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Life in the Iron Mills

Life in the Iron Mills by Rebecca Harding Davis
By: (1831-1910)

This 1861 novella was the first published work by Rebecca Harding Davis: writer, social reformer, and pioneer of literary realism. It tells the story of Hugh Wolfe, a Welsh laborer in an iron mill who is also a talented sculptor, and of Deborah, the hunchbacked woman who unrequitedly loves him.

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LIFE IN THE IRON MILLS

by Rebecca Harding Davis

"Is this the end? O Life, as futile, then, as frail! What hope of answer or redress?"

A cloudy day: do you know what that is in a town of iron works? The sky sank down before dawn, muddy, flat, immovable. The air is thick, clammy with the breath of crowded human beings. It stifles me. I open the window, and, looking out, can scarcely see through the rain the grocer's shop opposite, where a crowd of drunken Irishmen are puffing Lynchburg tobacco in their pipes. I can detect the scent through all the foul smells ranging loose in the air.

The idiosyncrasy of this town is smoke. It rolls sullenly in slow folds from the great chimneys of the iron foundries, and settles down in black, slimy pools on the muddy streets. Smoke on the wharves, smoke on the dingy boats, on the yellow river, clinging in a coating of greasy soot to the house front, the two faded poplars, the faces of the passers by. The long train of mules, dragging masses of pig iron through the narrow street, have a foul vapor hanging to their reeking sides... Continue reading book >>


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