'I see her now - cousin Phillis. The westering sun shone full upon her, and made a slanting stream of light into the room within.' Elizabeth Gaskell has long been one of the most popular of Victorian novelists, yet in her lifetime her shorter fictions were equally well loved, and they are among the most accomplished examples of the genre. The novella-length Cousin Phillis is a lyrical depiction of a vanishing way of life and a girl's disappointment in love: deceptively simple, its undercurrent of feeling leaves an indelible impression. The other five stories in this selection were all written during the 1850s for Dickens's periodical Household Words. They range from a quietly original tale of urban poverty and a fallen woman in 'Lizzie Leigh' to an historical tale of a great family in 'Morton Hall'; echoes of the French Revolution, the bleakness of winter in Westmorland, and a tragic secret are brought vividly to life. Heather Glen reflects on the stories' original periodical publication and on the nineteenth-century development of the short story in her Introduction to these immensely readable and sophisticated tales.
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Heather Glen has edited editions of Charlotte Bronte's The Professor and Tales of Angria for Penguin and is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to the Brontes.