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Tuesday, June 8

Fine eyes or beautiful eyes?

I am reading North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell and I have just reached the part where Miss Hale has refused Mr. Thornton's marriage proposal. What caught my attention - apart from Mr. Thornton's firm intention to continue to love her despite her rejection - was one of his final thoughts while wandering around the city of Milton as he tried to compose himself after leaving the Hale home:

He could remember all about it now; the pitiful figure he must have cut; the absurd way in which he had gone and done the very thing he had so often agreed with himself in thinking would be the most foolish thing in the world; and had met with exactly the consequences which, in these wise moods, he had always foretold were certain to follow if he did make such a fool of himself. Was he bewitched by those beautiful eyes, that soft half open sighing mouth which lay so close upon his shoulder only yesterday?

Is this thought a tribute, inspiration or just a coincidence in reminding me of Elizabeth Bennet's "beautiful eyes" (fine eyes ") ? What do you think? There is much to compare between Margaret Hale and Elizabeth Bennet; there are many differences too.

Although I love Jennifer Ehle, the smile and the eyes of Elizabeth Garvie are my favourite for Lizzie.
As to Miss Hale, I have only Daniela Denby-Ashe's eyes, and they are lovely!

I must confess that I need many rereadings to effectively understandthe dialogues of North and South's working classes with their abbreviations and an almost biblical language. I'm not sure that I have yet reached that point. But I have no doubt that North and South is a delightful reading despite my difficulties.


TONY said...

Hi Raquel,

I really love this post.

You might have noticed that my BLOG name is Southerner. That's because I come form the south of England. Yes, we do have Northerners and Southerners. The accents are very different as you have noticed in Elizabeth Gaskells novel.I lived in Liverpool which is in the north, for three years when I was a teenager.I still have some close northern friends. I couldn't understand them at first.
They are natural comedians. I picked up their phraseology and sayings reasonably quickly and the accent too, to a certain extent. I've lost it all now. But I love the north and northerners. And, thats coming form a southerner.
Keep reading it. It's a great novel.

All the best and love from, Tony

Cranberry Morning said...

I read P&P, then watched P&P (with Jennifer Ehle.) I thought she was beautiful. I have a hard time when movie versions don't come alive to the pictures I've got in my brain from the reading of the book!

I haven't seen the other P&Ps, however. As far as North and South, I have the book and haven't yet started it. I got it because I watched the North and South movie and LOVED IT. I think I loved that story as much as any of the Austen books. My first introduction to Gaskell was a little hardcover volume I found of Cranford, published by Henry Altemus Company of Philadelphia.

Speaking of Northerners, I visited Yorkshire in 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2007. I can't get enough of it.

I know I have this fantasy of the 'real England,' and to me it's Yorkshire and Herefordshire.

Enjoying your blog!

Deb said...

I had seen the movie version of North & South before reading the book [I posted about this on my blog] - the joy was then being able to picture Richard Armitage as John Thornton all the while in reading the book! - But I LOVED this book - and saw immediately that it is Pride & Prejudice all over again - same story, same issues, just set in the north of England and in an industrial age rather than the more agrarian one of P&P - pride and prejudice are the main themes, here between two sections of the country, some of which still remain as far as I understand [I'm American, but my parents were from Liverpool and Manchester and I learned about this at a young age...], and two people who take an instant dislike to each other - Gaskell, though the friend and biogrpaher of C. Bronte, who did not like Austen, had to realize she was retelling P&P but in a setting she was familiar with - I recommend this book highly - it took me too many years to discover it - I could re-read it again and again, just like P&P!
Thank you for posting this and commenting on the similarities - stick with it despite the language difficulties - it is just a lovely story.

Kathy said...

Canadian here -- and I am amazed when people say they have language difficulties when they are reading classics. I was never hindered and in fact love the language so much I do not want to read modern literature.

Maybe I have read too much classical and I guess sticking to my KJV bible also helps.

Love the updates.

Maria Grazia said...

I've read both novels more than once and can notice the similarities but I think the differences are more. Especially in the styles and interests of the two great writers (I love them both very much). I worked on a MrDarcy vs Mr Thornton post last year ( Reading this post here made want to go and re-read for a Lizzie vs Margaret!

Viola said...

I think that there are more differences between Margaret and Elizabeth than similarities, but Mr.Darcy and Mr.Thornton are more alike.

I can remember that the passage that you referred to also reminded me of Elizabeth's 'fine eyes'.

Enid Wilson said...

I like Jennifer's fine eyes. She really knows how to act, with her eyes.

Really Angelic

Rachel said...

Ah, North and South is one of my favorite novels by Elizabeth Gaskell.

I think the BBC did a beautiful adaptation of the book with Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage.

Have fun reading!

Raquel said...


We have something similar, here in Brazil. I am from the South, near Uruguay, living in Sao Paulo, where you find people from all parts of the country and all accents!

I would love to know, personally, England's Southerner and Northerner!

thank you, raquel

Claudia said...

Hello everybody, I'm an Italian JA fan.
I liked so much the BBC adaptation for North and South that I was wondering if I'd be able to read the book with no excessive difficulties. I easily understand modern English, but once I read a couple of Brontë novels and found them pretty tough, especially for the syntax features. Could anybody give me some advice? Thank you in advance.


Raquel said...

Cranberry Morning,

after the 1995 series I have trouble watching the movie (2005). Each time I need an image or a hint about that version I have no will to continue watching as happen with the serie!

I am happy to know that you love my post


Raquel said...


I read Cranford too and love the ladies and their "elegant economies"!

I will read your post and I must read again North and South to understand some parts.


Raquel said...


my difficulties are because English is not my mother tongue. I speak Portuguese and I often can not understand the exact meaning of words.

I do not want to read modern literature, too!


Raquel said...

Maria Grazia and Viola,

Like Viola, this mention of eyes caught my attention immediately, but I need to read again to see if I find more similarities or differences between the characters.

Maria Grazia, I will read your Darcy versus Thornton!


Raquel said...


I like Jennifer's eye, too, but I love I love Garvie eyes!


Raquel said...


I read North and South and Cranford. I like both, but I think I liked a little more N&S


Deb said...

Yes, Kathy - I was referring to "language difficulties" because English is not Raquel's native tongue - not because it is an older classic...

For a great comparison between N&S and P&P read "Mrs. Gaskell's North & South": Austen's Early Legacy" by Janine Barchas, Persuasions 30 [2008], pp 53-66.; and also Jenny Uglow's biography of Gaskell, called "A Habit of Stories" [fabulous biography] and her chapter on N&S, "Tender, and Yet a Master."

Ollie Otson said...

I adore North and South and agree with you that passages need to be reread in order to fully grasp what needs to be said. In a way, too, I prefer the ending of the book more than the movie, though I love both just as much.

As far as the fine/beautiful eyes debate, I would say probably not. Elizabeth Gaskell was of the time of (and I believe close friends with) Charlotte Bronte, and we all know how she felt about Jane Austen, so I would say it's just a coincidence.