lost at sea motif--this time, though, Maggie ultimately learns the truth about Edward's disappearance. Her own brother's disappearance at sea, naturally enough, haunted so many of her stories.

The ending is Victorian melodrama at its best. I was a bit confused with how Frank came to be on the same ship as Maggie and Edward, but then Gaskell explained it after the fact. I think the story would have been much stronger if she had told us some of what Frank was up to instead of having him appear like a ghost in the burning ship to save Maggie. Confession time...I couldn't help thinking of the ending of the Titanic movie when Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are in the water.

It's worth reading if you are studying Gaskell, want a good, sweet, typical Victorian story, or love Wives and Daughters so much that you want to see it in the prototype stage.


  1. I found your blog through the comment you left on Lark and am delighted I've stumbled upon it. I'm a literature addict, with a devotion for Dickens, but I haven't read anything by Gaskell.
    What should I start with? "Wives and daughters", which you mention in this post?

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Mary-Laure. W&D is a wonderful novel, but you should be warned that Gaskell died before finishing it. She was almost done with it, and had shared her thoughts for the ending with her publisher, but many people who read this are frustrated by this sad fact.

    My personal recommendation for a Gaskell novice is North & South, written at the same times as Hard Times, but serialized in Household Words after Hard Times, it is a wonderful story.

  3. Just found this post! I purchased Moorland Cottage in order to participate in the Group Read as part of the Gaskell Blog's Gaskell Reading Challenge (Feb. 2011). Anyway...just had to tell you that I was thinking exactly the same thing about first Frank's appearance on the doomed vessel and secondly, the likeness to the ending of The Titanic! I wonder if, whoever wrote that screenplay was a reader of Gaskell?
    The ending was rather melodramatic, but I was happy for Maggie all the same. I think Gaskell did manage to "keep it real" by maintaining Mrs. Browne's favouritism for her son even after his death.
    Maggie was a bit too good to be true, but I enjoyed the story very much. It would have been better as a novel, where Edward and Maggie go to America and Frank follows after her to win her back. But I guess that might have been a bit beyond Gaskell's comfort zone. Who knows what she would have been capable of had she only lived a bit longer!