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The North is a manufacturing town with its inhabitants in the cotton district. The South is chiefly represented by an amiable ex-clergyman and his family. The circumstance which induces Mr. Hale, with his wife and daughter Margaret, to quit the South and his living in the New Forest, is a doubt relating to the Church. He goes to Milton-Northern to add to his small income by teaching the classics to youthful manufacturers. The North is characteristically represented by Mr. Thornton, a manufacturer of respectable family, but who has had to work his way through difficulties and poverty in consequence of his father's extravagance and reckless speculations. A sort of family acquaintance springs up in consequence. Although somewhat mortified at the reserve and indifference of Margaret, Thornton ends by falling in love, with a depth and intensity of feeling belonging to his character…
Elizabeth Gaskell was born in the year 1811 and was brought up by her aunts residing at Knutsford, Cheshire. In 1832 she married the William Gaskell, minister of the Unitarian Chapel, Cross Street, Manchester. Her first novel was Mary Barton, a picture of Manchester life among the working classes, which appeared anonymously in 1848. The Moorland Cottage, a simple little Christmas book, followed in 1850. Two years later appeared the novel Ruth. Elizabeth Gaskell published some sketches of life in a small country town, which were contributed to Household Words under the title of Cranford. In 1855, the novel North and South appeared, in which she returns to the manufacturing districts of Yorkshire. In 1857 she published a life of Charlotte Brontë. Elizabeth Gaskell's death in 1865 was most sudden. She expired instantaneously, while conversing with her daughters, on her return from church. The novel Wives and Daughters was left incomplete by her sudden decease.
The Spectator, March 1855 — Elizabeth Gaskell displays that intellectual quality understood by the word power. She has power in conception, power in depiction, power in expression.
Athenaeum, 1855 — We imagine that this year will produce few better tales than North and South,—which its author has gathered from the columns of a weekly contemporary, retouched and extended. Elizabeth Gaskell possesses some of an artist's best qualities. She will be attended to, having never as yet written without engaging the reader's interest, whether he agrees with or dissents from her philosophies. Her dialogue is natural,—her eye for character is keen. She enjoys humour, obviously,—she calls out pathos skilfully.
The Eclectic Magazine, December 1855 — North and South is extremely clever as a story; and, without taking any secondary qualification to build its merits upon, it is perhaps better and livelier than any of Elizabeth Gaskell’s previous works. North and South has, of necessity, some good sketches of the “hands” and their homes, but it is Mr. Thornton’s fierce and rugged course of true love to which the author is most anxious to direct our attention.
Harper & Brothers, 1855 — Equally remarkable with Mary Barton for its keen perception of character and motives, its fine touches of humanity, its comprehensive and genial sympathies, and the combined terseness and grace of its style. The incidents are drawn from the common social life of England, and are described with such exquisite naturalness as to produce an ineffaceable impression of reality.