Ruth, Mrs Gaskell's second full-length novel, sets out, like Mary Barton before it, deliberately to challenge its middle-class readership to imaginative sympathy with a conventionally unsympathetic character and situation. Ruth is the first novel in nineteenth-century England to take for its heroine a fallen woman. Based on the real-life events experienced by a young unmarried mother whose cause Mrs Gaskell had personally taken up, Ruth tells the story of a girl of respectable parentage, now orphaned and apprenticed to a dressmaker, who is seduced by a young squire, Richard Bellingham. When Bellingham abandons her in the Welsh village where she and her lover have been living, Ruth, pregnant and despairing, is …
Billington, Josie. "Ruth". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 20 June 2003; last revised 30 November -1.
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=2276, accessed 21 April 2015.]