Wow! by far the favorite of Mrs. Gaskell's books I've read so far. How really awful it was to be poor in Manchester in the 1840s. It was all about how tragedy happens to really good people. It lacked artificiality and had great characterisation. There was so much you wouldn't expect her to write about, opium addicts, alcoholic prostitutes and murders. She talked about mother's giving opium to their children to fend off the feelings of starvation and there were many many deaths. But despite this it was never truly bleak.

Even the 19th century love story was there as social commentary and on the gloomy side, including the line of the hero picturing see his lover dead when he heard she'd been interested in someone else. "A vision of her pale sweet face, with her bright hair, all bedabbled with gore, seemed to float constantly before his eyes".

She wrote this after the death of her son and there was some beautiful passages about death and loss, my favorite was:

"It is the woes that cannot in any earthly way be escaped that admit least earthly comforting. Of all trite, worn-out hollow mockeries of comfort that are ever uttered by people who will not take the trouble of sympathising with others, the one I dislike the most is the exhortion not to grieve over an event "for it cannot be helped". Do you think if I could help it, I would sit still with folded hands, content to mourn? Do you not believe that as long as hope remained I would be up and doing? I mourn because what has occurred cannot be helped. The reason you give me for not grieving, is the very and sole reason of my grief."
This is a marvelous collection of folklore. It contains everything from stories about mysterious places, to festivals, ghost stories, and superstitions. It drew mainly on Victorian sources and it was surprising to see how much had changed in the intervening years.

It was the kind of book you'd use for occult research if you were interested in the history of beliefs about a particular place (if you were an actual Call of Cthulhu researcher. It reminded me of the book they consulted in Quatermass and the Pit to find out the secrets of Hob Lane), with a great list of old sources to check and learn more. I really enjoyed reading about all the events that happened at Whitby, because I've been there several times. It made me want to get the other volumes, particularly of the places I grew up and learn more about the history of those places.

I got the 1909 version from work, a lovely old binding, that was going to be pulped. I'm glad I was able to save it.