Classics · Covers · writing

Covers: North and South

As Róisín Campbell is onboard the City of Paris, the steamship that is taking her to America, she is trepidatious about what her fate will be. She can read, and has read romances:

Róisín was not so foolish as to believe a well-bred and handsome gentleman would carry her away, notwithstanding how often it happened in the romances she read and re-read. She knew they were fantasies, and that no man of a good family would marry a farmgirl, no matter how handsome he might think her. To such a family, she would be little better than the poor from the west of Ireland who could barely speak let alone read English. She knew there would be many a man in a good family who would seek to take advantage of her, promising her all manner of things to seduce her and that such a man would be her ruination. There were many such rakes in her books too.

But, really, what was awaiting this woman raised on a farm in County Limerick who’d never seen the sea till she was in Queenstown, ready to board the City of Paris? What she “knew” was what she read in the more serious books:

Still, she feared she would end up in the squalor she read about in other, more serious books set in London and Manchester and prayed that that would not be her fate.

The London reference is to Dickens. And “Manchester” is “Milton,” the northern city, and completely different world, to which Margaret Hale is forced to move after her father loses his position in a calm vicarage in the English south. So the cover for Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel North and South required some thought.

This is the only cover I’ve gotten from the Yale Art Gallery. It is Yes or No by the British artist Sir John Everett Millais. It was painted in 1871, so it is not too out of date for the novel, which was published in 1854. Yes or No? North or South?

I could find nothing about the painting from Yale, but the Met has a description of a drawing made of it:

A contemplative woman stands near an open letter, holding a small picture behind her back. The print reproduces a painting that Millais exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 1871 (no. 1055) (Yale University Art Gallery), where the subject’s black gown indicates that she is in mourning. It was first published in London by Thomas Agnew & Sons in 1873, and this later variation issued a few years later in New York by the Kendall Bank Note Company.

Yes or No indeed.

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