Cranford Was Originally Published Serially In
The fictional Cranford is based on the small Cheshire town of Knutsford in which Elizabeth Gaskell grew up. She had already drawn on her childhood memories for an article published in America, "The Last Generation in England" (1849), and for the town of Duncombe which featured in her extended story "Mr. Harrison's Confessions" (1851). These accounts of life in a country town and the old-fashioned class snobbery prevailing there were carried over into what was originally intended simply as another story, published as "Our Society in Cranford" in the magazine Household Words in December 1851. Seeing the possibilities of a longer work in the piece, which eventually formed the first two chapters of her novel, Charles Dickens, the magazine's editor, encouraged the author to write more episodes.
cranford was originally published serially in
The episodes described as taking place in Cranford were originally published under eight separate titles. The first, titled Our Society in Cranford and comprising the first two chapters of the eventual novel, introduces a female society of "Amazons", mostly widows or elderly unmarried women, living in genteel poverty and concealing the fact under what they call "elegant economy". These visit each other's houses according to a restrictive code of rules overseen by those among them most highly connected socially by birth or marriage. The arrival of Captain Brown, retired from the military and now a railway employee, disrupts their small world by his unguarded references to taboo subjects. Just as he gains their respect by his kindness and openness, he is killed rescuing a child from being run over by a train. His sickly elder daughter dies soon after and Jesse Brown is then freed to marry an old military admirer.