Improper Women: Ruth and The Life of Charlotte Brontë

  • Jane Spencer
Part of the Women Writers book series (WW)


‘I think I must be an improper woman without knowing it, I do so manage to shock people’, wrote Gaskell to Eliza Fox early in 1853.

Now should you have burned the 1st vol. of Ruth as so very bad? even if you had been a very anxious father of a family? yet two men have: and a third has forbidden his wife to read it; they sit next to us in Chapel and you can’t think how ‘improper’ I feel under their eyes. (L 223)


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  1. 6.
    Brian Crick, ‘Mrs Gaskell’s Ruth: A Reconsideration’, Mosaic, vol. 9 (1977) no. 2, pp. 85–104.Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    Alan Shelston, ‘Ruth: Mrs Gaskell’s Neglected Novel’, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library vol. 58 (1975–6) pp. 182.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    See Patsy Stoneman, Elizabeth Gaskell (Brighton: Harvester, 1987) p. 106.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    [J. M. Ludlow] North British Review, vol. 19 (1853) p. 169.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    Elizabeth Rigby, ‘Vanity Fair and Jane Eyre’, Quarterly Review vol. 84 (1848) p. 174;Google Scholar
  6. Matthew Arnold, letter to Mrs Forster, 14 April 1853, in Letters of Matthew Arnold 1848–1888 ed. George W. E. Russell (London: Macmillan, 1895) vol. I, p. 29.Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    Miriam J. Benn, ‘Some Unpublished Gaskell Letters’, Notes and Queries, vol. 225 (1980) p. 508.Google Scholar
  8. 18.
    Winifred Gérin, Charlotte Brontë: The Evolution of Genius (Oxford: Clarendon, 1967) p. 573.Google Scholar

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© Jane Spencer 1993

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  • Jane Spencer

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