Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life (Version 2)


Read by Tony Foster

(4.8 stars; 48 reviews)


"Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life" was Mrs Gaskell's first full-length novel. It was published anonymously in that tumultuous year of political change, 1848 - only a few months after the Communist Manifesto co-authored by her fellow Manchester-resident, Friedrich Engels. Engels's experience as agent in his father's cotton-spinning factory motivated him to write "The Condition of the Working Class in England", a classic account of the sufferings of the poor under the factory-system.

Elizabeth Gaskell's own personal contact with the plight of the poor cotton workers of Lancashire also compelled her to a compassionate examination of their lives; but as a middle-class woman, married to a Unitarian minister, her approach to her subject took on a more emotionally complex significance; influenced by religious faith but also by more personal considerations.

In the brief preface to the novel, Mrs Gaskell hints at her initial impulse. The loss of a beloved child in infancy led her to seek a therapeutic outlet, but one which left her uncertain of her capacity to contextualize her public, writerly response to the tragedies occurring in the surrounding society of Manchester's poorest classes: "I know nothing of Political Economy, or the theories of trade..." She was, however, determined to portray, in novelistic form, the intimate connection between the private experience of her characters and the social forces of her time. The success of the novel led her to proclaim her authorship and move on to further works of fiction, which have secured her in our times a mounting reputation as one of the leading novelists of the mid-Victorian period.

Certainly the novel features numerous death-scenes, all conveyed with a depth of sympathy that contrasts with the queasy iambics with which Dickens orchestrated the notorious demise of Little Nell. Mrs Gaskell was not, like Dickens, a London-based novelist observing the sufferings of the provincial poor with a journalistic detachment - as evidenced in his own admirable, Lancashire-based novel "Hard Times". Gaskell lived among the people whose attenuated lives she chronicled - and however hesitantly, as a début novelist, she rendered their experience in literary terms, her writing presents us with a true insight into the sufferings of individuals at a point in history when the mass of human beings fell casualty to the forms of economic progress following upon the Industrial Revolution. Most impressively she called into question the political and social cost of creating a resentful proletariat despairing of survival in (to quote Karl Marx) a "heartless world".

Our reader Tony Foster is a resident of Manchester and a near-neighbour of Mrs Gaskell (allowing for their separation in time). His superb narration renders the native speech of her characters with an authenticity which ideally conveys the spirit of this book. A truly moving experience awaits everyone who gives ear to this 'Tale of Manchester Life'. (Summary by Martin Geeson)

(15 hr 40 min)

Chapters

PREFACE 4:16 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER I - A MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE 20:39 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER II - A MANCHESTER TEA-PARTY 15:16 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER III - JOHN BARTON'S GREAT TROUBLE 22:37 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER IV - OLD ALICE'S HISTORY 23:04 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER V - THE MILL ON FIRE--JEM WILSON TO THE RESCUE 44:43 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER VI - POVERTY AND DEATH 41:33 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER VII - JEM WILSON'S REPULSE 19:50 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER VIII - MARGARET'S DEBUT AS A PUBLIC SINGER 35:51 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER IX - BARTON'S LONDON EXPERIENCES 35:56 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER X - RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL 32:24 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XI - MR. CARSON'S INTENTIONS REVEALED 32:46 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XII - OLD ALICE'S BAIRN 20:46 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XIII - A TRAVELLER'S TALES 21:23 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XIV - JEM'S INTERVIEW WITH POOR ESTHER 27:43 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XV - A VIOLENT MEETING BETWEEN THE RIVALS 30:47 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XVI - MEETING BETWEEN MASTERS AND WORKMEN 26:07 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XVII - BARTON'S NIGHT-ERRAND 23:56 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XVIII - MURDER 27:50 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XIX - JEM WILSON ARRESTED ON SUSPICION 28:04 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XX - MARY'S DREAM--AND THE AWAKENING 17:51 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XXI - ESTHER'S MOTIVE IN SEEKING MARY 25:02 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XXII - MARY'S EFFORTS TO PROVE AN ALIBI 27:09 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XXIII - THE SUB-POENA 27:35 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XXIV - WITH THE DYING 20:30 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XXV - MRS. WILSON'S DETERMINATION 17:43 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XXVI - THE JOURNEY TO LIVERPOOL 7:44 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XXVII - IN THE LIVERPOOL DOCKS 16:38 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XXVIII - ''JOHN CROPPER, AHOY!'' 16:28 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XXIX - A TRUE BILL AGAINST JEM 11:50 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XXX - JOB LEGH'S DECEPTION 10:35 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XXXI - HOW MARY PASSED THE NIGHT 12:17 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XXXII - THE TRIAL AND VERDICT--''NOT GUILTY.'' 47:48 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XXXIII - REQUIESCAT IN PACE 31:25 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XXXIV - THE RETURN HOME 31:37 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XXXV - ''FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES.'' 30:21 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XXXVI - JEM'S INTERVIEW WITH MR. DUNCOMBE 16:53 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XXXVII - DETAILS CONNECTED WITH THE MURDER 22:52 Read by Tony Foster
CHAPTER XXXVIII - CONCLUSION 13:07 Read by Tony Foster

Reviews

Absolutely outstanding!

(5 stars)

Definitely a FIVE star story with a FIVE star reader! In my journal and in my heart this goes down as a remarkably beautiful tale! Loved it! Yes, there's sorrow and pain, but hope as well, and an underlying thread in redemption, forgiveness, and the goodness of pure love. It's a poignant love story I will remember for a long time, and a book I'd like to own and perhaps even underline here and there. Be sure to listen for the wonderful poems at the beginning of each chapter, and I heartily recommend having a good, quiet place to listen to the end, uninterrupted. (Bravo, gentle reader! Bravo! I'm off to search for other books you've read! Thank you VERY much!)

A Masterly Narrated Tragedy

(5 stars)

Tony Foster delivers another 'Gold Medal' worthy narration and characterization in this 19th century tragedy. Mr. Foster's Manchester dialect is authentic as are his other northern western English ones. His smooth and versatile voice and acting ability is mesmerizing. Elizabeth Gaskell's novel informs the listener of the frailty and cruelty of a life lived as a working class person not only in Victorian England, but in the all societies both past and present where the imbalance of wealth and power is the cause of so much suffering for the majority of its people.

A wonderful, engrossing story beautifully read

(5 stars)

I think Gaskell a much better writer than Dickens, and her stories seem much more real. She had courage in examining social issues and creates characters that feel like real people, not melodramatic cartoons. The reader is extraordinary! I so loved his Manchester and Liverpool and Lancashire accents I have found myself imitating them more than once! thank you! Thank you!

Heartbreaking Perfection

(5 stars)

Every bit about this rendition is amazing. Mr. Foster’s diction is perfect for the setting of the story, and the emotion will add the solemnity of Gaskell’s words. If you love Gaskell, or barely know her, you will fall in love with Mary Barton’s story.

Terrific, Gripping

(5 stars)

I've been working traveling on the road and this past couple of years have listened to so many audiobooks. This is one of the best stories and so well read in my opinion.

Brillant

(5 stars)

Mr. Foster beautifully reads a still resonant tale as true in the 19th century as it is now in the 21st century. Plus ça change......

This Reader Could Go Pro

(5 stars)

My favorite Librivox reader-- expressive, clear, sensitive to a variety of accents and dialects. And it's a good, moving story too!

Long

(3 stars)

Dark tale of pitiful lives made worse by social convention & class warfare, expertly read by LibriVox Volunteer, Tony Foster.