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At the Circulating Library

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

Title: Mary Barton

Author and Title: Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell. Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life

First Edition: London: Chapman and Hall, 1848. 2 volumes, post 8vo., 18s.

Summary: Mary Barton is the daughter of working-man John Barton who works in the local textile mills. At an early age, Mary's mother and brother die, leaving father and daughter alone. Years earlier, Mary's aunt Esther was seduced and disappeared. In a desire to save her from the factory, Mary is apprenticed to a dressmaker. Her affections waver between the self-educated working man Jem Wilson and the son of the factory owner Harry Carson. She rejects the advances of the former before realizing the hollow flatteries of the latter. Esther returns in order to warn Mary away from a similar fate. Jem confronts Harry, which comes to hard words and blows. John's union activities lead him to become a Chartist and he delivers their petition to London, to no avail. In revenge, the union decides to assassinate Harry Carson. After Harry is shot, Jem is arrested for the murder due to their earlier confrontation. With the help of Esther, Mary realizes her father is guilty of the murder and she goes to heroic efforts to locate an alibi witness for Jem. At the trial, Jem is acquitted and Mary collapses from nerves and exhaustion. John confesses to the murder to Carson and the factory owner forgives him out of Christian forbearance before John dies. Mary and Jem marry and emigrate to Canada. (TJB)

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References: BL; EC; Sutherland