ELIZABETH CLEGHORN GASKELL, (née STEVENSON; 29 September 1810 – 12 November 1865), often referred to as MRS GASKELL, was an English novelist and short story writer. Her novels offer a detailed portrait of the lives of many strata of Victorian society, including the very poor, and are of interest to social historians as well as lovers of literature. Her first novel, Mary Barton , was published in 1848. Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Brontë , published in 1857, was the first biography of Brontë. Some of Gaskell's best known novels are Cranford (1851–53), North and South (1854–55), and Wives and Daughters (1865).
* 1 Early life * 2 Character and influences * 3 Married life and writing career * 4 A literary legacy
* 5 Literary style and themes
* 5.1 Themes * 5.2 Dialect usage
* 6 Publications
* 6.1 Novels * 6.2 Novellas and collections * 6.3 Short stories * 6.4 Non-fiction
* 7 See also * 8 Notes * 9 External links
Gaskell was born Elizabeth Cleghorn Stevenson on 29 September 1810 in
Lindsey Row, Chelsea , at the house which is now 93
Cheyne Walk . She
was the youngest of eight children; only she and her brother John
survived infancy. Her father, William Stevenson , a Unitarian from
Berwick-upon-Tweed, was minister at
His wife, Elizabeth Holland, came from a family from the English
Midlands that was connected with other prominent Unitarian families,
including the Wedgwoods , the Martineaus , the Turners and the Darwins
. When she died 13 months after giving birth to her youngest daughter,
she left a bewildered husband who saw no alternative for Elizabeth
but to be sent to live with her mother's sister, Hannah Lumb, in
Her father remarried to Catherine Thomson in 1814. They had a son,
William, in 1815, and a daughter, Catherine in 1816. Although
Elizabeth spent several years without seeing her father, to whom she
was devoted, her older brother John often visited her in Knutsford.
John was destined for the
CHARACTER AND INFLUENCES
A beautiful young woman, Elizabeth was well-groomed, tidily dressed, kind, gentle and considerate of others. Her temperament was calm and collected, joyous and innocent, she revelled in the simplicity of rural life. Much of Elizabeth's childhood was spent in Cheshire, where she lived with her aunt Hannah Lumb in Knutsford, the town she immortalised as Cranford . They lived in a large red-brick house called "Sandlebridge" that overlooked the township of Alderley Edge. From 1821 to 1826 she attended a school run by the Miss Byerlys at Barford House, and after that Avonbank in Stratford-on-Avon , where she received the traditional education in arts, the classics, decorum and propriety given to young ladies at the time. Her aunts gave her the classics to read, and she was encouraged by her father in her studies and writing. Her brother John sent her modern books, and descriptions of his life at sea and his experiences abroad.
However, she was unhappy at Sandlebridge. Seeking new experiences, she opened her mind to the solace of nature, finding company in the silence of the heath. On other occasions when her cousins came to play she found consolation in young friendships. Exploring the green hollows, old shady glades of ruined cottages, she collected wild flowers and watched the singing birds. Her favourite plant, the Saxifrage, is now extinct; but the pleasure natural things brought reflected clearly in her literary observations.
At Sandlebridge, among the visitors and cousinage she played
shuffleboard on the kitchen table. A young Elizabeth would go shopping
to a woman in
Sandlebridge would be demolished before 1900, only its chimney remaining.
She learnt from
Lord Clive that his mother was a Gaskell and a friend
of the whiggish Holland set. After leaving school at the age of 16,
Elizabeth travelled to London to spend time with her Holland cousins.
She also spent some time in
Newcastle upon Tyne
MARRIED LIFE AND WRITING CAREER
Elizabeth Gaskell: 1851 portrait by George Richmond
On 30 August 1832 Elizabeth married a Unitarian minister, William
Gaskell , in Knutsford. They spent their honeymoon in
In March 1835 Gaskell began a diary documenting the development of her daughter Marianne: she explored parenthood, the values she placed on her role as a mother; her faith, and, later, relations between Marianne and her sister, Meta. In 1836 she co-authored with her husband a cycle of poems, Sketches among the Poor, which was published in Blackwood\'s Magazine in January 1837. In 1840 William Howitt published Visits to Remarkable Places containing a contribution entitled Clopton Hall by "A Lady", the first work written and published solely by her. In April 1840 Howitt published The Rural Life of England, which included a second work titled Notes on Cheshire Customs.
In July 1841 the Gaskells travelled to
She began writing her first novel to escape the grief of losing her only son. Mary Barton was ready for publication in October 1848 shortly before they made the move south. It was an enormous success, selling thousands of copies. Ritchie called it a "great and remarkable sensation." She was widely praised by luminaries such as Thomas Carlyle and Maria Edgeworth. She brought the teeming slums of manufacturing in Manchester alive to readers as yet unacquainted with crowded narrow alleyways. Her obvious depth of feeling was evident, while her turn of phrase and description was described as the greatest since Jane Austen.
