The Gaskell Society Journal, Vol.11 (1997), pp.86-95.

GASKELL STUDIES AND THE INTERNET

Mitsuharu Matsuoka

"I'll never misdoubt", says the factory hand and naturalist Job Legh, "that power-looms, and railways, and all such-like inventions are the gifts of God" (MB, p.454). Few would deny, whether the "new-fangled" Internet is God's gift or not, that we have entered the age of binary digits with the Internet as the agent of change. With the spread of multimedia personal computers it is undeniable that the Internet will pervade our homes as quickly as telephone and television. This being the case, the next century will see everyone enjoying the multimedia with a single computer, though some people say even the personal computer will eventually become obsolete. Recent computers handle easily. We have only to make a few simple clicks with a mouse to activate a function; we need not worry about confusing commands. All people, without distinction of age, can operate their computer with a mouse. It is amusing to see three-year-old childen triumphantly teaching their grandparents how to use a mouse.

The concept of the Internet contains within it a great deal that is difficult to explain. To put it concisely, the Internet is a network of computer networks, linked world-wide by telephone and optical fibre lines and communicating almost instantaneously with one another. It is the largest network of computers in the world and is growing at the rate of about ten percent each month. When you connect to the Internet, your computer becomes part of this world-wide network. The only Internet requirements for the home user are a computer, a modem (often built into the computer), a telephone line, an Internet provider, and Internet software. On average the Internet costs only 35 to set up and 15 to run per month in the UK. In their universities, teaching staff and students can usually enjoy the Internet literally free of charge. By applying for the dial-up service at the computer centre, they are allowed to log in to the centre even from their homes and to use the Internet at the university's cost. The cost is the same as a local phone call if they live near the university.

It was early in 1995 when I bought a personal computer for the first time, and I connected it to the Internet, trembling with fear, some months later. I must confess, like an English Opium Eater, that I have been addicted to the Internet since I started "The Gaskell Web" in October 1995. It gave me great pleasure, therefore, to make a presentation of my Gaskell page and demonstrate it locally with my lap-top computer at the AGM last September. My pleasure is becoming greater as more and more Gaskellians have become initiated into the mysteries of the Internet. Our Honorary Secretary Mrs Joan Leach will also have a new computer installed at her house and connected to the Internet by the time the 1997 Journal is issued. I expect, as you do, that she will maintain the formal homepage of the Gaskell Society, perhaps using the home directory of the editor of the Journal Mr Alan Shelston.

The world has entered the Internet age. Academic information is exchanged in a flash across international borders on the Internet. It can safely be said that the Internet will contribute greatly and immensely to cultivating mutual friendship among Gaskellians and promoting Gaskell studies. (Such redundancies as "greatly and immensely" ought to be avoided, but I hope they will be regarded with kindly tolerance because you are all familiar with Gaskell's tautology as a revelation of her enthusiasm.) You may be interested to know the degree to which the Internet is actually useful as a new communication medium. E-mail and WWW (World-Wide Web or "the Web") are probably the most used Internet applications. I will first focus on mailing lists by e-mail, and then on e-texts available on the Web. My aim here is only to explain some new possibilities that the Internet can provide for Gaskell studies.

Perhaps the initial step that some of you have taken when beginning to try the Internet is using e-mail. There seems little doubt that postal mail, often called 'snail-mail' by hackers, will be replaced by e-mail in the near future, though not so quickly, I imagine, as telegram was superseded by telephone. E-mail will be to snail-mail what telephone is nowadays to postal mail. This is not to deny the usefulness of postal mail. Most people would reasonably argue against the wisdom of sending an important message by e-mail. Postal mail is certainly slow as a snail, but it is as steady and sure as Roger Hamley. It may seem to you, as to his father, that "slow and sure wins the race" (WD, p.383). The truth is, however, that e-mail has enabled us to exchange written messages world-wide in a few minutes as if by facsimile. This reminds me of the day I went to the English Department library to consult the Dictionary of National Biography for the life of Richard Blackmore, famous for Lorna Doone (1869). (The CD-ROM of DNB is already available at the Clarendon Press.) You can imagine my surprise when, coming back to my office, I found a reply already sent into my e-mailbox to the question about Blackmore, which I had asked my American friend by e-mail just before going to the library. E-mail is an express mail on the Internet.

