Elizabeth Gaskell’s Ruth: Opinions of Acquaintances

George Eliot, letter to Mrs.Peter Taylor, February 1, 1853

Of course you have read ‘Ruth’ by this time. Its style was a great refreshment to me, from its finish and fullness. How women have the courage to write and publishers the spirit to buy at a high price the false and feeble representations of life and character that most feminine novels give, is a constant marvel to me. ‘Ruth,’ with all its merits, will not be an enduring or classical fiction—will it?

Mrs Gaskell seems to me to be constantly misled by a love of sharp contrasts—of “dramatic” effects. Letter to She is not contented with the subdued colouring— Taylor, its the half tints of real life. Hence she agitates one for the moment, but she does not secure one’s lasting sympathy; her scenes and characters do not become typical. But how pretty and graphic are the touches of description!

That little attic in the minister’s house, for example, which, with its pure white dimity bed-curtains, its bright-green walls, and the rich brown of its stained floor, remind one of a snowdrop springing out of the soil. Then the rich humour of Sally, and the sly satire in the description of Mr Bradshaw. Mrs Gaskell has certainly a charming mind, and one cannot help loving her as one reads her books.

Monsieur Regnier (poet and literary critic), letter to Mrs. Gaskell, May 3, 1853

Henri Francois Joseph de Regnier

So I don’t write, particularly as you laid your injunctions on me concerning Ruth. In revenge I will now mention one word that I wish you would take out whenever you reprint that book.

She would never — I am ready to make affidavit before any authority in the land — have called her seducer ” Sir,” when they were living at that hotel in Wales. A girl pretending to be what she really was would have done it, but she — never!

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