In 1850 the Gaskells moved to a villa at
84 Plymouth Grove
In early 1850 Gaskell wrote to
In June 1855
Patrick Brontë asked Gaskell to write a biography of
his daughter Charlotte, and
The Life of Charlotte Brontë was
published in 1857. This played a significant role in developing
Gaskell's own literary career. In the biography, Gaskell chose to
focus more on Brontë as a woman than as a writer of Romantic fiction.
In 1859 Gaskell travelled to
A LITERARY LEGACY
The house on Plymouth Grove remained in the Gaskell family until
1913, after which it stood empty and fell into disrepair. The
University of Manchester
On 25 September 2010 a memorial to
Manchester City Council
LITERARY STYLE AND THEMES
A scene from Cranford
Gaskell's first novel,
Mary Barton , was published anonymously in
1848. The best-known of her remaining novels are Cranford (1853),
North and South (1854), and
Wives and Daughters (1865). She became
popular for her writing, especially her ghost stories, aided by
Even though her writing conforms to Victorian conventions, including the use of the name "Mrs Gaskell", she usually framed her stories as critiques of contemporary attitudes. Her early works focused on factory work in the Midlands. She usually emphasised the role of women, with complex narratives and realistic female characters. Gaskell said she was influenced by the writings of Jane Austen. Her treatment of class continues to interest social historians as well as fiction lovers.
Gaskell's style is notable for putting local dialect words into the mouths of middle-class characters and the narrator. In North and South Margaret Hale suggests redding up (tidying) the Bouchers' house and even offers jokingly to teach her mother words such as knobstick (strike-breaker). In 1854 she defended her use of dialect to express otherwise inexpressible concepts in a letter to Walter Savage Landor :
... you will remember the country people's use of the word "unked". I can't find any other word to express the exact feeling of strange unusual desolate discomfort, and I sometimes "potter" and "mither" people by using it.
She also used the dialect word "nesh " (soft), which goes back to Old English , in Mary Barton:
Sit you down here: the grass is well nigh dry by this time; and you're neither of you nesh folk about taking cold.
and later in 'The Manchester Marriage' : Now, I'm not above being nesh for other folks myself. I can stand a good blow, and never change colour; but, set me in the operating-room in the Infirmary, and I turn as sick as a girl. At Mrs Wilson's death Norah came back to them, as nurse to the newly-born little Edwin; into which post she was not installed without a pretty strong oration on the part of the proud and happy father; who declared that if he found out that Norah ever tried to screen the boy by a falsehood, or to make him nesh either in body or mind, she should go that very day.
Elizabeth Gaskell, c. 1860
* Mary Barton (1848) * Ruth (1853) * North and South (1854–55) * Sylvia\'s Lovers (1863) * Wives and Daughters: An Everyday Story (1865)
NOVELLAS AND COLLECTIONS
* The Moorland Cottage (1850) * Mr. Harrison\'s Confessions (1851) * Cranford (1851–53) * The Old Nurse's Story (1852) * Lizzie Leigh (1855) * My Lady Ludlow (1859) * Round the Sofa (1859) * Lois the Witch (1861) * A Dark Night\'s Work (1863) * Cousin Phillis (1864)
* Libbie Marsh's Three Eras (1847) * The Sexton's Hero (1847) * Christmas Storms and Sunshine (1848) * Hand and Heart (1849) * The Well of Pen-Morfa (1850) * The Heart of John Middleton (1850) * Disappearances (1851) * Bessy's Troubles at Home (1852) * The Old Nurse's Story (1852) * Cumberland Sheep-Shearers (1853) * Morton Hall (1853) * Traits and Stories of the Huguenots (1853) * My French Master (1853) * The Squire's Story (1853) * Half a Life-time Ago (1855)
* Company Manners (1854) * The Poor Clare (1856) * The Doom of the Griffiths (1858) * Right at Last (1858) * "The Manchester Marriage" (1858) * The Haunted House (1859) * The Crooked Branch (1859) * The Half-brothers (1859) * Curious If True (1860) * The Grey Woman (1861) * The Cage at Cranford (1863) * Crowley Castle (1863)
* Sketches Among the Poor (poems 1837) * An Accursed Race (1855) * The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857) * French Life (1864)
* ^ A B C D E F G H Weyant, Nancy S. (2007). The Cambridge
Companion to Elizabeth Gaskell; Chronology. Cambridge University
Press. pp. xi–xx. ISBN 0-521-60926-7 .
* ^ Pollard, Arthur (1965). Mrs. Gaskell: Novelist and Biographer.
Manchester University Press. p. 12. ISBN 0-674-57750-7 .
* ^ Gérin, Winifred (1976). Elizabeth Gaskell. Oxford University
Press. pp. 10–17. ISBN 0-19-281296-3 .
* ^ Heathside (now Gaskell Avenue), which faces the large open area