Living in the book: Cranford


I recently read Gaskell’s Cranford and after a few days spent dwelling in the gossip, dramatics, and social codes of the anachronistic little place, I fell in love with all of the proper old maids and widows, as well as with the objects of their peculiar, unfashionable, consumer fetishes.

Angelique Red Parasol, £34.95, Umbrella Heaven

I can testify to a magnificent family red silk umbrella, under which a gentle little spinster, left alone of many brothers and sisters, used to patter to church on rainy days.  Have you any red silk umbrellas in London?  We had a tradition of the first that had ever been seen in Cranford; and the little boys mobbed it, and called it ‘a stick in petticoats.’

Two Tulip Tea Cups, Gleena on Etsy, $42.50

The next four comers were put down immediately to another table; and presently the tea-trays, which I had seen set out in the store-room as I passed in the morning, were placed each on the middle of a card-table.  The china was a delicate egg-shell; the old-fashioned silver glittering with polishing; but the eatables were of the slightest description.

Cowslip wine, Godshill Cider Co., £7.60 (cowslip wine is made from cowslip flowers--a wild variety of primrose--and is similar to sherry)

The door was opened to my by her little maid Lizzy, in Sunday trim, as if some grand event was impending over this work-day.  And the drawing-room upstairs was arranged in accordance with this idea.  The table was set out, with the best green card-cloth, and writing-materials upon it.  On the little chiffonier was a tray with a newly-decanted bottle of cowslip wine, and some ladies’-finger biscuits.

White Pashmina Shawl, Design By Jesy on Etsy, $17

‘And only think, love! the very day after her death–for she did not live quite a twelvemonth after Peter went away–the very day after–came a parcel for her from India–from her poor boy.  It was a large, soft, white India shawl, with just a little narrow border all around; just what my mother would have liked.’

Clara Silk Chiffon Dress by K Karl Lagerfeld on Net-a-porter, $220

And then Mrs. Fitz-Adam reappeared in Cranford, ‘as bold as a lion,’ Miss Pole said, a well-to-do widow, dressed in rustling black silk, so soon after her husband’s death, that poor Miss Jenkyns was justified in the remark she mad, that ‘bombazine would have shown a deeper sense of her loss.’

Vintage Bluebirds Playing Cards, Goofing Off on Etsy, $7.50

After tea there was some little demur and difficulty.  We were six in number; four could play at Preference, and for the other two there was Cribbage.  But all, except myself–(I was rather afraid of the Cranford ladies at cards, for it was the most earnest and serious business they ever engaged in)–were anxious to be of the ‘pool.’

Vintage Bird Lady Hat, Frills and Furbelows on Etsy, $25

If the heads were buried in smart new caps, the ladies were like ostriches, and cared not what became of their bodies.

Vintage Altered Art Brooch, Dog On It Art on Etsy, $6.99

[A]ny number of brooches, up and down and everywhere (some with dogs’ eyes painted in them; some that were like small picture-frames with mausoleums and weeping-willows neatly executed in hair inside; some, again, with miniatures of ladies and gentlemen sweetly smiling out of a nest of stiff muslin)–old brooches for a permanent, and new caps to suit the fashion of the day; the ladies of Cranford always dressed with chaste elegance and propriety[.]

Vintage Weiss Green Butterfly Brooch, Art Force on Etsy, $9.50

I counted seven brooches myself on Miss Pole’s dress.  Two were fixed negligently in her cap (one was a butterfly made of Scotch pebbles, which a vivid imagination might believe to be the real insect); one fastened to her net neck-kerchief; one her collar; one ornamented the front of her gown, midway between her throat and waist; and another adorned the point of her stomacher.  Where the seventh was I have forgotten but it was somewhere about her, I am sure.

Take It From the Top on ModCloth, $37.99

Mrs. Forrester related a curious little fact to Lady Glenmire–an anecdote known to the circle of her intimate friends, but of which even Mrs. Jamieson was not aware.  It related to some fine old lace, the sole relic of better days, which Lady Glenmire was admiring on Mrs. Forrester’s collar.

Cranford Monocle with Crown and Book Locket on Brass, Bead on a Wire on Etsy, $35.00

Meanwhile, Miss Matty had reconnoitered through her eye-glass; wiped it, and looked again.  Then she turned round, and said to me, in a kind, mild, sorrowful tone:–‘you see, my dear, turbans are worn.’

