Cranford is a witty portrait of small town life in early-Victorian England. The story unfolds through the eyes of Mary Smith, a young woman who observes the comedic struggles of two middle aged sisters in their efforts to maintain a level of refined dignity amid poverty. The story reveals "touches of love and kindness, of simple self-sacrifice and of true womanly tenderness... naturally and truthfully just as they are found in the current of real life." Cranford is based on the experiences of Elizabeth Gaskell's childhood upbringing in Cheshire, UK. Twelve years after publishing Cranford, Gaskell has kind words for her most prolific work. "It is the only one of my books that I can read again; but whenever I am ailing or ill, I take Cranford and - I was going to say, enjoy it! (but that would not be pretty!) laugh over it afresh!" This edition includes artwork by George Du Maurier, commissioned by Smith, Elder & Co. in 1864, and artwork by Hugh Thomson for Macmillan and Co. in 1891.
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