Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford: Summary and Thoughts – Chapter 12

Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.

In my search after facts, I was often reminded of a description my father had once given of a Ladies’ Committee that he had had to preside over. He said he could not help thinking of a passage in Dickens, which spoke of a chorus in which every man took the tone he knew best, and sang it to his own satisfaction. So, at this charitable committee, every lady took the subject uppermost in her mind, and talked about it to her own great contentment, but not much to the advancement of the subject they had met to discuss. But even that committee could have been nothing to the Cranford ladies when I attempted to gain some clear and definite information as to poor Peter’s height, appearance, and when and where he was seen and heard of last.’

Poor Peter? Poor Mary.

These are the useful facts her investigating musters:

  • Miss Pole said Peter was last heard elected the llama of Tibet and he would have been handsome if he didn’t have freckles.
  • That Deborah would say he “surveys mankind from China to Peru.”

But something quite astonishing happens in Cranford, that for the moment puts aside all inquires about Peter Jenkyns.

The contemplation of it, even at this distance of time, has taken away my breath and my grammar, and unless I subdue my emotion, my spelling will go too.

Prepare yourself for something so shocking that Miss Pole had difficulty relating the news.

Miss Pole recovered breath, and excited our curiosity strongly by lifting up her hands in amazement, and bringing them down in silence, as if what she had to say was too big for words, and could only be expressed by pantomime.

Lady Glenmire and Dr. Hoggins are to be married! Surely this is unfounded gossip? No, their understanding was confirmed by Mrs. Fitz-Adam, Dr. Hoggins’ sister. It appears that one of Mrs. Jamieson’s servants fell ill and Dr. Hoggins attended her. The last chapter also brought them often into each-others company. Dr. Hoggins’ name may be coarse according to Deborah and he may only eat bread, cheese, and beer for supper but he seems a congenial man. But what is the proper way for Cranford to react?

Must we choose between the Honourable Mrs. Jamieson and the degraded Lady Glenmire? We all liked Lady Glenmire the best. She was bright, and kind, and sociable, and agreeable: and Mrs. Jamieson was dull, and inert, and pompous, and tiresome. But we had acknowledged the sway of the latter so long, that it seemed like a kind of disloyalty now even to meditate disobedience to the prohibition we anticipated.

Thankfully the Spring fashions at Johnson’s shop have arrived and they can ignore the matter until Mrs. Jamieson comes back from her trip.

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