In Middlemarch (1871-2),
Mary Ann reflects on her years spent in Coventry. Like her childhood,
this was a time of great change - and after the coal mines came
the railways, the Reform Bill (concerning the right to vote) and
a fatal illness called cholera. And so Mary Ann relates the gossip
of local drawing rooms and front parlours at that time:
"In the hundred to which
Middlemarch belonged railways were as exciting a topic as the
Reform Bill or the imminent horrors of Cholera, and those who
held the most decided views on the subject were women and landholders.
Women both old and young regarded travelling by steam as presumptuous
and dangerous, and argued against it by saying that nothing should
induce them to get into a railway carriage."