Screenprinted Moleskine Notebook, Cutiepie Company on Etsy, $9

‘My father once made us,’ she began, ‘keep a diary in two columns; on one side we were to put down in the morning what we thought would be the course and events of the coming day, and at night we were to put down on the other side what really had happened.  It would be to some people rather a sad way of telling their lives’–(a tear dropped upon my hand at these words)–‘I don’t mean that mine has been sad, only so very different to what I expected.’

Dzing! eau de toilette, Lucky Scent, $135 for 100ml, $3 for 0.7ml sample

This day to which I refer, Miss Matty had seemed more than usually feeble and languid, and only revived when the sun went down, and her sofa was wheeled to the open window, through which, although it looked into the principal street of Cranford, the fragrant smell of the neighbouring hayfield came in every now and then, borne by the soft breezes that stirred the dull air of the summer twilight, and then died away.

Pearl and Black Satin Necklace, Frills and Furbelows on Etsy, $30

‘I suppose I forgot dates too, Matty, for what do you think I have brought you from India?  I have an India muslin gown and a pearl necklace for you somewhere for other in my chest from Portsmouth.’ […] I could see that for a moment her imagination dwelt complacently on the idea of herself thus attired; and instinctively she put her hand up to her throat–that little delicate throat which (as Miss Pole had told me) had been one of her youthful charms; but the hand met the touch of folds of soft muslin, in which she was always swatched up to her chin; and the sensation recalled a sense of the unsuitableness of a pearl necklace to her age.

Ok, it's not candy, but close enough. Almond Torte Top on ModCloth, $64.99

If a little child came in to ask for an ounce of almond-comfits (and four of the kind which Miss Matty sold weighed that much), she always added one more by ‘way of make-weight’ as she called it, although the scale was handsomely tuned before; and when I remonstrated against this, her reply was, ‘The little things like it so much!’

Assorted Plaid Vintage Handkerchiefs, Quercus Design on Etsy, $5

Miss Jenkyns gave him each individual coin separate, with a ‘There! that’s for yourself; that’s for Jenny,’ &c.  Miss Matty would even beckon Martha out of the kitchen while he ate his food:  and once, to my knowledge, winked at its rapid disappearance into a blue cotton pocket-handkerchief.

When Doves Cry Dress from ModCloth, $64.99

If we walked to or from a party, it was because the night was so fine, or the air so refreshing; not because sedan-chairs were expensive.  If we wore prints, instead of summer silks, it was because we preferred a washing material; and so on, till we blinded ourselves to the vulgar fact, that we were, all of us, people of very moderate means.

Rosey Teacup Victorian Chiffon Dress from Ruche, $32.99

Their dress is very independent of fashion; as they observe, “What does it signify how we dress here at Cranford, where everybody knows us?”  And if they go from home, their reason is equally cogent:  “What does it signify how we dress here, where nobody knows us?”

Vintage Black Glenover Mesh-Topped Hat, Capricious Traveler on Etsy, $29

[I was] most particularly anxious to prevent her from disfiguring her small gentle mousey face with a great Saracen’s-head turban; and, accordingly I bought her a pretty, neat, middle-aged cap, which, however, was rather a disappointment to her when, on my arrival, she followed me into my bed-room, ostensibly to poke the fire, but in reality, I do believe, to see if the sea-green turban was not inside the cap-box with which I had travelled.  It was in vain that I twirled the cap round on my hand to exhibit back and side fronts:  her heart had been set upon a turban, and all she could do was to say, with resignation in her look and voice:

Vintage Velvet and Satin Turban, Gurney Creek Farms on Etsy, $18

‘I am sure you did your best, my dear.  It is just like the caps all the ladies in Cranford are wearing, and they have had theirs for a year, I dare say.  I should have liked something newer, I confess–something more like the turbans Miss Betty Barker tells me Queen Adelaide wears; but it is very pretty, my dear.  And I dare say lavender will wear better than sea-green.  Well, after all, what is dress that we should care about it!’

Paddington's New Toggle Coat from Ruche, $46.99

‘The little lady in Mrs. Jamieson’s pew had on, ma’am, rather an old black silk, and a shepherd’s plaid cloak, ma’am, and very bright black eyes she had, ma’am, and a pleasant, sharp face; not over young, ma’am, but yet, I should guess, younger than Mrs. Jamieson herself.  She looked up and down the church, like a bird, and nipped up her petticoats, when she came out, as quick and sharp as ever I see.’


2 Responses to “Living in the book: Cranford”

  1. 1 Jenn

    This is charming!

  2. i want to live in this book, or maybe it’s this blog i want to live in. please fax me everything attn: my whims(y) asap.

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