As it stands, a typical e-mail message might look like the following:

To: sylvia@monkshaven.ac.uk (Sylvia Robson)
From: hepburn@whitby.co.uk (Philip Hepburn)
Subject: URL (unrequited love, not Uniform Resource Locator)
Cc: kinraid@pressgang.gov.uk (Charley Kinraid)
Attachments: a protected whaler's papers

I sent my love a letter,
But, alas! she canna read,
And I lo'e her a' the better. (SL, p.94)

'Cc' means carbon copy, and if you want your e-mail sent to a second person you type in the address here. You may transmit copies to any number of persons. With the function of 'Attachments' you can send a text file or an application software, however heavy it may be, attached to your e-mail. These days, in fact, some publishers request us to send our papers attached to our e-mails. Yet e-mail is not without its own coldly businesslike way of coping with emotional problems. Elizabeth Cleghorn Stevenson might have greatly doubted the truth of William Gaskell's love, if it had been declared by e-mail. Another problem arises when the recipient does not check regularly and so fails to read the e-mail which requires an urgent reply. Not surprisingly, considering you are a good correspondent, you will be angry with the recipient for not replying (or love him or her all the better).

Apart from such private e-mails, it is also helpful to subscribe to one or more of electronic discussion groups called 'mailing lists'. A Gaskell mailing list could be launched commercially right now, but perhaps it is yet too early for that. There are few postings even on the Dickens mailing list of some 500 subscribers. As for the Victorian mailing lists, there are bronte, dickns-l, hounds-l, trollope, and victorian-l, but birds of a Victorian feather flock together on the VICTORIA big tree. This reflects the worship of the powerful. The membership of VICTORIA is approximately 1,200. Most of them are American, so people of other nationalities (esp. British) will certainly be welcomed. After subscribing you will find yourself getting so excited at so many (i.e. 20 to 30) e-mails arriving every day that you could be at a loss what to do. VICTORIA seeks to be purely academic, but in fact half of the postings are not necessarily scholarly. You must expect some useless messages which, if not deleted, may result in hundreds of junk mails filling your e-mailbox.

The listowner of VICTORIA, Professor Patrick Leary (pleary@indiana.edu) writes:

VICTORIA is an international electronic discussion group
devoted to the interdisciplinary field of Victorian Studies
and dedicated to the sharing of information and ideas about
any and all aspects of 19th-century British culture and
society. It is available to anyone with access to the Internet
through a university computer system or commercial service
gateway. VICTORIA provides that beloved Victorian thing, a
"cheap luxury", in the shape of a free electronic forum for the
exchange of research ideas and queries, notices of recent books
and articles, and conference listings, and for lively discussion
of any issues, large or small, that bear on the study of 19th-
century Britain. VICTORIA equally welcomes the contributions
of students of social history, politics, gender studies, publishing,
literature, art, and intellectual history. To subscribe, simply
send an e-mail message to LISTSERV@IUBVM.UCS.INDIANA.EDU
consisting of the line: SUB VICTORIA your full name. That's all
there is to it. (VICTORIA user's guide)

Professor Leary also maintains the 'Victoria Research Web', which is a Web site aimed at providing practical resources for scholars in Victorian studies. The three main parts of the research section are 'Archival Resources', 'Libraries and Bibliographies', and 'Planning the Research Trip'. The VICTORIA user's guide can be read there beforehand. Following the example of VICTORIA, I suggest that we ourselves should set up our own mailing list for Gaskell studies before long. To borrow the words of Phillis Holman, "I know we shall; I can, and I will!" (CP, p.354).

VICTORIA is convenient for getting an extensive knowledge of what is going on in the field of Victorian literature. It is particularly useful to make use of the mailing list when you wish to know how other Victorian authors deal with a theme which interests you. You should of course give a clear focus to your enquiry when you post a message. A single example will suffice: 'Gaskell often describes a heroine being pelted with stones. This is primarily an Old Testament concept. Can anyone guide me toward similar references in 19th century literature? Other references to stoning would be appreciated.'

