The Story

decorative initial 'C'raik distilled the ideals of the new commercial and industrial middle class in John Halifax, Gentleman (1856), the archetypal story of a poor boy who makes good through honesty, initiative, and hard work. The book echoed the mood of the not in print version 1851 Great Exhibition with its celebration of British technology, industry, and commerce. It was one of the first novels to have a tradesman as hero. It confirms the Protestant ethic by showing that the virtues that lead to heaven also bring success on earth. The book helped to overcome the resistance to fiction among nonconformists, who were in a majority among the artisans, shopkeepers, clerks, and small manufacturers of the expanding middle class. The exemplary life of John Halifax could be read both as a story and as a practical guide to virtue and prosperity.

When the book opens in 1794 John Halifax is a fourteen-year-old orphan who has been supporting himself as a farm laborer. The first words that he speaks are, "Sir, I want work; may I earn a penny?" (John Halifax, Gentleman, chap. 1) Abel Fletcher, a not in print version Quaker tanner, pays John to help his invalid son Phineas back to the house. Phineas Fletcher, who is the book's narrator, immediately adores John's independence, gentleness, and good spirits.

John goes to work for Abel Fletcher in the least desirable tanyard job, driving a cart around to collect stinking animal hides. He lives in an attic, teaches himself to write and figure (Phineas supplies books, including Robinson Crusoe and The Pilgrim's Progress), and in his spare time makes models of machinery. Once he is literate, John is promoted to a more responsible position as clerk. He has enough initiative and forethought to keep watch on the tanyard one night [39/40] during a flood; afterwards, since his action shows that he identifies with propertied interests, he is allowed to be Phineas Fletcher's friend as well as Abel Fletcher's employee. When there are food riots during the Napoleonic Wars, John Halifax saves his master's life from a hungry mob. Fletcher takes John as apprentice and promises to make him a partner when he turns twenty-one.

In the following summer John goes with Phineas to spend a month in the countryside near Enderley. Another invalid — a gentleman, Mr. March, a former governor in the West Indies — lodges in the other half of the cottage. John falls in love with March's daughter Ursula. He also sees an old cloth mill and starts thinking about the machines he could devise to make the mill productive. Mr. March dies. John makes himself tactfully useful and earns Ursula's respect, but it is impossible for a tradesman's apprentice to court a gentleman's heiress. John falls ill and thinks about emigrating. However, Phineas goes to Ursula, who proves that she is self-sufficient enough to ignore convention and ask John Halifax to stay in England.

Ursula's trustee, Squire Brithwood, disapproves of the marriage and withholds the money that Ursula had inherited from her father. Ursula and John live in domestic content on rather narrow means. They have some sorrows: their eldest child is born blind, the tan-yard's prosperity declines, the dream of mechanizing the cloth mill remains unrealized. Then Lord Luxmore, owner of the Enderley property, offers John the lease on the mill and forces Brithwood to pay Ursula's inheritance so that John has the capital he needs. Luxmore expects in return to be sure of the voters in Kingswell. But honest John Halifax encourages his tenants to vote freely, and thus he keeps Luxmore's corrupt nominee out of Parliament.

Luxmore retaliates by diverting a stream that crosses his estate so there is no longer water enough to turn the millwheel. Faced by financial ruin, John Halifax turns adversity into golden opportunity. He devises a way to run his machinery with steam, calls in mechanics from Manchester to build the engines, wins the trust of the workers, and peacefully brings the not in print version Industrial Revolution to Enderley.

The last quarter of the book shows John Halifax accepting the responsibilities that come with wealth. The mill prospers in the expanding postwar economy. John and Ursula are reluctant to leave the modest house where their children grew up and their private life was restricted to their family. John, however, decides that duty requires him to move to an imposing gentleman's residence. Beechwood [40/41] Hall signifies his position and allows him to exercise power and influence in his community. He becomes a magistrate; he props up the local bank during a financial panic; he decreases unrest among the lower orders; he refuses nomination to Parliament only because of declining health. On the last pages John Halifax makes a good end: he and Ursula both die quietly in the fullness of life within hours of each other and without any fear or pain.

