Friday, December 4, 2009

The Classics Circuit: Christmas Storms and Sunshine by Elizabeth Gaskell

I am honored to be a stop on The Classics Circuit today. The Classics Circuit is a wonderful way in which classic authors enjoy the honor of being celebrated on blogs in the way that new authors are when they release a new book.

I was very excited that Elizabeth Gaskell was chosen to be so honored. I first read an Elizabeth Gaskell novel when I was a teenager obsessed with everything Bronte and read her Diary of Charlotte Bronte. At that point she was “Mrs. Gaskell” and I read that she was a famous novelist and wondered what novels she had written. It wasn’t until the wonderful Wives and Daughters mini-series was going to air on Masterpiece Theatre that I finally read that novel and loved it. I then read Cranford and Lady Ludlow and Other Stories in preparation of Cranford also appearing on Masterpiece Theatre. I have enjoyed what I have read of Gaskell and hope to read more.

Gaskell is a master at writing the minutia of small town life in Victorian England. “Christmas Storms and Sunshine” is a short story from 1848 that is an excellent example of this. Mr. Hodgson is the chief compositor of the democratic Examiner paper in town while Mr. Jenkins holds the same position at the Tory Flying Post paper. Both are married men and both happen to reside in the same house in different apartments.

The political argument of the men is taken up by the wives. Although they live in the same house, they are determined to not get along. One Christmas Eve both are preparing for their Christmas celebration the next day. Mrs. Hodgson has an 18-month old son, while Mrs. Jenkins would like a baby, but only has a beloved cat. Mrs. Hodgson is discovered by Mrs. Jenkins to be beating her beloved cat over eating some leftover mutton that he found in her open cupboard. She is not pleased.

Shortly thereafter, Baby Hodgson is discovered to not be breathing properly and to be stricken with the croup. Time is of the essence and Mrs. Hodgson has to bug Mrs. Jenkins for help (after having just beaten her cat). Will Mrs. Jenkins forgive Mrs. Hodgson? Will Baby Hodgson be okay? You will have to read the story to find out.

I love one of the last lines of the story, “If any of you have any quarrels, or misunderstandings, or coolnesses, or cold shoulders, or shynesses, or tiffs, or miffs, or huffs, with any one else, just make friends before Christmas, - you will be so much merrier if you do.” What a great thought for the holidays.

Overall, I loved this short story. It had a great theme for the holidays and it also showed Gaskell’s skills at capturing not only small town life, but the emotions of the two main characters.


  1. Sounds good! I read North and South this year and loved it. You did a good job of capturing her writing style.

  2. This is the perfect story for you to review, and you've done a wonderful job, Laura.

  3. What a great story, and you've chosen a great quote. Must find this and read it before Christmas.

  4. I've never read Gaskell's short stories, but I've read and loved her NORTH AND SOUTH, WIVES AND DAUGHTERS, MARY BARTON and RUTH so far. CRANFORD is on my TBR list. I hope I'll find time and read it as soon as I can. I saw the BBC adaptations of N&S (one of my favourites ever), W&D and Cranford. Mrs Gaskell is one of my favourite novelists!

  5. This sounds just perfect for the holidays! I think I must need to go find this as well.

    I haven't loved the Gaskell that I've read, but I'm willing to keep trying!

    Thanks for joining the Circuit!

  6. Sounds great. I love Gaskell's novels, but I haven't read any short stories. I have the BBC adaptation of Cranford too and I think that they are coming out with a sequel to it in early 2010.

  7. I haven't read any of her short stories so I'll have to rectify that. I've read and enjoyed all the books previously mentioned plus Sylvia's Lovers.

  8. can anyone tell me what the resolution was please??

  9. I'm going to have my online Great Books salon read this right before Christmas. Any other little known Christmas stories we should read?