Fortunately, it is possible to access 'VICTORIA List Archives' on the Web. This was created in April 1996 by Jian Liu of Indiana University Libraries at the request of Professor Leary. The archives include postings to VICTORIA since its foundation in February 1993. When you conduct a search for Gaskell in the section of the year 1996, over 260 items will match your query. The year 1995 has some 130 items, so it follows that many more references will be given to Gaskell hereafter. You can browse by thread, by date, by subject, or by author. You will see, for instance, that when a question about Gaskell's 'narrative' in North and South was posted, one VICTORIAnist after another mentioned criticisms related to her narrative technique (or narrative voice, or narrating personality).

We can do our e-mail-order shopping, make 'e-mail pals' with other Gaskellians all over the world, or launch a simple mailing list with the carbon copy function. People have lately paid more attention to the e-mail function of the WWW browser 'Netscape'. They do not have to open any other e-mail programme while enjoying the Web with the browser. 'Netscape' is almost perfect for e-mail as well as WWW, though nobody can deny the possibility of its replacement by more sophisticated application software. We cannot tell what lies ahead with the Internet.

Nowadays people of all ages know the word Internet, but the most widespread misunderstanding is that which assumes the Internet means homepage. This misunderstanding, however, reflects the fact that the homepage has become so popular and attractive as an indispensable tool of communication in society. Homepages are displayed to the public on the Web, which is also one of the largest categories of the Internet but makes up a very large percentage of its usage. You need a browser to access homepages or Web sites. At present the above-mentioned 'Netscape' maintains an outright monopoly of the Web as a powerful browser. It is usually installed by a provider when you connect to the Internet. 'Netscape' has the capacity to connect with almost all the categories of the Internet. What singles 'Netscape' out from other browsers is its multifunction. The browser would enable you to enjoy homepages and e-mails, download e-texts and application software, and search for anything you like. Information is quickly found on the Web by typing in key words, which are searched through many search engines and directories. The search results are then listed, and you can choose among Web sites found. For now you must be satisfied with only texts and images on the Web, but video and audio transmission over the Internet is being explored for future use. This is perhaps why the Internet, with the Web as an all-purpose tool, is called multimedia.

I have myself made many kinds of Web sites, among which 'The Dickens Page' and 'The Gaskell Web' are my favourite son and daughter. What I have done with Gaskell is divided into two main parts. One is to collect Gaskell resources on the Web for categorisation, and the other is the digitisation of her works for general use. Unlike Dickens, Gaskell has a low profile on the Web. I had no alternative but to make new Gaskell sites by myself, before I came to the UK to work on a Knutsford page with Mrs Leach.

Among my Gaskell sites is 'The Gaskell Society of Japan', on which I have listed the contents of its conferences, journals, and newsletters. A glance will reveal that the Japan Branch, having a membership of over 120, is admirably active under the leadership of their President, Professor Yuriko Yamawaki. Mr Tatsuhiro Ohno has a fine homepage with a complete list of British novels available in Japanese translation. Ms Tomoko Iijima has put on the Web a carefully compiled list of Japanese translations and articles on Gaskell. Some of the translations can be already read in e-text.

'A Cranford Walk Around Knutsford, Past and Present' is the first site that I have made with Mrs Leach since I came to Manchester. This is a Knutsford page with a digital map and more than 70 old and new prints added to the text of 'A Cranford Walk Around Knutsford' revised by her. A virtual tour of Knutsford in Gaskell's days and ours is already possible on the Web. Following Joan on a real tour of Knutsford twice, I found she was more famous there than her favourite authoress or Miss Matty. Everyone knows that she is a walking dictionary - or better still - a cycling cyclopedia (both literally and figuratively, so it looks to me) of Gaskell's Knutsford. No one else, I believe, could be better as the webmaster of the Gaskell Society's homepage.

The Web has another Gaskell homepage maintained by Professor George Landow, Brown University. Here are a lot of papers digitised on North and South by his postgraduate students. The electronic journal of Nineteenth Century Literature provides us with some articles on Gaskell.

