[From "'What Must Not be Said': North and South and the Problem of Women's Work," by Catherine Barnes Stevenson]

In North and South Gaskell introduces a small number of references that broaden her analysis of the gentleman. The two most significant are the names of the manufacturing city, Milton-Northern, and John Thornton's defense of Oliver Cromwell, which telescopes the rose imagery of a dying tradition and Lancastrian individualism: "Rose water surgery won't do for them. Cromwell would have made a capital mill-owner, Miss Hale. I wish we had him to put down this strike for us." Margaret replies, "Cromwell is no hero of mine" (145).

During the nineteenth century, Cromwell's reputation underwent considerable alteration from its ambiguous status in the Enlightenment, for example in David Hume's History of Great Britain (1754-1761). Carlyle's lecture "The Hero as King" in 1840, his Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, with Elucidations in 1845, and the lectures of Thomas Cooper (a model for Kingsley's Alton Locke) on Cromwell to Chartist groups in the forties, reestablished Cromwell. "Evangelical in religion, a self-made man, anti-aristocratic and anti-establishment, a reformer of passionate moral conviction, Cromwell had all the ingredients to make him the hero of the reformers, liberals and new men of nineteenth-century Britain" (Strong 149). It is from this perspective that he is viewed by Gaskell's Thornton.


Victorian Web Overview Elizabeth Gaskell North and South

Created c.1994; last modified 25 March 2000