The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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October 22, 2011

The Picnic at Cranford: 'The Cage at Cranford'

Have I told you anything about my friends at Cranford since the year 1856? I think not.
But since Elizabeth Gaskell, ten years later, wrote another short story set in Cranford, and since Gaskell Blog's blog tour, The Picnic at Cranford, is so kindly stopping here today, we can spend a little more time with Mary Smith, Miss Matty, her long-lost brother Peter, Miss Pole, Mrs. Jamieson, Mr. Hoggins, and the Gordons.

You remember the Gordons, don't you? She that was Jessie Brown, who married her old love, Major Gordon; and from being poor became quite a rich lady; but for all that never forgot any of her old friends in Cranford.
As this story opens, Mary Smith (the narrator in Cranford, and again here) is visiting Cranford again, staying with Miss Pole. When she learns that the Gordons, who are now living in Paris, will be coming back for a visit, she asks Mrs. Gordon to choose a present, 'something pretty and new and fashionable,'but not too fashionable, 'for there is such a thing, I can assure you!' for Miss Pole.

Mary assumes that the present will be 'an elegant and fashionable head-dress; a kind of cross between a turban and a cap,' and there is a page or two of Cranfordiness about a cap that Miss Pole had chosen, and Mary had advised against, at the Johnsons' shop Mary is a little disappointed when Mrs. Gordon writes that she 'had got a cage for herself of the newest and most elegant description. and had thought that she could not do better than get another like it as my present for Miss Pole, as cages were so much better made in Paris than anywhere else.'  It's just that Mary had thought the present would be for Miss Pole, not for her parrot, but as they wait for the present to arrive, and tell all their neighbors about it, their anticipation grows.

If you've read Cranford, you might guess that there's some unworldliness, and a misunderstanding, and silliness, and a servant who knows more than her employer, and some improper comments from inconvenient men, before everything turns out for the best. But best of all, you can pack a cup of tea, and some biscuits, and your laptop, and find a park bench, and read the story online.  {A calash, by the way, is a woman's folding bonnet of some sort.}

This story could easily be another chapter in Elizabeth Gaskell's wonderful early novel, but I think I'm glad  that it came later, when we had all run out of Cranford, and needed some more.

Please visit Gaskell Blog to follow The Picnic at Cranford blog tour, and thank you, Katherine, for inviting me to take part.}


Vintage Reading said...

I've read this story and it is indeed wonderful. I must revisit Cranford.

Lisa May said...

Reading your postings earlier in the year inspired me to get the new Vintage edition of The Cranford Chronicles, though I haven't read it yet. I'd never heard of the other two stories included in it - nor of this one.

FleurFisher said...

Thank you - I loved Cranford, and this sounds wonderful.

Katherine Cox said...

Thank you for being one of our stops on the tour, Audrey!

Do you know, I haven't read the Cage at Cranford! Shocking, I know. ;) But I must.

I wrote a little on the infamous calash at Gaskell Blog.

Anonymous said...

Gaskell's short stories about ghosts and witchcraft came as a surprise after Cranford and Ruth. I've read a couple for the R.I.P. challenge. Did not know about this Cranford Extra piece. To be read.

Anonymous said...

I've been hovering around your lovely blog for awhile, and just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy it and to thank you for the link to the story. I spent a delightful time reading it. Thank you.

Thank you for visiting!

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