The Classics Club: Mr Harrison’s Confessions

Mr Harrisons Confession

Having long wanted to read something by Elizabeth Gaskell, I finally got the push I needed when I picked up The Cranford Chronicles. After loving the eponymous Cranford I decided to continue the chronicles with Mr Harrison’s Confessions.

We join Mr Harrison by the fireside in his comfortable, well-kept home as his bachelor friend, Charles, presses him to tell how he wooed such a fine wife. And so Mr Harrison takes us back to when he first came to the small, rural town of Duncombe as a young, worldly but naïve man. Newly qualified as a doctor, Harrison has been promised a partnership in an easy, country practice by a family friend. It is to be anything but easy in this insular, provincial town, where everybody knows everybody’s business and which is ruled over by gossiping middle-aged women. Before long, the poor, young doctor after several misunderstandings and misplaced comments finds himself accused of being engaged to three women! None of which are the Vicar’s angelic daughter, Sophy, whom he really loves.

I must admit to be rather disappointed this wasn’t set in Cranford! (Especially as the BBC’s 2007 TV adaptation merged the novellas into the one setting) However I can see how this story has been placed in this chronicles because of the small town setting and the predominantly female residents. Here, unlike Cranford though, men are not feared or believed to be nuisances but instead quite the opposite. Poor, young doctor Harrison is coveted, pulled from pillar to post and practically fought over! Mothers try to set him with their daughters and every spinster seems to have their eye on him; all stirred up by the town gossips! So while I didn’t always ‘like’ the characters they were very amusing to read about.

While Cranford was a steady, touching and meticulous tale of women’s’ lives in genteel poverty, this is much more a chaotic and farcical tale of a young man not at all prepared for the furore his presence will cause in a small community of women. There was still Gaskell’s detailed and personable style which made me feel I was really there by the fire hearing the older and (hopefully) wiser Harrison’s confessions of his youthful blunders. I was slightly less endeared with the characters in this novella however it was comforting to travel back in time with Gaskell again and there were still some very poignant moments, in relation to Harrison’s treatment of genuine patients.

Mr Harrison’s Confessions is a charming, comedy of errors set in a small, provincial town. I look forward to completing The Cranford Chronicles with the final tale of My Lady Ludlow. Good read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Elizabeth Gaskell?

The Classics Club – 46/50
The Women’s Classic Literature Event – #7

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14 thoughts on “The Classics Club: Mr Harrison’s Confessions

  1. I’m surprised to hear it’s not set in Cranford! Were the Chronicles compiled later or did Gaskell decide it was best, herself, I wonder.

  2. I’ve only read her biography of Charlotte Bronte, which I actually quite enjoyed. (I thought it would be rather dull, but it was rather informal and quite a treat.) Other than that, I’ve done a much better job of collecting her books, and sending them promises of ‘someday’, than I’ve done of reading them! Cranford is on that list, for sure! (And, then, the BBC viewing!)

    1. Ah yes, I had heard she had written a good biography of Charlotte Brontë which is definitely something for me to consider reading in the future – I think would like to read more novels by the Brontës and Gaskell first. And, haha I know that feeling of collecting books but not getting round to them. Cranford might be a great one to get you started as its only short and then you could treat yourself to watching the BBC adaptation; which is delightful 🙂

  3. I read this a couple of years ago and enjoyed it 🙂 My Lady Ludlow was good too although I didn’t like it as much (Lady Ludlow is also portrayed quite differently in the book than in the Cranford TV series, although I found her more likeable). I’ve read (and enjoyed) most of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels although I haven’t read anything of hers for a while – I have Sylvia’s Lovers on my Classics Club lost though and recently bought a copy so hopefully I’ll get to that soon 🙂

    1. Hello Rachel, thank you for stopping by and commenting – it is always lovely to hear from a new face 🙂 And, especially one who is a fellow Classic Clubber. I am encouraged to hear you enjoyed My Lady Ludlow and I hope you enjoy Sylvia’s Lover when you get round to it.

  4. I tried reading Mary Barton several years ago and just couldn’t get into Gaskell’s style somehow. This one sounds quite fun – I may try again some time. Great review! And 46/50 – well done!

  5. I enjoyed this too and even though it wasn’t actually set in Cranford I thought it had a similar feel. I’ve recently finished reading one of Gaskell’s longer novels, Wives and Daughters, and I can recommend that one as well. 🙂

    1. Helen, I am pleased to hear you enjoyed this and Gaskell’s longer novel, Wives and Daughters – I also have that on my Classics Club list but I don’t own a copy of it, so we will see if I get to squeeze it into the challenge; as the time is ticking away on my final year! I do have a copy of North and South though 🙂

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