Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell

I thought that I had already read just about everything by Gaskell but on my last visit to my local library this one was sitting on the ‘new books’ shelf, so I had to borrow it.

This is a collection of nine short stories, although two of them are long enough to be described as novellas. I think that most writers hone their skills on short stories and I quite enjoy them. Sometimes the stories stick in your mind for 20 or 30 years, but I don’t think that will be the case with any of the stories in this book.

One of the novellas is called Lois the Witch and is the story of the Salem ‘witches’. I’m wondering when the first fictionalised version went into print.

Some of them are what I would call ‘fireside tales’ which would have been brought out and dusted down from the mind of the resident family tale teller on dark winter nights. I’m sure every household had one, even in more recent times (it was my mother in our family). They certainly have a feeling of folk lore about them, but I have read quite a few Celtic folk tales in my day.

Which brings me to what I found to be the most interesting thing about the stories, which was the language used. Elizabeth Gaskell uses quite a few words which are still used north of the border in Scotland. But I had an interesting comment from Joan in Pennsylvania about the phrase ‘redd up’ which Elizabeth Gaskell used, it means to tidy up or clean up. It seems it’s used by people from all different ethnic backgrounds there, but particularly by those of Dutch/German descent. Wherever it originated from I’m happy knowing that it continues to be used and makes the language richer. In future I’m going to ‘redd up’ instead of tidy up.

Anyway, I’m glad that I read Gothic Tales but I much prefer Gaskell’s longer works. If you want to read more about her work you might like to pay Austenprose a visit as a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Gaskell’s birth is being marked by people reviewing her work.

5 thoughts on “Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell

  1. I’m so excited! I’m now famous on the internet as ‘Joan in Pennsylvania’! Thanks for your response to my comment the other day, too. I’m fascinated by the connections between languages and by the way people speak in different locations.

    I do always enjoy your blog. I used to be a gardener, too, when we lived in Massachusetts. I like living in the city, but I miss planting and pruning and watching things grow.

    We seem to like the same types of books. I’m currently more devoted to mysteries, but I used to have a ‘dead author’ rule of thumb. I don’t like a lot of modern novels, the ones without linear plots.

    And I’d love to see recent photos of Rose Street. Somewhere, I have photos we took during our vacation there, but I haven’t looked at them for ages.

    • Joan,
      Thanks for the comment, I really enjoy hearing from people. I imagine that living in America you will have more chances to discover connections between languages, ‘foreigners’ are quite rare here!

      I would miss having a garden I’m sure but I don’t garden nearly as much as I used to, partly due to the rotten weather we’ve had the past few years but also because I’m not doing any new planning and designing for my garden. I’ve changed it a lot in 22 years but as we’ll probably move when my husband retires in a few years, I don’t want to do much more to it. The trouble is that the plants get tougher as they get older, and I’m getting weaker. It’s taken nearly a year to recover from a frozen shoulder injury due to too much hacking at overgrown trees!

      I’ve only recently started reading some modern books which have been recommended by other bloggers. Prior to that the authors I read were all dead too but I hadn’t really thought about it, apart from having an idea that if a book was still in print for years then it must be good and not a waste of time.

      Why don’t you have a blog? I’m sure that you would enjoy it.


  2. BBC radio 7 currently has some work by Elizabeth Gaskell – under Curious but True you can listen to a couple of short stories – The Grey Woman and Lois the Witch ( only 16 hrs left to listen to the latter).
    Also Mary Barton – must listen to this soon!

    • Michelle,
      I think Radio 7 is great but recently I’ve just been listening to the comedy programmes at night and I hadn’t even realised that they were doing Gaskell. Thanks for the info. I’m assuming that you don’t have a blog. Why not? I think you would enjoy it.


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