Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Moorland Cottage: Summary and Thoughts on Chapter 5

Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.

Mrs. Buxton used to always make an effort to be in the drawing room after dinner on Christmas; Mr. Buxton wistfully looks at the door as if hoping she might be there. Erminia tries to liven the mood but oddly enough it’s Edward’s flow of clever small talk that keeps everyone distracted. His motives are purely selfish, he speaks not to ease tensions but to flaunt his ‘wit’. Mrs. Browne proudly beams as she notices that Frank’s waistcoat isn’t half as fashionable as her son’s, once again showing a shallow mind. During Edward’s time away she’s become dependent on Maggie and more respectful towards her but the love for her daughter is dull and torpid, nothing compared to the exulting pride and fond love she has for her son.

After dinner when the men were left alone Edward tells them some of his cases, turning the phrases to shed the best light on his knowledge of law. Frank is repelled and leaves to join the ladies. But Mr. Buxton is completely taken in and consults about some of his property in Woodchester, twenty-one cottages, which bring in very little and are badly situated. Could they be sold? Edward has no doubt, he’ll find a purchaser in a short time; Mr. Buxton tells him to draws up the deeds of transfer.

Paintng by Myles Birket Foster

Frank is charmed at Maggie’s unjealous admiration of Ermina’s musical talent and thinks how Wordsworth could have been referring to her when he wrote Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower. He begins to visit home more often, Mr. Buxton is glad, thinking Erminia the reason, but Frank doesn’t examined his motives until one summer day:

“Don’t go yet, Maggie,” said he, putting his hand on hers to stop her; but, somehow, when that purpose was effected, he forgot to take it off again. “I have come all the way from Cambridge to see you. I could not bear suspense any longer. I grew so impatient for certainty of some kind, that I went up to town last night, in order to feel myself on my way to you, even though I knew I could not be here a bit earlier to-day for doing so.”

Painting by Myles Birket Foster

Mrs. Browne doesn’t believe Maggie at first, how could she be engaged to Frank Buxton? She was sure that there was an understanding with him and Erminia. Oh, and there’s only sour milk to offer with tea, if only Edward had let her buy that cow! Are you sure you’re not mistaken, Maggie? I suppose he must be worth… four thousand a year. It will be a great benefit to Edward’s career!

Nancy’s happiness for Maggie is sincere. It’s wonderful to see Frank’s tenderness towards her.

After tea, Frank asked Maggie if she would walk out with him; and accordingly they climbed the Fell-Lane and went out upon the moors, which seemed vast and boundless as their love.

Mr. Buxton doesn’t approve of the match, his feelings are violently against it and while Frank doesn’t tell Maggie how opposed his father is, she senses it. Erminia comes to visit, curious to know what it’s like to be in love, and tells her not to worry about the objections.

“The difficulty would be to find any one he did think fit for his paragon of a son.”

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. FleurFisher says:

    I have just finished chapter five, and at the halfway point the story feels perfectly poised. Characters that feel so familiar but a story that could go in so many ways. Thank you again for steering me towards this wonderful short novel. And for illuminating the journey with so many wonderful posts.

    1. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the posts and story. 🙂

  2. Diane says:

    Christmas without Mrs Buxton is a time for reflection for all. Edward and Mrs Browne congratulate themselves on his good work and “impressive” knowledge and style. Frank recognizes that Edward is no better than he thought before and Mr Buxton is looking forward to the future for his son – of course his plans haven’t been made known to Frank.

    Frank makes a special trip home to propose to Maggie – it’s want we’ve all been waiting for but with very little romance in it – he’s no Mr Darcy. What seems like a logical match to the reader doesn’t seem so to Mrs Browne or Mr Buxton. Looks like Frankand Maggie will have some hardships ahead. Even Erminia the intended bride ison their side. Fathers only want the best for their sons but sometimes they don’t stop to consider what the son would want for himself.

  3. bccmee says:

    It’ll be interesting to see if and when Mr. Buxton comes around and gives his blessings to Frank and Maggie. My favorite characters are the ones who show no jealousy when there is affection for others. Nancy and Maggie share this trait. Mrs. Browne is only interested in her daughter’s engagement for the advantages it will give her son. I’m delighted at Erminia’s reaction to the engagement of her cousin to Maggie. She knows she is not suited for her cousin and wishes for his happiness. Will Erminia ever meet a dark stranger to fall in love with? I suspect if Mr. Browne was still alive, he would approve of Maggie’s match wholeheartedly if he was really as kind as he is remembered.

    1. And perhaps if Mr. Browne was alive Mr. Buxton wouldn’t have objected to the match; they were good friends.

      1. Diane says:

        I suspect if Mr Browne were alive a lot of things would be different. Ned would be properly controlled and taught some morals and Maggie wouldn’t be treated like a slave. The family would probably been more sociable in the village also.

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