The Historical Allegory

John Halifax, Gentleman is precisely dated. The hero is born in 1780, when enclosure was erasing the last traces of medieval agriculture and Boulton and Watt were working on the rotary drive that would make steam engines useful for something besides pumping out mines. The book begins in 1794, when English aristocrats watched their counterparts across the Channel vanish amid the not in print version Reign of Terror. It ends in 1834, two years after the not in print version Reform Bill abolished pocket boroughs and gave the vote to most middle-class men. The achievements and experiences of John Halifax correspond allegorically to the events that transferred power from the aristocracy to the middle class.

The foundation stones are literacy, technology, and what Samuel Smiles, author of the 1859 best seller Self-Help, would call the "art of seizing opportunities" (Samuel Smiles, Self-Help, p. 86). John Halifax, like the class that he symbolizes, rises from a subordinate position by learning to read, by tinkering with machinery, and by taking the risks needed to introduce the factory system and the steam engine. His life encompasses the origins of the industrial middle class; he evolves from farm laborer to manual laborer to clerk to apprentice to tradesman to inventor-capitalist-manufacturer. The stages of his rise relative to the old class hierarchy are indicated by two marriages: John Halifax marries the daughter of a gentleman; thirty-three years later their daughter Maud is united to an aristocrat.

The aristocracy's conservative intransigence, however, creates the conditions that make it necessary and possible for the middle class to seize power. After the Kingswell election the Earl of Luxmore realizes that his way of life is endangered; the manufacturer has enough influence to keep the aristocrat from controlling parliamentary representation. Luxmore tries to turn back the clock by diverting the stream and thereby abolishing the factory and its [41/42] machines. At that point, John Halifax is able to tip the balance in favor of the new class. Introducing steam to run the machines does not merely supply a more efficient means of production; it alters the source of economic power. For centuries landowners had controlled natural resources and the supply of energy. But with the coming of steam, manufacturers no longer depended on the land and its streams. Economic power passed from the owners of land to the makers of goods.

The book's political events show the new power at work. John Halifax not only keeps the aristocrat from controlling elections, he also becomes a magistrate, and he has enough money to prop up the economy and prevent a bank failure. In other words, John Halifax exercises political power even before he and his class have a formal role in government. The invitation to run for a seat in Commons after 1832 shows that the Reform Bill simply ratified the transfer of real power which had already taken place.

The story's minor details reflect other transformations within the half-century. John Halifax vaccinates his children against smallpox. The status of the old trades (like tanning) declines. Religious disabilities are removed: early in the story the militia will not protect Abel Fletcher's property because he is a not in print version Quaker, and Luxmore's not in print version Catholic son is not eligible to sit in Parliament. The not in print version railroad links London to the provinces as the Halifax children reach adulthood. Intemperance declines. Social control is transferred from the hands of careless justices of the peace like Squire Brithwood to responsible magistrates like John Halifax. Public order is established — by the end of the book John Halifax no longer goes about armed when he has to carry large sums of money, although in the last years of the eighteenth century even the Quaker Abel Fletcher kept a pistol by his cash box.

The social values are reinforced by emblematic characters. Squire Brithwood and the Earl of Luxmore represent the failings of the upper classes. Luxmore is a caricature dissolute aristocrat; he is more at home in France than England and is symbolically destroying his own country by cutting down the trees on his estate to pay his debts. Brithwood is an eighteenth-century survival: the coarse, corpulent, drinking, fox-hunting squire. He allies himself with aristocratic decay by marrying Luxmore's Frenchified daughter Lady Caroline. [42/43]

Sir Ralph Oldtower stands for the good old English values. He is identified with knightliness, public duty, and plain living. He resides on his property, has an exemplary family life, and looks after his tenants' welfare. He is also democratic enough to offer friendship to John Halifax.

Other admirable characters represent traditional middle-class professions: the banker, the doctor and his wife the governess. These characters function as a bridge; they value John Halifax for his hard work and his moral worth, and their social recognition helps integrate the rising tradesman into the middle class. The wrong kind of class interaction is seen in the thoughtless (and French) egalité of Lady Caroline, who patronizes John Halifax as a romantically idealized "man of the people." The xenophobic reference indicates that her attitude is wrong because it destroys the established order instead of changing it gradually, and because mindless equalitarianism fails to measure the difference in worth between one man and another.

Lady Caroline Brithwood's appearances in the novel graph the decline of the aristocracy and the ascent of middle-class moral values. Early in the story she is a focus of attention and admiration; her marriage from Lady Hamilton's house links Norton Bury to stirring national events. At this point John Halifax is a tanyard laborer and is too low even to be recognized; when he saves Squire Brithwood from drowning, the Squire tosses him half a crown instead of thanking him.