Starting 'The Gaskell Web', I thought I could make some contribution to the Society by digitising all her works. At present, with the exception of Wives and Daughters, you can download the e-texts of all her main novels and more than twenty famous short stories. E-texts are not suitable for reading on the display; it would injure your eyesight as the work of digitisation has damaged mine. E-texts have their raison d'tre in research use, especially when you study from a stylistic, philological, or vocabulary point of view. The simplest function of e-texts we can think of is searching for a word or phrase. You no doubt have had this kind of experience: 'Mr Benson must have said poor Ruth's faults were but slight "venial errors" (RH, p.350) somewhere in Ruth, but I simply cannot remember where it is.' Never mind. You should resort to the e-text of Ruth to locate the sentence. Just activate the search function on the browser and type in 'venial errors', (not 'venial sins'), and your computer will locate it in a few seconds.

It is easily possible, furthermore, to know the frequency with which Gaskell, consciously or unconsciously, made use of a word or phrase in a work. I recommend you to try making a concordance to check its usefulness. All you have to do is compare the concordance of the work in question with that of another work, though the two works should be of about the same length. Most concordance software will produce a list of all the words occurring in a text, with a short section of the context preceding and following each occurrence of a word. Such a list is called a KWIC ('key word in context') concordance. The software is literally QUICK to react. A concordance of Cranford, for example, can be made in less than half a minute by this means. The concordance software can also produce a more conventional index, consisting of a list of the words in a document, each with a list of the places where it occurs. If you prepare a book for publication, therefore, you will not be met with a frowning face when you ask for help with your index-making.

The manual of the Summer Institute of Linguistics's 'Conc' for the Macintosh(1) is particularly helpful in its elucidation of ways in which its software will serve your purposes:

Conc displays the original text in one window (Figure 1) and
the concordance of the text in another window (Figure 2).
If requested, the index is displayed in a third window
(Figure 3). By clicking a particular word in the concordance
you can locate that word in the main text, thus seeing a larger
context than is possible in the concordance, which is limited to
one line per word. It is also possible to click in the index and
thus locate the corresponding group of lines in the concordance
(and the first occurrence in the text), or to click a word in the
text and locate the corresponding position in the other
windows. ( Conc Version 1.80, May 1996, John Thomson and
the Summer Institute of Linguistics)

The example of the word "gentleman" in Cranford is shown in the following figures:

(Figure 1)

In the first place, Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all the
holders of houses, above a certain rent, are women. If a married couple
come to settle in the town, somehow the gentleman disappears; he is
either fairly frightened to death by being the only man in the Cranford
evening parties, or he is accounted for by being with his regiment, his

(Figure 2)

4000
89
11
131
203
Miss Matty, with a
that a few of the
somehow the
by a man and a
that there was no
gentle pity in her tones. I put in my
gentlefolks of Cranford were poor
gentleman disappears; he is either
gentleman. He was a half-pay captain
gentleman to be attended to, and to

(Figure 3)

gentle
gentlefolks
gentleman

gentleman's
gentlemen
(8)
(1)
(18)

(1)
(3)
636, 1321, 2000, 2374, 3004, 3131, 3594, 4000
89
11, 131, 203, 595, 716, 773, 1007, 1151, 1687, 1928,
3066, 3073, 3169, 3193, 3690, 4871, 4878, 5119
66
17, 896, 3979

A concordance can retrieve data by searching for a word, phrase, or combination of word and phrase within a database. Such a concordance or index will certainly be a great help to Gaskell studies. I will be greatly honoured if my e-texts are made use of for that purpose.

I should explain FTP and Telnet as used in the Internet. FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a convenient tool when you download text files (e.g. e-texts) or even freeware/shareware into your computer. At present you can easily do the same thing on the Web. However, when you send a modified document source of your homepage to your home directory in the server/workstation, you must then learn how to use the FTP programme. It is incredibly easy, though. Through Telnet you can have remote access and log in to your server from any other computer connected to the Internet. You can check your e-mails, for example, whenever you stay at a hotel which has an Internet cafe.

