Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Moorland Cottage: Summary and Thoughts on Chapter 7

Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.

The new agent, Mr. Henry has a very stern manner when it comes to business and it intimidates Mr. Buxton, who’s managed his estates and accounts rather poorly. When it’s found out that one of his tenants, Crayston, a trusted family worker who’s been in their service as Bailiff and his father before him, has cheated him, Mr Buxton’s temper flairs; how could he be so ungrateful? Abuse his trusting confidence with deceit?  Frank sees both sides, his fathers carelessness brought too much temptation, allowances should be made. But Mr. Henry fuels the fire with his pessimistic views that roguery is innate and condescendingly pins Frank’s concerns down as inexperience.

Apple Blossoms in Normandy by Daniel Ridgway Knight

Good God! that money should have such power to corrupt men. It was all for money, and money’s worth, that this degradation has taken place.

Seeing the worst side of everyone, Frank feels dejected and his thoughts turn towards moving to a purer, simpler society: Australia or Canada, where life is newer and society not so old, complex, and embedded with corruption. The present day is so far removed from the Victorian era and I’ve heard many say how life was simpler and purer then; in some aspects it may have been. But of course there are frustrations, feelings, and questions that transcend time.

“What can you or I do? We are less than drops in the ocean, as far as our influence can go to model a nation?”

“As for that,” said Maggie, laughing, “I can’t remodel Nancy’s old-fashioned ways; so I’ve never yet planned how to remodel a nation.”

“Then what did you mean by the good those always can do who see evils clearly? The evils I see are those of a nation whose god is money.”

“That is just because you have come away from a distressing scene. To-morrow you will hear or read of some heroic action meeting with a nation’s sympathy, and you will rejoice and be proud of your country.”

Summer Evening by Daniel Ridgway Knight

“Still I shall see the evils of her complex state of society keenly; and where is the good I can do?”

“Oh! I can’t tell in a minute. But cannot you bravely face these evils, and learn their nature and causes; and then has God given you no powers to apply to the discovery of their remedy? Dear Frank, think! It may be very little you can do–and you may never see the effect of it, any more than the widow saw the world-wide effect of her mite. Then if all the good and thoughtful men run away from us to some new country, what are we to do with our poor dear Old England?”

“Oh, you must run away with the good, thoughtful men–(I mean to consider that as a compliment to myself, Maggie!) Will you let me wish I had been born poor, if I am to stay in England? I should not then be liable to this fault into which I see the rich men fall, of forgetting the trials of the poor.”

“I am not sure whether, if you had been poor, you might not have fallen into an exactly parallel fault, and forgotten the trials of the rich. It is so difficult to understand the errors into which their position makes all men liable to fall.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Summer says:

    Didn’t come as a big surprise to discover Mr Buxton managed his states so poorly; no wonder his tenants took advantage of the situation. Greed and corruption have always been present throughout Human History.
    Wonder if Frank’s visit to Scotland will affect his relationship with Maggie.

  2. Selene says:

    I love that we’re purer and simpler here Down Under 😀 This section made me smile.

  3. bccmee says:

    Mr Henry is a bit of a surprise. When it was discovered he loved music, I wondered if he would be a sweet fellow. It turns out he’s a hard-nose. Wonder if Erminia can soften him? Mr Henry was certainly condescending toward Frank. Poor Mr Buxton seems so easily led by his emotions. Maggie shows a bit of humor and vivacity in her words, if not her deeds, in this chapter.

  4. diane says:

    Oh the irony – Mr Buxton brags about how his tenants would never cheat on him and yet has refused to do his duty as a landlord. Now when he finds that the opposite is true – he goes completely in the opposite direction to harshly punish the offender. As Frank thought, Mr Buxton did have some culpability in the matter.

    I’m not liking Frank very much in this chapter. He comes across as a goody-goody. To good for what’s going on around him. He’s a fairly well off young man and he thinks if only he lived a simpler life things would be better but even Maggie knows that’s not true.

    Maggie is the truly strong one of the pair. She sees things as they are and works around them not trying to avoid them

    1. Agreed, Frank is far too idealistic in this chapter. Another irony is, he mentions Australia and America as purer and simpler societies but criminals were transported to the former country– had things turned out differently that’s where Edward might have ended up.

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