A collection of comic sketches first serialized in Charles Dickens's journal Household Words,
these stories look to sympathetically portray changing small-town customs and values.
Harkening back to memories of her childhood in the small Cheshire town
of Knutsford, Cranford is an attempt to portray an affectionate picture
of a class and customs already becoming anachronisms.
I was interested in poor Miss Matty's bank failing in chapter 13. Her sister, when she was alive, had invested most of their property in the Town and County bank, because it paid 8% interest. This is quite a high rate of interest for then. I am used to reading of between 3 and 5%. For example, in Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett, there is a character who receives 5% interest on a £12,000 fortune, which is not bad at all. It turns out the Town and County Bank invested heavily in railways. I have read that there was a big craze on railway building in the 1840's, which resulted in a deep recession when some projects went bust. After Miss Matty's bank goes under, she works out she's lost £150 income a year and only has £13 a year to live on. That is quite interesting because an annual income of £150 is about the figure under which it becomes difficult to keep up a middle class genteel appearances. It's really not all that much money. Miss Matty can only afford one new gown a year. Most of her clothing expenditure appears to be for small items like caps and bonnets. To be genteel, you have to employ a servant, or you will spend most of your time cooking and cleaning. Servants' wages are about £30 a year plus food and board. A safer bank rate would have yielded just under £100 a year, so I can see why Miss Matty's sister wanted to invest in the Town and County, although she was advised against it. It is also quite interesting that individual banks could issue their own bank notes, rather than the National Mint like nowadays. Miss Matty compensates a farmer for a £5 note drawn from the Town and County bank.
I have been a major fan of Sue Birtwistle, Heidi Thomas and Susie Conklin's Cranford Miniseries for quite awhile, and since there wasn't anything about it on this forum yet, I thought I would do the honors. Apart from Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskill's books have some of the best material for a miniseries, and the way the Sue and Susan compiled information from three of her major books (Cranford, Dr. Harrison's Confession's and My Lady Ludlow) into one major production is both clever and believable. Her essay, The Last Generation of England, was also used as a source. While there are many intricate and interweaving threads and ministories, my favorite would have to be a tie between Mr Carter and Harry Gregson's, and Dr Harrison and Sophy Hutton's. I also love Jessie Brown's story and, of course, Matty Jenkyns. One of the things that draws me to this series is that it has such a warm, family feel to it, and by the end you feel like your apart of this village and involved in these people's lives. Another thing is the inter-connected stories...I just love how everybody knows everybody else, and are constantly absorbed in one another's lives.
Right now I am doing a reread of Cranford, one of my favourite classics, which I usually reread every year or two. Has anyone noticed that Gaskell's voice, in this particular novel, is much like that of Jane Austen? Possibly because the story revolves around a small circle of people, like Jane Austen's society, but even the writing style is so similar. Any other Cranford fans out there?
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