By mid-book Admiral Nelson's death has revealed the details of his extramarital liaison with Lady Hamilton and given dubious overtones to Caroline Brithwood's connection with the Hamilton circle. Both John and Ursula Halifax are morally uncomfortable when Lady Caroline — who now treats them as equals — pays a social visit. At the book's end she is a crazy over-rouged adulteress wandering the streets of Norton Bury. Ursula Halifax exercises admirable charity by taking her in and nursing her until she dies.

The story of Luxmore's son indicates the aristocracy's adaptation to middle-class values. John Halifax at first refuses to allow Lord Ravenel to court his daughter Maud, not because of the difference in station but because Ravenel has been idle. He redeems himself by going off to America and working as a clerk. When he inherits the estate, he sells it to pay his father's debts and becomes plain William Ravenel, a partner in the Halifax family firm and a good bourgeois husband for Maud. Thus although the marriages of John [43/44] Halifax and his daughter Maud lend the sanction of aristocratic legitimacy to the new middle class, they do not simply absorb newcomers into the old class structure, but rather incorporate the aristocracy into a middle-class value system.

Yet clearly it is important that John Halifax be shown achieving the marriages and the big house and the social acceptance. For many readers, the democratic idealism of the book is further marred by another inconsistency. The British Quarterly Review called it an "artistic and intellectual blunder — the characteristic irresolution of this writer" ("The Author of John Halifax," p. 42). John Halifax has one possession inherited from his father — a Greek Testament inscribed "Guy Halifax, Gentleman." The inscription and the language indicate that although John did not have the social and material advantages gentlemen could give to their sons, he was in fact, by blood, a representative of the class born to property and education and, furthermore, that he was aware of it. Did that advantage — which, perhaps, predisposed him to intelligence and gave him self-confidence — account for his rise? If so, the premise of the book is virtually negated, and Craik (like many other presumably democratic Victorians, including not in print version Dickens) is seen to be unwilling to accept social mobility unless it can be accounted for by a history of "good blood." On the other hand, Frances Martin, who was close to Craik and helped read proof for the book, insisted that the Greek Testament was a symbol, and that the inscription "Gentleman" was "the inalienable possession of every human being" (p. 539).

Gentlemanliness, Craik believed, was a sense of honor, fidelity, and obligation. The strength of the middle class came from its inclusiveness and its position in the middle — or at the center — of society. John Halifax preserves the nation by standing between an aristocracy that has abandoned social responsibility and the poor who are too shortsighted to rule. The book shares the Dickensian mood of humanitarian benevolence. Craik's mobs do not have the political sophistication to identify the source of their discomfort nor are they well organized enough to be really threatening. The middle-class solution to social problems is meliorist. The poor cause troubles because they are hungry, and John Halifax offers the immediate domestic solution of a good dinner instead of stopping to analyze the cause of their hunger. During the food riots the authoritarian Abel Fletcher throws his grain in the river rather than give in to the force of the mob. They respond — naturally enough — by threatening to burn his house. Because John Halifax stands in the middle [45/46] he understands both hunger and property; he saves the house by giving all the food in it to the rioters. This approach to social problems seems — even for the mid-nineteenth century — extraordinarily shallow. Nevertheless, it reflects a confident assumption of moral inclusiveness. The middle class — as Craik and her readers believed — could understand the feelings and needs of both upper and lower classes, and were thus the best rulers in an age of progress and change.

The Reader's Voice

John Halifax, Gentleman is unusual because it so thoroughly celebrates its central character and its society. Novelists who write with a social purpose in mind almost invariably do so by showing examples of the evils that need to be corrected. Craik, instead, provided a model to emulate, a vision of the world that should be. She made the book appeal to the reading public by reinforcing their own values, by making an ordinary man into a hero of epic proportions, and by using literary techniques that shape and guide the reader's emotional response.

