‘The eatables were of the slightest description’: Consumption and Consumerism in Cranford

  • Anne LongmuirEmail author
Part of the British Women’s Writing from Brontë to Bloomsbury, 1840-1940 book series (BWWFBB, volume 1)


Examining consumption and consumerism in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford (1851–53), Longmuir shows that Cranford is not an exclusively nostalgic text, but is cognizant of the major economic shifts beginning to occur in the 1850s. Responding to changes in consumer habits in the wake of the 1851 Great Exhibition, the novel anticipates John Ruskin’s groundbreaking writing on consumption, particularly The Political Economy of Art (1857) and Unto this Last (1860). Challenging mid-nineteenth-century separation of feminine domestic sphere and masculine commercial sphere, Cranford’s ‘elegant economy,’ Longmuir suggests, can be understood as political economy. Like Ruskin, Gaskell’s female characters implicitly challenge two of the processes associated with the rise of commodity culture in industrial Britain: the abstraction of commodities into money value and the spectacularization of consumer goods.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

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