Feb 16, 2013

I Have Been Meme


{Reading}
Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell, halfway point.
Swann's Way by Marcel Proust, into the second chapter.

{Writing}
Attempting to write a biography-- it's going very slowly but surely.
Also still working on my project of vignettes/sketches.

{Looking}
At the Persephone Books catalogue, I think I'll soon be ordering more of Dorothy Whipple's works I very much liked her writing style: understated but effective.

{Listening}
Ludovico Einaudi's Ancora
Thomas Newman's Spring

{Watching}
Finished the 2nd season of BBC's The Hour. Coincidentally the last time I filled this meme I'd been watching the 1st season. 

{Feeling}
Thankful.

{Anticipating}
The Spring! Flowers are budding around town and its so nice to see daylight lingering. The season also means more walks and chances to go see the sunset, at this moment by the time I get out of work it's twilight.

{Loving}
The day. Simple pleasures.


Feb 11, 2013

Reading Check-In: Gaskell's Mary Barton

Going Home at Dusk, by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Death and sorrows keep Mary Barton in something of a shadow and many have criticized it for being very Victorian in it's sensibilities but even the some of Elizabeth Gaskell's contemporaries wrote it would have benefited from some light. She herself was in such a dark mood after the death of her infant son due to scarlet
fever, in one of her letters she wrote:
The greater part of the first volume was written when I was obliged to lie down constantly on the sofa, and when I took refuge in the invention to exclude the memory of painful scenes which would force themselves upon my remembrance. It is no wonder then that the whole book seems to be written in the minor key;
Others deemed it was one-sided and many masters were outraged:
“Half the masters here a bitterly angry with me-- half (and the best half) are buying it to give to their work-people’s libraries."
I'm about halfway and, yes, there have been many tragedies and deaths, while they could seem unrealistic Mary Barton takes place around the 'hungry forties' when potato crops were blighted-- the working class survived on potatoes and oatmeal. We also have to bear in mind that Manchester was extremely over-populated, over a few decades the number had more than doubled and it wasn't designed to sustain so many, resulting in appalling living conditions which in turn brought disease and cholera. Her prose isn't as well-developed as by the time she writes Ruth but her warmth of feeling creates some beautiful passages:
He wondered if any in all the hurrying crowd had come from such a house of mourning. he thought they all looked joyous, and he was angry with them. But he could not, you cannot, read the lot of those who daily pass you by in the street. How do you know the wild romances of their lives; the trials, the temptations they are even now enduring, resisting, sinking under?
I've managed to avoid spoilers despite the fact I've been researching about Gaskell but one thing I have learned is she wrote it with the title of John Barton (Mary's father) it was only at her publisher's insistence that it was changed. I'm not yet convinced the portrayal of the masters is so one-sided Jem Wilson's employer seems just but there could be something pivotal I've yet to read with regards to that part of the story.

Mary's just reached the point where she makes a discovery about her vanity and feelings and I'm curious to see how everything will play out although I'm nervous about Mr. Carson who was trifling with Mary in the beginning and now is angered by her rejection of him. It's so nice to see Jem's steadiness at work and responsibility towards his family, he is a good character. John Barton hasn't been the same since his disappointment with parliament and is wasting away at the lack of employment, partly because there are few positions and he isn't hired for them because of his involvement with the union. There's a sense that all his pent-up energy is going to burst.

Feb 3, 2013

Reading Check-In: A Gaskell Mood

Right now I'm focused on non-fiction reads related to the Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell. Her writings are varied, from the industrial and gritty novels like Mary Barton and North and South.

To her charming everyday tales like Wives and Daughters and her most recognized work Cranford. I've always been drawn to her writing and interested in her life so this year I'm working on what I'm calling my Gaskell Project of really getting to know her better.

One of the books is about the Cheshire town of Knutsford, where she grew up. It's written by a local who was recognized for both her historical knowledge of it and Gaskell: Joan Leach, who passed away the day after Gaskell's bicentenary celebrations in 2010. It's filled with old photographs and some engravings.

Jenny Uglow's biography A Habit of Stories is another. I'd referenced it a great deal before but never read it through. Haven't reached too far into it-- about a quarter of the way, but I'm enjoying the details of her family and those around her. It's also lovely to see a color version of the miniature of Gaskell's Aunt Hannah Lumb, who raised her.

My favorite of the pile is The Letters of Mrs. Gaskell. It was an exciting find, published in the1960s (although there is a more recent edition) it contains a collection of her letters to friends and her daughter Marianne.What can be more charming than reading her own words and special turns of phrases? The anecdotes of her experiences and personalities of those around her.

As I read them I feel she's becoming a friend. Although it's a larger volume it's only a handful in comparison to the thousands she must have written during her lifetime. It's believed her other daughter Meta may have burnt many in a bonfire ...remind anyone else of Cassandra Austen? Others were destroyed during the World Wars. Further Letters of Mrs. Gaskell leaves some hope though, with some more which have been uncovered.

This afternoon when I checked my mail box I found Yvonne Ffrench's biography waiting. I'd previously read it at the Seattle library a few years back and am glad to have my own copy. From what I remember it's short and slightly critical of her writing, contrasting her with George Eliot. Barbara Brill's At Home with Elizabeth Gaskell and Winifred Gerin's biography are also on their way. I've seen the latter mentioned as one of the best out there so I'm curious to read it!