John Halifax himself is a compendium of middle-class virtues. He embodies the holy trinity of economic individualism: self-help, self-denial, and self-control. He is so patently honest that occasions that might put him to the test need not arise. Drink never appears in his presence. He is thrifty enough to go on living in an attic even after he is manager of the tanyard. Cleanliness sets him apart from the mass of poor boys when he first appears. Study allows him to rise above manual labor. He uses leisure constructively by making models; much later, he plans to give a course of public lectures after he retires from the mill. Initiative and duty lead him always to do more than is required. Economic prudence keeps him from risking his money in speculation after he is rich, and thus gives him the bags of gold to save the bank. Sexual morality exists without effort; he never thinks about women until he sees Ursula. He wastes no time on superficial society; his private life is entirely family-centered. He has enough courage to rescue March and Brithwood from a river and face a mob unarmed, but he does not take unnecessary risks; introducing steam to the mill is the chief indication of his "thoroughly English quality of daring" (chap. 27).

The hero's struggles and failings — if any — have almost no place in the book. The story, however, is not told by an omniscient [46/47] author — it is narrated by a man who admires John Halifax. Only the barest hints of internal conflict indicate that John exercises willpower in order to become such an admirable person. Once at twenty he confesses to Phineas that

"many wrong things are pleasant — just now, instead of rising to-morrow, and going into the little dark counting-house, and scratching paper from eight to six, shouldn't I like to break away! — dash out into the world, take to all sorts of wild freaks, do all sorts of grand things, and perhaps never come back to the tanning any more." [chap. 5]

John's one very small patch of wild oats — a trip to the theater — is immediately and drastically punished. Craik's general plan, however, was to encourage rather than frighten. She assumed that people were basically good and that they would admire the same traits she admired. Thus she wrote scenes that show John Halifax earning respect and love from people in all ranks of society.

The character of Ursula Halifax is constructed on the same principle: a model woman to match a model man. She is, however, not so central nor so richly detailed. By mid-book she becomes a stereotype; she is generally called simply "the mother," and the limitations in her character reveal that Craik could not so wholeheartedly accept the role as an encompassing expression of ideal womanhood.

Ursula March, unmarried, is an attractive heroine. In the opening scene she struggles to exercise charity and heroically suffers a wound for her cause; she is cut by the bread-knife when a servant tries to keep her from giving a slice from the loaf to a hungry working boy. She is well educated, devoted to her father, energetic, fresh, healthy, and not at all ethereal. She is self-sufficient enough to move out of her trustee's house when she begins to suspect that Lady Caroline Brithwood is an unsuitable companion. And she disregards conventions to love John Halifax.

Ursula Halifax retains some of these virtues. She startles the neighbors when she offers refuge to Lady Caroline. After John becomes master of the Enderley mill Ursula is said to have " 'half-a-dozen plans on foot'" (chap. 24) for doing good to the men and women who work for her husband.

The public duties of Ursula Halifax, however, remain merely words — we never see her exercising them. Her life in the novel is enclosed by her role, and total absorption in motherhood has some [47/48] negative reverberations. Worry about her children makes Ursula angry when Mary Baines brings smallpox into the house; John has to remind her that the golden rule forbids her to force a sick baby out into the cold. The intellectual abilities she had as a girl are trivialized; Phineas tells us that Ursula Halifax is an invaluable moral influence for her daughters but an inadequate teacher of ordinary lessons. She is jealous and petty when a governess comes into the household. In fact, she is too much "the mother"; she loves her children too utterly and cannot survive beyond the end of the role. When her eldest son Guy leaves home, Ursula Halifax slips into the physical decline that leads to her death.

The haze of sentiment draped around "the mother" fails to cloak the ways that Ursula Halifax dwindles inside the confinement of the role. "The mother," however, is only one aspect of the woman. The book explores others in disguised fashion. As one early reviewer remarked, "it is difficult to suppress a fear that Phineas Fletcher will fall hopelessly in love with John Halifax, so hard is it to remember that Phineas is of the male sex" (R. H. Hutton, p. 475). Phineas is passive, helpless, admiring, a disappointment to his father because he will never be able to take over the business and carry on the name, a listener to others' schemes, a writer of notes, hearer of lessons, and avid spectator to events in which he can take no part. These traits might well be admirable in a woman; the man who has them is crippled.

Finally, critics have often called John Halifax himself a "woman's man." In context, the words imply that Craik, like other Victorian female writers, did not have enough experience and intelligence to create a whole man from the inside out, and therefore generalized the surface features that she could observe. Modern criticism gives the phrase another dimension. Elaine Showalter's "Dinah Mulock Craik and the Tactics of Sentiment: A Case Study in Victorian Female Authorship" suggests that characters like John Halifax allowed Craik to project "her own ambitions and struggles onto male heroes who could more appropriately embody her ideals" ("Dinah Mulock Craik and the Tactics of Sentiment", p. 18). John Halifax can be honest about his ambition and be praised for his achievements; a woman, even a competitive professional writer, could not do so without being suspected of unwomanliness.

