"Shall I tell you a Cranfordism? An old lady, a Mrs Frances Wright, said to one of my cousins, " I have never been able to spell since I lost my teeth "
The humour of Cranford is another instance in a long tradition of comedies of manners. However, if we and the author laugh at this little community, we do realize throughout that this essentially feminine community which slowly tries to break free from conventions and find happiness is what makes the UK great. The narrative of Cranford is episodic : the narrator, Mary Smith, tells us the events that occured when she visited Miss Matty and Deborah Jenkins : under her pen, it's of course Mrs Gaskell who depicts the coups de théâtre, the micro revolutions, the decisions, the smiles of Cranford. It is, no more no less, an excellent chronicle. With the text of Dr Harrison's Confession, we become privy to a quidproquo when Dr Harrison arrives in town. This young single doctor freshly coming from London has all the women of the town fall head over heels for him and yet - because of his awkardness and because of the particularity of Cranford that makes even the smallest gesture feel like an invitation – finds himself promised to four different women and will almost lose the one he loves.
As for Lady Ludlow, she is a reactionary aristocrat who refuses any education to young women and to the poor because «knowing how to read is not what maid ought to know » : her opinions are extreme and completely unsurprising in an aristocrary that has just witnessed the Terror following the French Revolution. It is precisely when remembering this Terror that Lady Ludlow will describe the escape from France of several of her aristocrat friends who will not reach Callais and will lose their lives. The advantages of the Revolution are never adressed : the narrative perhaps didn't invite for this but even though it was told from the point of view of an aristocrat, the fact is that the French Revolution was not and is still not understood by the surrounding European regimes : when in France we do know the golden legend (which is based on true facts : the battle for true equality for all, also for the abolition of slavery), the UK only remembers the regicide and the hunt for nobles than accompanied it and slowed down the realisation of ideals on the verge of becoming laws. It was interesting to have Lady Ludlow's partial point of view and the narrative of the escape of two of her relatives was very gripping but this particular aspect worried me.
Do read Cranford and these short texts by Elizabeth Gaskell : it is an entire period that is depicted under our very eyes. It seems to me that this Omnibus would make a perfect introduction to a class on the Industrial Revolution and more generally to the transition 1850 symbolised. The miniseries produced by the BBC has an exceptional cast and is a little gem of television, I highly recommend it.