A haunting, beautifully controlled novella, Cousin Phyllis is considered to be among Elizabeth Gaskell's finest short works. Lodging with a minister on the outskirts of London, Paul Manning is initially dismayed to discover that the uncle he must visit in the country is also a churchman. Yet far from the oppressively religious household he envisages, Manning is delighted to meet his genial relations-not least, his cousin Phyllis. But when Phyllis falls for the charms of his more sophisticated colleague, Manning's family ties render him powerless to prevent the inevitable heartbreak that ensues
Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, often referred to simply as Mrs Gaskell, was a British novelist and short story writer during the Victorian era. Her novels offer a detailed portrait of the lives of many strata of society, including the very poor, and are of interest to social historians as well as lovers of literature. Gaskell was also the first to write a biography of Charlotte Bronte, The Life of Charlotte Bronte. The best-known of Gaskell's novels are Cranford, North and South, and Wives and Daughters. She became popular for her writing, especially her ghost stories, aided by Charles Dickens, who published her work in his magazine Household Words. Her ghost stories are in the "Gothic" vein, making them quite distinct from her "industrial" fiction. Even though her writing conforms to Victorian conventions, including the use of the name "Mrs Gaskell", she usually framed her stories as critiques of contemporary attitudes. Her early works focused on factory work in the Midlands. She usually emphasised the role of women, with complex narratives and dynamic female characters.