John Halifax struggles to make his own way in the world and yet do no harm to those he encounters. He may indeed be "a woman in trousers" — that is, an idealization of Craik's beliefs about how [48/49] women would behave and what women could achieve if they had the freedom and independence that were granted to a male, even a male outsider. Some of John Halifax's virtues raise traditional feminine traits to heroic stature: he meets the rioters with persuasion instead of force; he quells anger with food. He avoids going to law for the money Brithwood owes, just as a woman could not go to law for justice in her own name. Even the gentleness, the nurturing, the deep love for the blind, most helpless of his children seem more admirable in a man because voluntary.

The narrative tactics of John Halifax, Gentleman enlist the reader's emotional response by tapping sources of sentiment and encouraging identification. The invalid narrator bridges the separate spheres of woman and man; he has a feminine viewpoint yet he can share a man's life and thoughts. Craik makes him a namesake and descendant of the historical Phineas Fletcher, a Jacobean scholar, clergyman, and pastoral poet. The pastoral tradition supplies a model for the paradoxical mix of pretended distance and actual subjectivity created by the narrator; the pastoral poet, wearing his shepherd's mask, could introduce personal emotion into his verse while pretending to write objectively about an invented world. Fletcher's major work, The Purple Island (which is mentioned several times in the novel) is, like John Halifax, Gentleman, a Christian epic with the ordinary citizen as hero.

Phineas Fletcher's primary function, however, is to admire John Halifax. He unabashedly loves his friend; he can dwell on John's character, praise his strengths, and approve of his actions in a way that would be impossible for an omniscient author. Thus he controls the emotional response; his personal mediation gives the reader permission to feel and supplies the emotions that Craik wants to elicit about her central character.

Phineas's narration also provides a recursive tension that makes the part of the story devoted to John Halifax's success more interesting than it might otherwise be. For example, late in the book, while John Halifax is winning the gratitude of both high and low by depositing his bags of gold in the bank, Phineas Fletcher walks outside the banker's house remembering how he once came to Ursula in the same garden when the tanner's apprentice was too poor to declare his love. The emotional overlay not only allows us to reexperience the earlier pleasure of tension aroused and satisfied but also [49/50] re-creates the original tension in order to heighten the effect of the later scene.

The book's essential anachronism supplies a similar emotional reward. The central character appears threatened by the opinions and behavior of the world he lives in. John Halifax, however, is simply ahead of his time. By the time Craik wrote, most people approved of the things John Halifax espoused. Thus the tension aroused when the hero comes in conflict with social norms creates a pleasurable irony; the readers' own opinions appear to be under attack and the emotional identification leads to a delicious satisfaction when — as history makes inevitable — John Halifax and the reader are vindicated.

Not all readers, however, could be involved in events of the wide world. Despite the broad canvas of the historical allegory, Craik ensured the widest degree of reader identification by confining the scenes primarily to the domestic circle. Because the invalid narrator controls the story by reporting only what he knows, the woman novelist need not follow John Halifax into the tanyard or factory nor understand the details of his inventions. In fact, domestic virtues impinge even on the factory world; one reason the workers accept the steam engine so easily is that the mill women are touched by the master's love for his blind daughter. The only real threats to the novel's perfect world are threats that strike at the family: the illness and death of children, the hurt and dissention when two bothers fall in love with the same woman.

The problem of the next generation is one implicit irony in the self-help story. Guy Halifax is briefly tainted by his father's wealth; he yearns for ballrooms and fox hunts and gets into a fight when he has too much to drink. Guy is redeemed by shipwreck, privation, and hard work in America where he too is classless and fatherless, thus comforting every reader with the demonstration that the only advantages worth having are the ones earned by individual effort.

Incidental material reflects other prejudices of the mass audience: anti-French feeling, rural nostalgia, wholehearted provincialism, a mild pacifism, and distrust of the military. Craik manages not to offend any reader's religious sentiments. Lord Ravenel's fall into temporary skepticism may reflect the fear of Roman influence aroused by not in print version Newman's conversion in 1845, but old Catholics are treated sympathetically. The hero's faith is carefully nonspecific. There is no clergyman among the characters. A last-minute crisis forces Phineas [50/51] to stay home from the book's featured wedding, so we have no description of the church or the ceremony. The only religious observance that we see is family Bible-reading, which both not in print version Anglicans and not in print version dissenters could approve.

