Tremendously popular in her lifetime, the books of the English author Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) have often been overshadowed by her contemporaries the Brontës and George Eliot. Yet the reputation of her long-neglected masterpiece Wives and Daughters continues to grow. Gaskell wrote six novels in all — of which North and South and Cranford remain two of the best known — as well as numerous short stories, novellas, and a biography of her great friend Charlotte Brontё.
Dark Night's Work by Elizabeth Gaskellby Elizabeth Gaskell
The story centers on a country lawyer, Edward Wilkins, and his daughter
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A Dark Night's Work is an 1863 novella by Elizabeth Gaskell. It was first published serially in Charles Dickens's magazine All the Year Round. The word "dark" was added to the original title by Dickens against Gaskell's wishes. Dickens felt that the altered title would be more striking.
The story centers on a country lawyer, Edward Wilkins, and his daughter Ellinor. Edward has an artistic and literary personality, unsuited to his social position as the son of a successful lawyer who takes over the practice of his father in the provincial town of Hamley. His legal representation of the local gentry and nobility leads him to try fitting into their social circles, only to be mocked and treated with derision. He develops a drinking problem and spends more money than he can afford to in his attempts to be an equal to his clients. His bad habits lead to problems in his business, and Edward is forced to take on a junior partner named Mr. Dunster.
At the same time, Ellinor becomes engaged to a young upcoming country gentleman named Ralph Corbet. Corbet initiates the engagement partly through love of Ellinor and partly because of a promise of money from Edward. Edward continues to drink and overspend, leading to a confrontation with Mr. Dunster. In the heat of the argument, Edward strikes Mr. Dunster, killing him. Ellinor and a family servant named Dixon help Edward to bury the body in their flower garden.
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