Cranford (novel)

Cranford (novel)
Miss Matty and Peter.jpg
Miss Matty and Peter
Author(s) Elizabeth Gaskell
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Victorian literature
Publisher Household Words
Publication date 1851 (serial), 1853 (complete)
Media type Print ()

Cranford is one of the better-known novels of the 19th century English writer Elizabeth Gaskell. It was first published in 1851 as a serial in the magazine Household Words, which was edited by Charles Dickens.



The fictional town of Cranford is closely modelled on Knutsford in Cheshire, which Mrs Gaskell knew well. The book has little in the way of plot and is more a series of episodes in the lives of Mary Smith and her friends, Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two spinster sisters. The "major" event in the story is the return to Cranford of their long-lost brother, Peter, which in itself is only a minor portion of the work, leaving the rest of the novel at a low-key tone.


  • Mary Smith – The narrator. A woman frequently staying with Miss Matty.
  • Miss Matty Jenkyns – An amiable and good-natured (though rather timid) old spinster.
  • Miss Deborah Jenkyns – Miss Matty's imperious older sister. Dies early on in the novel.
  • Miss Pole – Allegedly the most "reasonable" and "enlightened" of the Cranford ladies; the reader may draw his/her own conclusions.
  • The Honourable Mrs Jamieson – A widow with aristocratic connections and the owner of her beloved dog, Carlo. A mostly lethargic old woman.
  • Mrs Forrester – Another widow.
  • Betty Barker – A former milliner, who owns a cow whom she loves like a daughter.
  • Peter Jenkyns – The Jenkyns' long-lost brother, who returns from India at the end of the novel.
  • Thomas Holbrook – Miss Matty's admirer and a farmer. He dies a year after his trip to Paris, France, yet his death is blamed on this trip.
  • Captain Brown – A poor captain, who comes to live at Cranford with his two daughters.
  • Miss Brown – Captain Brown's elder daughter.
  • Miss Jessie Brown – Captain Brown's daughter. After his and her sister's deaths, she marries and leaves Cranford.
  • Major Gordon – A friend of Captain Brown who has been in love with Jessie Brown for years.
  • Lady Glenmire – Mrs. Jamieson's poor but aristocratic sister-in-law. Later marries Dr. Hoggins.
  • Dr. Hoggins – The Cranford surgeon. A rough but friendly and well-meaning man.
  • Martha – Miss Matty's maid. Later her landlady and companion at equal terms.
  • Mr. Mulliner – Mrs. Jamieson's creepy and cowardy butler.
  • Signor Brunoni – A travelling magician.
  • Signora Brunoni – The wife of the travelling magician, who travels on foot across India to save the life of her baby daughter.


The novel has been thrice adapted for television by the BBC. The first version was broadcast in 1951, the second in 1972, with Gabrielle Hamilton as Miss Matty, and the third version in 2007. The 2007 version added material from other writings by Gaskell: My Lady Ludlow, Mr. Harrison's Confessions and The Last Generation in England. Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins took the leading roles as Miss Matty and Miss Deborah Jenkyns, with Imelda Staunton cast as the town's gossip, Miss Pole, and Michael Gambon as Miss Matty's former admirer, Mr. Holbrook. The BBC sequel, Return to Cranford, was broadcast in 2009 in the UK and 2010 in the USA.

External links

Online texts