The Response

John Halifax, Gentleman was an enormously successful book. Hurst and Blackett were kept busy resetting the type; four sets of plates had been used by 1858. The first cheap edition was illustrated with a steel engraving by not in print version Pre-Raphaelite painter not in print version J. E. Millais. An 1863 listing of the era's most popular books put John Halifax, Gentleman just behind Uncle Tom's Cabin. And the sales continued for the next fifty years. There were copies from eleven separate English publishers in 1898; American pirates (ranging from the big New York and Philadelphia houses to the Chicago Union School Furnishing Company) produced at least forty-five different editions before 1900. In the twentieth century the book has been abridged, retold, published as a supplemental reader, included in sets of mail-order imitation-leather-bound classics, and offered on thin paper to go into soldiers' pockets. It has also been a television serial.

Craik sometimes introduced her essays with the modest disclaimer that she did not strive for original thought, but only hoped she might be able to put into words ideas that had occurred, perhaps half-consciously, to a great many people. John Halifax, clearly, hit exactly the right note. It gave a dramatic form to the heroic myth of the middle class, made it accessible with the domestic setting, and added the emotional attractions of love and pathos. The book satisfied readers' needs and desires, reflected their own beliefs, and gave them the dignity of literary significance. It expressed faith in continued progress, offered respect to business, said that poverty was not a disgrace but rather a necessary spur to industry and that economic success was a laudable goal. It showed the rewards of hard work and self-help and proclaimed that any practical occupation was valuable.

Besides expressing the reader's sentiments, the book supplied the psychic reward of identification with the major characters. The glow of approving admiration surrounded not only the successful John Halifax but also the domestic Ursula and the onlooker Phineas. Readers were personally involved. The characters took on the independent [51/52] existence that blurs the distinction between life and literature; tourists flocked to Tewkesbury to see the places where John Halifax had lived. For some readers the book became a kind of testament, a personal gospel to be compared with The Pilgrim's Progress and the Imitation of Christ.

The literary establishment did not provide quite the same approval. The first reviewers said the book was Craik's best to date, but they did not foresee its enormous success. They found things to criticize: the story was too idealized; an industrious lad might get rich but he was not likely to become polished enough to enter good society. Some reviewers found the friendship between Phineas and John absurd, though others were touched, and wondered why novels did not more often describe the emotions of masculine friendship. Intellectuals had a tendency to scoff. not in print version William de Morgan and not in print version Edward Burne-Jones did a lampoon of Ursula and Muriel Halifax; not in print version George Eliot may have been thinking of John Halifax when she insisted that Tom Tulliver in The Mill on the Floss was not "moulded on the spoony type of the Industrious Apprentice" (See Colby, p. 219).

To an extent, the book's very popularity put it beyond the reach of literary criticism and harmed Craik's reputation among serious writers. "There is something almost awful," wrote Henry James,

in the thought of a writer undertaking to give a detailed picture of the actions of a perfectly virtuous being. . . . We cannot but think that, if Miss Muloch {sic} had weighed her task more fairly, she would have shrunk from it in dismay. But neither before nor after his successful incarnation was John Halifax to be weighed or measured. We know of no scales that will hold him, and of no unit of length with which to compare him. He is infinite; he outlasts time; he is enshrined in a million innocent breasts; and before his awful perfection and his eternal durability we respectfully lower our lance. [Henry James, Notes and Reviews, pp. 167-68]

By the end of the century critics found it hard to consider the book literature at all. Those who believed in it elevated it to the status of a social force, which had helped to change the nation by sweeping away old habits and conventions and creating a climate of respect for democratic equality and the dignity of work. Those who were not affected described it as a tract. As the pendulum swung against Victorianism and Victorian values, the book was rather typically labeled "altogether harmless, and faultlessly proper, and irredeemably commonplace" (Walker, p. 748.) [51/52]

John Halifax, Gentleman remains the best known of Craik's novels. Modern literary scholars appreciate — though they may not approve — the author's celebration of middle-class values and find the book useful as an artifact of social history. Craik's knowledge of the reading public, her own experience as a self-made professional, and her emotional involvement with the characters give the book authority and conviction.


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Last modified 16 August 2007