As you will see on surfing the Web, Gaskell sites are in very short supply. In order to increase academic sites you can digitise your article for the public on the Web after its publication in text. You have to mark up the article to make a hypertext of it.(2) Back numbers of the Gaskell Society Journal can be reprinted almost free of charge on the Web. The point must be emphasised that we can now broadcast our work to the world on the Web, and that most of the tools are free. Some people say this equals the Industrial Revolution. If we digitise our materials on Gaskell, many more people can read them and heighten their interest in her. I believe that nothing is better as a new medium of communication than the Web. This belief is borne out by evidence of all my own Web sites having over 400,000 hits every month. Besides 'The Gaskell Web' I maintain several Web sites, which, though only collections of links, are of some service to amateurs as well as scholars and students. 'British and Irish Authors' and 'American Authors' have some 600 authors listed respectively in their chronological order. You may be interested in another page made for British and Irish authors born between 1755-1865. 'Victorian Web Sites' holds links to more than 260 resources related to all aspects of 19th-century British culture and society.

Intellectual and literary resources are unlimited on the Web. For example, most university libraries have subscribed to 'FirstSearch'. 'FirstSearch' is a nonprofit-making computer library service and research organisation, whose computer network and services link more than 20,000 libraries in some 60 countries and territories. Simply contact your library and ask for more details or a demonstration. Examples abound. Without knitting your brows you should just browse some of the many Web sites that are useful especially for Gaskell studies.(3) I hope that no disparity between the imagined and the experienced world of the Web will disappoint you. 'There's no place like home' said John Howard Payne in Home, Sweet Home (1823), but I like to add that there is nothing like seeing a homepage for oneself. Seeing is believing. Bill Gates, Microsoft Corporation, confidently says, 'Like the PC, the Internet is a tidal wave. It will wash over the computer industry and many others, drowning those who don't learn to swim in its waves.' Modern research shows that one hundred million are expected to surf the waves of the Internet by the year 2000. The Internet is not only for the rising generation but also for all the others. When you decide to ride the waves rather than wavering in your judgment by the beach, you will see a brave new world before you.


NOTES

* At the AGM of the Society on 28th September 1996, Mitsuharu Matsuoka, a Gaskell Society member from Nagoya University, Japan, gave a talk in which he introduced our members to the opportunities offered by the Internet. We now print a substantially revised and extended version of his presentation. => Back

  1. 'Conc' for the Macintosh can be downloaded free of charge. You can also get the same facility with Software's anonymous FTP (Host: clr.nmsu.edu => Directory: /CLR/tools/concordances). Dataflight Software's 'Concordance' for the Windows (v. 5.4) is $995. For details browse the homepage, e-mail Sales Diane Bowa (sales@dataflight.com), or call 310/471-3414. And the University of Toronto provides MS DOS users with the concordance software 'Tact'. => Back

  2. The NCSA 'Beginner's Guide to HTML' is still famous as a primer for HTML (hypertext markup language) beginners, but you can of course choose from scores of manuals in a book shop. The basics of HTML markup codes are very easy, but this leads us to make simple mistakes. However, there are several free HTML editors available on the Web, such as 'HTML.edit for Macintosh' and 'Simple HTML Editor'. => Back

  3. A. English Studies
    1. The English Server
    2. Voice of the Shuttle
    3. Literary Resources on the Net
    B. Search Engines and Directories
    1. Yahoo
    2. Alta Vista
    3. HotBot
    C. E-texts
    1. Gutenberg Project
    2. ALEX
    3. Victorian Women Writers Project
    D. Literature/Book Search and Order
    1. Uncover Web
    2. Amazon.com
    3. International Book Shop
    E. Libraries
    1. Accesses to Major English-Language Libraries On-Line
    2. Online Catalogs in the US
    3. Libraries on the Web
    F. Bible
    1. The Bible Gateway
    2. King James Version
    3. Revised Standard Version
    G. Fine Arts
    1. Artist Index
    2. Prints Database
    3. The Pre-Raphaelite Collection
    => Back


* For a hypertext dictionary of computer and Internet related words I have used "Lingo, the Surf School glossary".

Other Computing Dictionaries

  1. Steve's Cyberspace Dictionary
  2. Free On-Line Dictionary of Computing
  3. Gateway 2000 Glossary
  4. PC Webopaedia
  5. whatis.com

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