Mrs Gaskell’s Cranford on DVD


I didn’t watch the recent BBC TV series of Cranford when it was broadcast because weekly episodes aren’t my preferred watching rhythm. But the day the DVD was on sale, I bought it, and we’ve watched the 5 episodes over the past week or so. If you haven’t seen it already, I urge you to watch it as soon as you can: it is marvellous. I was laughing and crying in equal measure, sometimes even at the same time.

I recall reading quite a bit of pre-broadcast mockery about bonnets on various Guardian blogs before the series was broadcast, and I don’t wish to resuscitate those here. Instead, I refer you to two articles on Random Jottings blog: here, Elaine writes about the first episode, reminding us that however "funny and delightful though Cranford is, we must not make the mistake of thinking it is just ladies taking tea and being all fluttery.  We see Cranford, unchanging and unchanged, and yet the railway is coming threatening their world.  How do they cope with it all?" And in a subsequent post, Elaine writes about the last episode, which has left her a "wreck surrounded by empty tissue boxes". She writes: "The weaving of the three stories into one to produce a whole has been seamless and though there have been minor changes to the story lines, these have been done with sensitivity and commonsense and add to the dramatic intensity." Thank you, Elaine, for these informed and sensitive summaries, written with your characteristic verve.

In an unrelated post, Bibliophile reviews the book on her blog Another 52 Books. She explains that the book "was first published as a serial in a magazine in 1851-2, but in 1853 it was gathered together in one volume and published as a novel….  It isn’t until the latter half of the book that a story begins to be told that continues from chapter to chapter, so in fact the ‘novel’ is really a collection of interconnected short stories and a novella." Very well suited, in fact, to the modern TV series.

Incidentally, when I was a teenager and reading her books, this author was universally referred to as Mrs Gaskell — including on the cover of the books. Now I note that she is universally called Elizabeth Gaskell, or even Elizabeth C. Gaskell on the cover of the version I have recently bought. I wonder at the reason for this change. (I can guess.)