My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell


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The Project Gutenberg eBook, My Lady Ludlow, by Elizabeth Gaskell

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at

Title: My Lady Ludlow

Author: Elizabeth Gaskell

Release Date: May 17, 2005 [eBook #2524]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


Transcribed from the 1896 Smith Elder and Co. "Lizzie Leigh and Other
Tales" edition by David Price, email

by Elizabeth Gaskell


I am an old woman now, and things are very different to what they were in
my youth. Then we, who travelled, travelled in coaches, carrying six
inside, and making a two days' journey out of what people now go over in
a couple of hours with a whizz and a flash, and a screaming whistle,
enough to deafen one. Then letters came in but three times a week:
indeed, in some places in Scotland where I have stayed when I was a girl,
the post came in but once a month;--but letters were letters then; and we
made great prizes of them, and read them and studied them like books. Now
the post comes rattling in twice a day, bringing short jerky notes, some
without beginning or end, but just a little sharp sentence, which well-
bred folks would think too abrupt to be spoken. Well, well! they may all
be improvements,--I dare say they are; but you will never meet with a
Lady Ludlow in these days.

I will try and tell you about her. It is no story: it has, as I said,
neither beginning, middle, nor end.

My father was a poor clergyman with a large family. My mother was always
said to have good blood in her veins; and when she wanted to maintain her
position with the people she was thrown among,--principally rich
democratic manufacturers, all for liberty and the French Revolution,--she
would put on a pair of ruffles, trimmed with real old English point, very
much darned to be sure,--but which could not be bought new for love or
money, as the art of making it was lost years before. These ruffles
showed, as she said, that her ancestors had been Somebodies, when the
grandfathers of the rich folk, who now looked down upon her, had been
Nobodies,--if, indeed, they had any grandfathers at all. I don't know
whether any one out of our own family ever noticed these ruffles,--but we
were all taught as children to feel rather proud when my mother put them
on, and to hold up our heads as became the descendants of the lady who
had first possessed the lace. Not but what my dear father often told us
that pride was a great sin; we were never allowed to be proud of anything
but my mother's ruffles: and she was so innocently happy when she put
them on,--often, poor dear creature, to a very worn and threadbare
gown,--that I still think, even after all my experience of life, they
were a blessing to the family. You will think that I am wandering away
from my Lady Ludlow. Not at all. The Lady who had owned the lace,
Ursula Hanbury, was a common ancestress of both my mother and my Lady
Ludlow. And so it fell out, that when my poor father died, and my mother
was sorely pressed to know what to do with her nine children, and looked
far and wide for signs of willingness to help, Lady Ludlow sent her a
letter, proffering aid and assistance. I see that letter now: a large
sheet of thick yellow paper, with a straight broad margin left on the
left-hand side of the delicate Italian writing,--writing which contained
far more in the same space of paper than all the sloping, or masculine
hand-writings of the present day. It was sealed with a coat of arms,--a
lozenge,--for Lady Ludlow was a widow. My mother made us notice the
motto, "Foy et Loy," and told us where to look for the quarterings of the
Hanbury arms before she opened the letter. Indeed, I think she was
rather afraid of what the contents might be; for, as I have said, in her
anxious love for her fatherless children, she had written to many people
upon whom, to tell truly, she had but little claim; and their cold, hard
answers had many a time made her cry, when she thought none of us were
looking. I do not even know if she had ever seen Lady Ludlow: all I knew
of her was that she was a very grand lady, whose grandmother had been
half-sister to my mother's great-grandmother; but of her character and
circumstances I had heard nothing, and I doubt if my mother was
acquainted with them.

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