Elizabeth Gaskell Quotes from Her Novels — North and South & Others

Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell incorporated three major social themes for her time including the upheaval of class boundaries, the industrialization of England, and women’s issues in the Victorian era. She grew up in England with her aunt who encouraged her reading and writing interests.

Gaskell’s work was published in Household Words and Blackwood’s magazine, among others once she began to make literary connections with other well-known authors. Here is a selection of Elizabeth Gaskell quotes from her well-regarded novels, particularly North and South.


“How easy it is to judge rightly after one sees what evil comes from judging wrongly.” (Wives and Daughters, 1864)

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“I know you despise me; allow me to say, it is because you don’t understand me.” (North and South, 1854-55)

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“Similarity of opinion is not always—I think not often—needed for fullness and perfection of love.” (Ruth, 1853)

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“I do not look on self-indulgent, sensual people as worthy of my hatred; I simply look upon them with contempt for their poorness of character.” (North and South, 1854-55)

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“People may flatter themselves just as much by thinking that their faults are always present to other people’s minds, as if they believe that the world is always contemplating their individual charms and virtues.” (Wives and Daughters, 1864-66)

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“It is odd enough to see how the entrance of a person of the opposite sex into an assemblage of either men or women calms down the little discordances and the disturbance of mood.” (Wives and Daughters, 1864-66)

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“Sometimes one likes foolish people for their folly, better than wise people for their wisdom.” (Wives and Daughters, 1864 – 66)

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“He shrank from hearing Margaret’s very name mentioned; he, while he blamed her – while he was jealous of her – while he renounced her – he loved her sorely, in spite of himself.” (North and South, 1854 – 55)

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“As she realized what might have been, she grew to be thankful for what was.” (North and South, 1854 – 55)

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“I wanted to see the place where Margaret grew to what she is, even at the worst time of all, when I had no hope of ever calling her mine.” (North and South, 1854 – 55)

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“One word more. You look as if you thought it tainted you to be
loved by me. You cannot avoid it. Nay, I, if I would, cannot
cleanse you from it. But I would not, if I could. I have never
loved any woman before: my life has been too busy, my thoughts
too much absorbed with other things. Now I love, and will love.
But do not be afraid of too much expression on my part.” (North and South, 1854 – 55)

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“Those who are happy and successful themselves are too apt to make light of the misfortunes of others.” (North and South, 1854 – 55)

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Elizabeth Gaskell

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“There is always a pleasure in unraveling a mystery, in catching at the gossamer clue which will guide to certainty.” (Mary Barton, 1848)

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“A girl in love will do a good deal.” (North and South, 1854 – 55)

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“I’ll not listen to reason … Reason always means what someone else has got to say.” (Cranford, 1851-53)

 

“But the cloud never comes from the quarter of the horizon from which we watch for it.” (North and South, 1854 – 55)

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“Were all men equal to-night, some would get the start by rising an hour earlier to-morrow.” (Mary Barton, 1848)

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“Thinking more of others’ happiness than of her own was very fine; but did it not mean giving up her very individuality, quenching all the warm love, the true desires, that made her herself? Yet in this deadness lay her only comfort; so it seemed.” (Wives and Daughters, 1864 – 66)

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“There is nothing like wounded affection for giving poignancy to anger.” (Wives and Daughters, 1864 – 66)

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“But the future must be met, however stern and iron it be.” (North and South, 1854 – 55)

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“Margaret was not a ready lover, but where she loved she loved passionately, and with no small degree of jealousy.” (North and South, 1854 – 55)

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“He could not forget the touch of her arms around his neck, impatiently felt as it had been at the time; but now the recollection of her clinging defense of him, seemed to thrill him through and through,—to melt away every resolution, all power of self-control, as if it were wax before a fire.” (North and South, 1854 – 55)

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“Loyalty and obedience to wisdom and justice are fine; but it is still finer to defy arbitrary power, unjustly and cruelly used — not on behalf of ourselves, but on behalf of others more helpless.” (North and South, 1854 – 55)

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“Thinking has, many a time, made me sad, darling; but doing never did in all my life… My precept is, “Do something, my sister, do good if you can; but, at any rate, do something”.” (North and South, 1854 – 55)

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“A wise parent humors the desire for independent action, so as to become the friend and advisor when his absolute rule shall cease.” (North and South, 1854 – 55)

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“He knew how she would love. He had not loved her without gaining that instinctive knowledge of what capabilities were in her. Her soul would walk in glorious sunlight if any man was worthy, by his power of loving, to win back her love.” (North and South, 1854 – 55) 

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