Cornhill Magazine,  8 (1863), 688–706.

Cousin Phillis. Part II  [2/4]

[Elizabeth C Gaskell]


Short Fiction, Serial


Engineers, Railways, Mechanics, Invention, Genius, Machinery, Industry, Education, Class, Agriculture, Dynamics

    When John Manning visits Eltham to see his son and to 'consult Mr. Holdsworth about the improvement which has since been known as "Manning's driving wheel"', the latter praises him 'as having the same kind of genius for mechanical invention as that of George Stephenson' (692), and declares of him, 'Here's a Birmingham workman, self-educated, one may say—[...] working out his own thoughts into steel and iron, making a scientific name for himself—a fortune, if it pleases him to work for money' (697). Although Edward Holdsworth is a Southerner who has received 'an expensive schooling' with 'heaps of scientific books' (697), he nevertheless 'served his apprenticeship' in 'the same great machine-shop' where Manning was employed, and the two men share 'many mutual jokes about one of these gentlemen-apprentices who used to set about his smith's work in white wash-leather gloves, for fear of spoiling his hands' (Manning's hands, his son notes, are 'blackened beyond the power of soap and water by years of labour in the foundry') (692). Manning reports to his son Paul that 'Some folk are making a deal of my new machine', and tells him that he is to form a partnership with 'Mr. Ellison the Justice!' of 'the Borough Green Works' which will provide Paul with an 'opening' and 'fortune' that will enable him to marry his cousin Phillis Holman (694). When Paul and his father visit their rural relations in Heathbridge, the 'totally dissimilar lives' of John Manning and the Reverend Ebenezer Holman are at once forgotten, and the railway engineer eagerly takes down notes on 'the points of a cow' in a 'little book that he used for mechanical memoranda and measurements' while the minister-farmer is fascinated with a 'new model of turnip-cutting machine' proposed by Manning (692–93).


Gaskell 1865

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