The Moorland Cottage by Elizabeth Gaskell: Questions & Analysis – Mrs Browne, Edward, and Nancy

Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s second published work, The Moorland Cottage, is a rough gem with beautiful prose; She has an uncanny ability to emotionally engage a reader and make them curious about the characters.

The Buxton’s household has a good amount of background, from Erminia’s parents to Mr. Buxton’s own father but the Browne household is shrouded in mystery.

Mrs. Browne, so wholly focused on her son; we know very little about her own story. She is painted as easily influenced by money and society, but the answers to these questions we can only speculate:

  • What occurred before Maggie’s birth that made the bond between Edward and Mrs. Browne so strong?
  • What is it about Maggie, devoted and thoughtful, even as a little child, that makes Mrs. Brown keep her distance?
  • What was the marriage of Rev. and Mrs. Browne like, one can guess unequal, but how did they cope? How did they meet?
  • She doesn’t seem to have any good friends in the area, is she from Combehurst? or did she move there after marrying Rev. Buxton?

And Edward

  • Was it the birth of his sister that made him even more shamelessly selfish? A mixture of jealousy and resentment towards her intelligence?
  • If he’d been an only child would he have just been a spoiled brat rather than a bully? The willingness of little Maggie to submit and Mrs. Browne’s non-interference certainly fostered the vice.
  • His downfall of greed. Once again a product of having everything his own way? No one, excepting his father, ever said no to him. He sees others wealth and wants it too at all costs not understanding he has to work for it, steadily and honestly– he wants it now.

Their servant, Nancy, is like a shadow, always there, kind and thoughtful, but a rough outline. Her unwavering loyalty and patience with the whims of Mrs. Browne shows she truly cares for Maggie.

  • When Maggie marries will she stay with Mrs. Browne? I think so:

But Maggie treats her [Mrs. Browne] with such tender sympathy, never thinking of herself or her own claims, that Frank, Erminia, Mr. Buxton, Nancy, and all, are reverent and sympathizing too.

  • She has a ‘broad country accent’ and probably grew up outside of Combehurst. Where is she from?
  • How did she become the Browne’s servant?
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