At that time so-called "press gangs" would frequently kidnap men to cart them off to war. The young, beautiful Sylvia, captious, capricious, wilful, haughty, merry, charming, is admired by all and sundry, but loved by two men: the dashing Charley Kinraid, popular with the ladies, and Sylvia's cousin Philip Hepburn who had long carried a torch for her. One of these men would be kidnapped; the other would stay behind with a guilty secret and continue to woo the beautiful Sylvia. When one of Sylvia's admirers thinks that he finally gets what he wants, he doesn't actually get what he wants. The young Sylvia will learn a great deal from her experiences through these years and will come to reflect on her earlier words: It's not in me to forgive; I sometimes think it's not in me to forget. This is what I mean: Sylvia is capricious and not always very nice at all, yet she is loved by many and the reader gets to love her too; Hester who has many good qualities becomes mere wallpaper in the background; Philip who does so many good things appears unlikeable, and Kinraid who is rumoured to be a cad appears to be a hero.
I've recently found an interest in Elizabeth Gaskell when I saw the mini-series Wives and Daughters (I bought the DVDs). I love the way this author looks into the hearts of her characters.
Monkshaven sufre enormemente bajo los efectos de esta injusticia, pero sus habitantes intentan llevar una vida normal entre las preocupaciones propias de la vida cotidiana. Las estaciones se suceden, los habitantes se entregan a sus quehaceres al compás del calendario agrícola, y Sylvia Robson, protagonista de la historia, descubre por primera vez lo que supone estar enamorada. Mirad como describe Gaskell la situación del pequeño pueblo: "Los páramos salvajes y desolados circundaban Monkshaven por tierra con la misma eficacia con que lo hacían las aguas por mar". Creo que "Los amores de Sylvia" no es el título idóneo para acercarse a la obra de Gaskell por primera vez; pero si habéis disfrutado ya de títulos como "Cranford" o "Norte y Sur", no dudéis en embarcaros en esta historia, sin duda la obra más atmosférica de Gaskell y una lectura perfecta para esta época otoñal.
A couple of things I love about Elizabeth Gaskell: her willingness to engage properly (and not in a patronizing way) with working-class characters, and the brilliant way in which she forges connections between personal histories and larger political themes. Gaskell exploits the tough, feisty, cliff-hung Whitby superbly in the novel, drawing particularly on two aspects of the towns history: its involvement in the whaling trade in Greenland until the early nineteenth century, and the role that smuggling played in its economy. Gaskell makes a bold stake with Sylvia in getting us to sympathise with the figure who is generally the less sympathetic of female characters in nineteenth-century novelsbeautiful, vain, volatile, impulsiverelegating the watchful, intelligent Hester, whom we would normally be called on to identify with, to a minor role. It would be great to find a novel that worked all the way through, but how rarely does that happen?
I love the way Gaskell describes how a historic crises affects ordinary people. I also love how Gaskell juxtaposes different characters to highlight various strengths and weaknesses.
They intercepted the boats, seized the men and pressed them into service with the Royal Navy to fight the French. 2/2: Sylvia marries Philip, believing Charlie to be dead. But chaos descends when Charlie returns, and Sylvia discovers Philip has lied to her. Set in Yorkshire in the 1790's - the time of the Napoleonic wars, in Monkshaven (ie.Whitby), during the time of the Press Gangs, who intercepted the fishing boats, seized the men and pressed them into service with the Royal Navy to fight the French.
When Kinraid is injured trying to protect his fellow sailors from a press gang, he becomes Sylvia's hero. She may well have been trying to create a new type of hero (in line with one of her short stories, I think) in Philip Hepburn, who is not physical, can't drink, not dashing, and is only interested in Sylvia. In his later career as a Naval Officer, he would necessarily have colluded with the press gangs he once opposed to the point of murder in his confrontation with the press gang on board the'Good Fortune' as Naval Captains in the French Revolutionary Wars had to, and I am surprised that only a few critics comment on the shameless opportunism and self interest that this implies (Graham Handley is one in his excellent 'Sylvia's Lovers' Oxford Notes, 1968). Some might argue that Charley Kinraid was right both to oppose the press gang when it operated illegally, and later to support its 'legal' use as a Captain himself.