Elizabeth Gaskell: Cousin Phillis

(2598 words)
  • Josie Billington (University of Liverpool)

Cousin Phillis has been called the most perfect story in English. In addition to her career as a novel-writer, Mrs Gaskell was a prodigious writer of short stories, and this novella, written in her most mature phase as a writer (between Sylvia's Lovers and Wives and Daughters), is the master work of her shorter fiction. It is a tale of quiet, deep power. Narrated by Paul Manning, the story is offered as a remembered interlude from a time when Paul and Phillis were yet in their teens. Part of the subtlety of the story proceeds from the apparent slightness, the undramatic quality of the episode. Paul, newly independent, and only recently away from home, is working as a clerk under the engineer of a new branch railway l…

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Billington, Josie. "Cousin Phillis". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 05 February 2004
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=5812, accessed 06 October 2015.]