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Films on the to-do list

  • Armageddon Time
  • Black Widow
  • Chimes at Midnight
  • The Killing of a Sacred Deer
  • Last Christmas
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  • Thor: Love and Thunder
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An Accursed Race by Elizabeth Gaskell (1855)

Essay review: An Accursed Race by Elizabeth Gaskell (1855)

When I started reading this novella on my Kindle, I was expecting some sort of fictional story. Turns out to be more of a non-fictional essay. Who’d a-thought it?

Gaskell is very well read, and there seems to have been a lot of research going into this. What she writes about is a group of people called the Cagots, who lived in the west of France and in northern Spain and were loathed by everyone else.

When I read Gaskell’s essay, I thought maybe it was some kind of gypsy folk she was describing, but no, it seems this is an entirely separate group of people. They weren’t allowed to enter through the same church door as other people, even though they were of the same religion, and they had to live in the outskirts of town and basically, you could perhaps compare them with the Untouchables in India, or the Jews under Nazi Germany. They were kept separate and thought dirty and horrible.

I could point you to the Wikipedia article about the Cagots, but on the other hand you could just go and read Gaskell’s essay.

It’s a chilling read. How can people be that narrow-minded? Quite easily, apparently. And for no reason. There were nothing to distinguish the Cagots physically, so the only way to tell was to know that they came from a Cagot family. It’s the sort of tale that makes you despair about humanity. Really? We have to behave like this to other people?

If you’re disgusted by what you read, Gaskell has done her job well. The only positive to come out of this is that the stigma faded after the Industrial Revolution and that today, there’s no specific social class distinguished as Cagot. Those who are of Cagot descent don’t exactly wave it about.

Very informative essay, though, and I enjoyed reading it. Even if what I read was shocking and disgusting.

4 out of 5 wooden spoons.


An easily distracted and over-excited introvert who never learns to go to bed at a reasonable time. Enjoys traveling (when there's not a plague on), and taking photos of European architecture. Cares for cats, good coffee and Boardwalk Empire. A child of her time, she did media studies in school and still can't decide what she wants to be when she grows up.

2 thoughts on “An Accursed Race by Elizabeth Gaskell (1855)

  1. i hope that you watched a few fanvids of N&S after to get you back in your usual cheerful mood.
    facts like these make for the scariest of horror stories or movies. even with a good end, it can leave a lingering fear that such cruelty is still possible; especially since the source lives on – people.

    1. I think that’s why some horror films work better than others – humans can be so incredibly nasty. That’s why I like the German film Anatomie, and why it scares the crap out of me. It’s a fairly basic horror film where good guys get chased by bad guys with scalpels who enjoy vivisecting random people off the street … As a horror, it’s probably a bit meh. As a “but OMG, what if there really WAS such a secret society?!” it’s terrifying.

      Watching Between the Sheets recently has certainly helped with the cheering up. 😉

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