The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.

XI. The Political and Social Novel

§ 19. Cousin Phillis

It would not be easy to point to a more signal instance of the power of genius to vary both the forms in which it presents its creations, and the effects which these presentments produce, than is furnished by a comparison between Sylvia’s Lovers and its successor Cousin Phillis. This short story first appeared in The Cornhill Magazine, in 1863–4, and was printed, as a whole, in the following year. In it, Mrs. Gaskell once more tells the tale of a broken heart—broken by abandonment. But, this time, it is no seeming tragic destiny which has swept down upon the course of love—only an everyday cruelty of fate which, in this instance, was not even intended by its agent. Cousin Phillis is an idyll only, but one of the loveliest, and, in plan and in setting, one of the most finished, of its kind. If minister Holman, who quotes Vergil on his way home from farm-work and evening hymn, stands forth like one of the patriarchal figures in Hermann und Dorothea, the sweetness and the sadness of Phillis herself remain with us as an incomparable memory of love and loss—undisturbed by any happy ending.