Mary Barton book cover

Mary Barton

Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life is the first novel by English author Elizabeth Gaskell, published in 1848. The story is set in the English city of Manchester between 1839 and 1842, and deals with the difficulties faced by the Victorian working class.

Genre: Novel
Year:
1848
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"'How knowest thou,' may the distressed Novel-wright exclaim, 'that I, here where I sit, am the Foolishest of existing mortals; that this my Long-ear of a fictitious Biography shall not find one and the other, into whose still longer ears it may be the means, under Providence, of instilling somewhat?' We answer, 'None knows, none can certainly know: therefore, write on, worthy Brother, even as thou canst, even as it is given thee.'" CARLYLE. CONTENTS PREFACE. I. A MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE. II. A MANCHESTER TEA-PARTY. III. JOHN BARTON'S GREAT TROUBLE. IV. OLD ALICE'S HISTORY. V. THE MILL ON FIRE--JEM WILSON TO THE RESCUE. VI. POVERTY AND DEATH. VII. JEM WILSON'S REPULSE. VIII. MARGARET'S DEBUT AS A PUBLIC SINGER. IX. BARTON'S LONDON EXPERIENCES. X. RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL. XI. MR. CARSON'S INTENTIONS REVEALED. XII. OLD ALICE'S BAIRN. XIII. A TRAVELLER'S TALES. XIV. JEM'S INTERVIEW WITH POOR ESTHER. XV. A VIOLENT MEETING BETWEEN THE RIVALS. XVI. MEETING BETWEEN MASTERS AND WORKMEN. XVII. BARTON'S NIGHT-ERRAND. XVIII. MURDER. XIX. JEM WILSON ARRESTED ON SUSPICION. XX. MARY'S DREAM--AND THE AWAKENING. XXI. ESTHER'S MOTIVE IN SEEKING MARY. XXII. MARY'S EFFORTS TO PROVE AN ALIBI. XXIII. THE SUB-POENA. XXIV. WITH THE DYING. XXV. MRS. WILSON'S DETERMINATION. XXVI. THE JOURNEY TO LIVERPOOL. XXVII. IN THE LIVERPOOL DOCKS. XXVIII. "JOHN CROPPER, AHOY!" XXIX. A TRUE BILL AGAINST JEM. XXX. JOB LEGH'S DECEPTION. XXXI. HOW MARY PASSED THE NIGHT. XXXII. THE TRIAL AND VERDICT--"NOT GUILTY." XXXIII. REQUIESCAT IN PACE. XXXIV. THE RETURN HOME. XXXV. "FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES." XXXVI. JEM'S INTERVIEW WITH MR. DUNCOMBE. XXXVII. DETAILS CONNECTED WITH THE MURDER. XXXVIII. CONCLUSION. CHAPTER I. A MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE. Oh! 'tis hard, 'tis hard to be working The whole of the live-long day, When all the neighbours about one Are off to their jaunts and play. There's Richard he carries his baby, And Mary takes little Jane, And lovingly they'll be wandering Through field and briery lane. MANCHESTER SONG. There are some fields near Manchester, well known to the inhabitants as "Green Heys Fields," through which runs a public footpath to a little village about two miles distant. In spite of these fields being flat and low, nay, in spite of the want of wood (the great and usual recommendation of level tracts of land), there is a charm about them which strikes even the inhabitant of a mountainous district, who sees and feels the effect of contrast in these common-place but thoroughly rural fields, with the busy, bustling manufacturing town he left but half-an-hour ago. Here and there an old black and white farm-house, with its rambling outbuildings, speaks of other times and other occupations than those which now absorb the population of the neighbourhood. Here in their seasons may be seen the country business of hay-making, ploughing, &c., which are such pleasant mysteries for townspeople to watch; and here the artisan, deafened with noise of tongues and engines, may come to listen awhile to the delicious sounds of rural life: the lowing of cattle, the milk-maids' call, the clatter and cackle of poultry in the old farm-yards. You cannot wonder, then, that these fields are popular places of resort at every holiday time; and you would not wonder, if you could see, or I properly describe, the charm of one particular stile, that it should be, on such occasions, a crowded halting-place. Close by it is a deep, clear pond, reflecting in its dark green depths the shadowy trees that bend over it to exclude the sun. The only place where its banks are shelving is on the side next to a rambling farm-yard, belonging to one of those old-world, gabled, black and white houses I named above, overlooking the field through which the public footpath leads. The porch of this farm-house is covered by a rose-tree; and the little garden surrounding it is crowded with a medley of old-fashioned herbs and flowers, planted long ago, when the garden was the only druggist's shop within reach, and allowed to grow in scrambling and wild luxuriance--roses, lavender, sage, balm (for tea), rosemary, pinks and wallflowers, onions and jessamine, in most republican and indiscriminate order. This farm-house and garden are within a hundred yards of the stile of which I spoke, leading from the large pasture field into a smaller one, divided by a hedge of hawthorn and black-thorn; and near this stile, on the further side, there runs a tale that primroses may often be found, and occasionally the blue sweet violet on the grassy hedge bank. I do not know whether it was on a holiday granted by the masters, or a holiday seized in right of Nature and her beautiful spring time by the workmen, but one afternoon (now ten or a dozen years ago) these fields were much thronged. It was an early May evening--the April of the poets; for heavy showers had fallen all the morning, and the round, soft, white clouds which were blown by a west wind over the dark blue sky, were sometimes varied by one blacker and more threatening. The softness of the day tempted forth the young green leaves, which almost visibly fluttered into life; and the willows, which that morning had had only a brown reflection in the water below, were now of that tender gray-green which blends so delicately with the spring harmony of colours. Groups of merry and somewhat loud-talking girls, whose ages might range from twelve to twenty, came by with a buoyant step. They were most of them factory girls, and wore the usual out-of-doors dress of that particular class of maidens; namely, a shawl, which at mid-day or in fine weather was allowed to be merely a shawl, but towards
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Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, often referred to as Mrs Gaskell, was an English novelist, biographer and short story writer. Her novels offer a detailed portrait of the lives of many strata of Victorian society, including the very poor. Her work is of interest to social historians as well as readers of literature. more…

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