The essay highlights Elizabeth Gaskell’s contribution to the debate on gentlemanliness, investigating to what extent her fiction, and 'North and South' in particular, subverts some recurring elements in the literary fashioning of the Victorian gentleman. Different representations of gentlemanliness displayed and demolished in the novel are discussed, setting Gaskell’s response against the reflections of the so-called Victorian prophets: Mill, Ruskin, Newman and Smiles. The essay contends that in the figures of Thornton and Higgins Gaskell produces the first attempt to mould an industrial gentleman, associated with the dysphoric elements of North, city, industry, present, and workshop.
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