Invalidism in North and South and Advertisements in the Illustrated London News

By B. N.

Invalidism - Full Page

I selected three advertisements from the 2 July 1853 issue of The Illustrated London News: one advertises a book on “neurotonics” (or medicine for the nerves), another advertises a cure for “Deafness,” and the last advertises a sanctuary for middle- and upper-class women with “nervous and mental disorders.” None of the advertisements are illustrated and each consists of, at most, a paragraph of text. Because society was undergoing many rapid changes in technology, medicine, and science, fiction in the Victorian era presents anxiety regarding illness and health. Although each advertisement prescribes something unique, each one has an optimistic tone and presents a hopeful image for the invalid. For example, the advertisement for deafness describes its treatment as “one of the most important discoveries ever made in medical science” and states that it is “the only certain and successful treatment known” (535). Continue reading

Physical and Mental Health in North and South and “Sick Body, Sick Brain”

By Zach Brabazon

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Both Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South and “Sick Body, Sick Brain” present circumstances of illness translating to psychological effects. In North and South, invalidism is paralleled by mental disturbance. The disturbed mindsets of Bessy Higgins, Fanny Thornton and Mrs. Hale are underlined by their invalid states. The article “Sick Body, Sick Brain” from Household Words discusses the way in which madness or hysteria is created on a larger scale by the presence of epidemic disease. “Sick Body, Sick Brain” gives interesting insight into how Victorians understood sanity and insanity, and provides context for the invalid hysteria that takes place in the North and South. Continue reading

North and South and “The Pantomime and the Workhouse”

By S.B.vonNiessen

The February 21, 1857, issue of Punch “The Pantomime and the Workhouse” is a satirical article depicting the inequality between those in workhouse and the upper-class. Specifically, the article describes children in Bath who are denied access to see a play because the religious Board of the workhouse believe going to the theatres is immoral. The workhouse children are invited by the manager of the playhouse to see Jack and the Beanstalk. However, the Reverend in charge of the workhouse denies these children the pleasure of watching the pantomime. The most striking line from this article is, “Why should pauper children be gratified? Poverty, in fact, has no childhood” (50). The article argues that all people have a right to childhood and, using over-exaggeration, the article satirically demonstrates the cruelty that occurred in Victorian workhouses while critiquing the lack of labour laws at the time. Margaret’s story in North and South relates to this Punch article in advocating the rights of workers and drawing attention to the inequality experienced by the lower class.

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The Punch article satirically hyperbolizes the situation of child labour. For example, the author uses a condescending style when describing the workhouse children as “thoughtless little sinners” (50). Even though these children are innocent, they are referred to as “sinners” to emphasize how they are denied the privileges of childhood. The article uses irony to showcase Continue reading

“The Quiet Poor” and Gaskell’s Milton

By E. P.

EP Quiet Poor

“The Quiet Poor” from Household Words describes what some thought of the forgotten people, the poor of a changing England. The introduction of the article provides introspective into Elizabeth Gaskell’s Milton in North and South and its apparent class structure as we move from the wealth of the south to the poor and working class or the north. “The Quiet Poor” are described as “the people who work in their own homes, and are never seen in workhouses and prisons, who keep their sorrows” (201). They are a class of people who work as they can in a world that has shifted and industrialized. The opportunities to make money are there but many have families they cannot afford to keep and so children worked in horrible conditions. Continue reading

A “Change of Air” and Invalidism in North and South

By Elena Rardon

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The figure of the invalid in nineteenth-century writing was often one of ridicule, as authors and playwrights poked fun at those overly infatuated with aches, pains, and nerves. In Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, the author upends some of these common tropes with the humanization of the invalid character Mrs. Hale. Often concerned with the effect of the “air” on her health, Mrs. Hale most likely followed the idea behind the Household Words article, “Change of Air”—namely, that physical constitution has a direct correlation with climate.

Between 1850 and 1859, Charles Dickens edited Household Words, a weekly-published journal that Gaskell herself contributed to in a serialized format with North and South. All articles were anonymously published, although they all had a fairly “Dickensian” feel. The article “Change of Air,” published in Household Words in 1854, discusses the idea that climate can have an effect on health, encouraging traveling as a method of self-care. Continue reading

The Labour unions of Europe and North and South

By James Cluff

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Good Words Magazine was a monthly, evangelical magazine which began publication in 1860, with its run going into the twentieth century under the name Sunday Magazine. The periodical was aimed towards the middle to lower class, in an attempt to spread religious knowledge throughout the masses. While most of the pieces within it were devoted to strengthening Christian beliefs and the history of Christianity, it also contained a vast collection of sketches, articles on history, current affairs, fictional tales that were published much like the works in Dickens’ Household Words and rarely pieces on science (Cooke). Continue reading

Sympathy for the Working Classes in North and South and “Fencing for Humanity”

By J. F.


North and South is a novel that to its very core is concerned with divisions within society, a concept embodied in its dichotomous title. The resultant tensions from these divisions are most visible in the tension shown between factory workers and their masters. Gaskell portrays the struggles of these oppressed workers with a passionate, yet balanced eye, eager to show to the public the reality of the harsh lives led by the working classes in the Victorian era. And the same passionate voice Gaskell uses to speak of events such as Bessy’s slowly deteriorating health appears in the first article of the No. 264 issue of Household Words, published in eighteen-fifty-five.

Continue reading

Smokey City: Industrialization in North and South

By S. R.

Important Meeting of Smoke Makers

During the nineteenth century, England experienced the Industrial Revolution. This meant that an enormous amount of smoke surrounded London, which prompted illness for those that were surrounded by it daily, as can be expected.

The source I chose that portrayed the Industrial Revolution is from Punch, a satirical magazine. This particular article was published in 1853 entitled “Important Meeting of Smoke Makers,” and it satirizes people that ignored the smoke in London because the smoke was produced by industrialization. The image above the article shows gentlemen with smoke coming out of the top of their heads, which are shaped like industrial Continue reading

“Locked Out” and Hopeless: Historical and Fictional Strikes in Victorian England

By Mary Luco

Locked Out Image 1 Mary LucoA key element in Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South is the cotton industry. This includes the working conditions of the cotton factories, the cleanliness of the town, and the workers’ dissatisfaction with low wages, leading to lockouts and strikes. The Preston lockout of 1853 to 1854 provides a historical foundation for the plot and themes of North and South while the Household Words article, “Locked Out,” offers a contemporary perspective on the event.

Locked Out Image 2 Mary LucoIn 1853, the cotton industry virtually ceased production for seven long months due to tensions arising between workers and factory owners, with cotton mills outputting only eighty percent of their normal volume (Dutton and King 94). Under the guidance of George Cowell, Continue reading

The Cost of Manufacturing Lint: Fabric and Factories in North and South and The Illustrated London News

By K. B.

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The 1800’s in England was a time of increased industrialization and awareness of social reform. As Debbie Bark explains, during this period Manchester grew to become the forerunner of fabric production and cotton manufacturing. An article called the “Manufacture of Lint for the Army in the Crimea” from the March 17, 1855 issue of The Illustrated London News echoes the views of undervaluing the factory workers and recognizing the high demand for linen as Elizabeth Gaskell portrays
throughout her novel
North and South and through the character of Margaret Hale. Continue reading