Feb 16, 2013

I Have Been Meme


{Reading}
Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell, halfway point.
Swann's Way by Marcel Proust, into the second chapter.

{Writing}
Attempting to write a biography-- it's going very slowly but surely.
Also still working on my project of vignettes/sketches.

{Looking}
At the Persephone Books catalogue, I think I'll soon be ordering more of Dorothy Whipple's works I very much liked her writing style: understated but effective.

{Listening}
Ludovico Einaudi's Ancora
Thomas Newman's Spring

{Watching}
Finished the 2nd season of BBC's The Hour. Coincidentally the last time I filled this meme I'd been watching the 1st season. 

{Feeling}
Thankful.

{Anticipating}
The Spring! Flowers are budding around town and its so nice to see daylight lingering. The season also means more walks and chances to go see the sunset, at this moment by the time I get out of work it's twilight.

{Loving}
The day. Simple pleasures.


Feb 11, 2013

Reading Check-In: Gaskell's Mary Barton

Going Home at Dusk, by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Death and sorrows keep Mary Barton in something of a shadow and many have criticized it for being very Victorian in it's sensibilities but even the some of Elizabeth Gaskell's contemporaries wrote it would have benefited from some light. She herself was in such a dark mood after the death of her infant son due to scarlet
fever, in one of her letters she wrote:
The greater part of the first volume was written when I was obliged to lie down constantly on the sofa, and when I took refuge in the invention to exclude the memory of painful scenes which would force themselves upon my remembrance. It is no wonder then that the whole book seems to be written in the minor key;
Others deemed it was one-sided and many masters were outraged:
“Half the masters here a bitterly angry with me-- half (and the best half) are buying it to give to their work-people’s libraries."
I'm about halfway and, yes, there have been many tragedies and deaths, while they could seem unrealistic Mary Barton takes place around the 'hungry forties' when potato crops were blighted-- the working class survived on potatoes and oatmeal. We also have to bear in mind that Manchester was extremely over-populated, over a few decades the number had more than doubled and it wasn't designed to sustain so many, resulting in appalling living conditions which in turn brought disease and cholera. Her prose isn't as well-developed as by the time she writes Ruth but her warmth of feeling creates some beautiful passages:
He wondered if any in all the hurrying crowd had come from such a house of mourning. he thought they all looked joyous, and he was angry with them. But he could not, you cannot, read the lot of those who daily pass you by in the street. How do you know the wild romances of their lives; the trials, the temptations they are even now enduring, resisting, sinking under?
I've managed to avoid spoilers despite the fact I've been researching about Gaskell but one thing I have learned is she wrote it with the title of John Barton (Mary's father) it was only at her publisher's insistence that it was changed. I'm not yet convinced the portrayal of the masters is so one-sided Jem Wilson's employer seems just but there could be something pivotal I've yet to read with regards to that part of the story.

Mary's just reached the point where she makes a discovery about her vanity and feelings and I'm curious to see how everything will play out although I'm nervous about Mr. Carson who was trifling with Mary in the beginning and now is angered by her rejection of him. It's so nice to see Jem's steadiness at work and responsibility towards his family, he is a good character. John Barton hasn't been the same since his disappointment with parliament and is wasting away at the lack of employment, partly because there are few positions and he isn't hired for them because of his involvement with the union. There's a sense that all his pent-up energy is going to burst.

Feb 3, 2013

Reading Check-In: A Gaskell Mood

Right now I'm focused on non-fiction reads related to the Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell. Her writings are varied, from the industrial and gritty novels like Mary Barton and North and South.

To her charming everyday tales like Wives and Daughters and her most recognized work Cranford. I've always been drawn to her writing and interested in her life so this year I'm working on what I'm calling my Gaskell Project of really getting to know her better.

One of the books is about the Cheshire town of Knutsford, where she grew up. It's written by a local who was recognized for both her historical knowledge of it and Gaskell: Joan Leach, who passed away the day after Gaskell's bicentenary celebrations in 2010. It's filled with old photographs and some engravings.

Jenny Uglow's biography A Habit of Stories is another. I'd referenced it a great deal before but never read it through. Haven't reached too far into it-- about a quarter of the way, but I'm enjoying the details of her family and those around her. It's also lovely to see a color version of the miniature of Gaskell's Aunt Hannah Lumb, who raised her.

My favorite of the pile is The Letters of Mrs. Gaskell. It was an exciting find, published in the1960s (although there is a more recent edition) it contains a collection of her letters to friends and her daughter Marianne.What can be more charming than reading her own words and special turns of phrases? The anecdotes of her experiences and personalities of those around her.

As I read them I feel she's becoming a friend. Although it's a larger volume it's only a handful in comparison to the thousands she must have written during her lifetime. It's believed her other daughter Meta may have burnt many in a bonfire ...remind anyone else of Cassandra Austen? Others were destroyed during the World Wars. Further Letters of Mrs. Gaskell leaves some hope though, with some more which have been uncovered.

This afternoon when I checked my mail box I found Yvonne Ffrench's biography waiting. I'd previously read it at the Seattle library a few years back and am glad to have my own copy. From what I remember it's short and slightly critical of her writing, contrasting her with George Eliot. Barbara Brill's At Home with Elizabeth Gaskell and Winifred Gerin's biography are also on their way. I've seen the latter mentioned as one of the best out there so I'm curious to read it!
© November's Autumn
Maira Gall