Today, as most Fridays, I bring you a guest author. It is time for another classic, a female Victorian writer who became quite popular during her life time and recently, thanks to TV adaptations, has regained many followers. Elizabeth Gaskell.
There is plenty of information about her and I leave you some links to both her life and works, to free versions of her novels and stories, and also some links to adaptations of her work to TV. I love Cranford that I think is one of these gems that the BBC can produce every so often (many are period pieces, but not all, and I also love their adaptation/modernisation of Sherlock Holmes…that makes me think, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle should be on my list of guest for the future…). If you haven’t watched it and can get hold of it…do. And let me know what you think.
Before I’ll share a brief biographical note with you but do check the links for much more detailed information.
Elizabeth Stevenson was born in London on 29 September 1810, the daughter of a Unitarian minister. Her mother died when she was only 13 months old and her father sent her to live with her aunt, Hannah, who lived in Knutsford in Cheshire. Her father remarried but she spent little time with him and his new family. Her brother, who joined the Merchant Navy, died when she was 18 and her father died shortly after.
She spent some time in Newcastle but would usually go back to Knutsford (that was her inspiration for Cranford). In 1832, she married William Gaskell, also a Unitarian minister, and they settled in the industrial city of Manchester. She helped her husband with his welfare work and took special interest in helping the poor and destitute in the rapidly developing industrial city.
Her first child, a girl, was a still born, and following the birth of her second child, marked by her loss, she started keeping a diary of the development of her children. She had a son William, but he died of scarlet fever. She was very affected by it, and her husband suggested that she could take up writing a full-length novel to try and distract herself. Her first novel, ‘Mary Barton’, was published anonymously in 1848. It was an immediate success, winning the praise of Charles Dickens and Thomas Carlyle. It discussed the life of the poor in Manchester and it showed a good eye for detail and local customs and dialogue. It was the first of her ‘industrial’ works.
Dickens invited her to contribute to his magazine, ‘Household Words’, where her next major work, ‘Cranford’, appeared in 1853, in installments. Although he published a number of her works, including short stories and ‘North and South’ (published in 1854), they had major disagreements, particularly due to the length of her novels, and he unwillingness to follow his editorial advice. I’ve read in several of her biographies that he said if he had been her husband he would have beaten her up. Gaskell’s work brought her many friends, including the novelist Charlotte Brontë who visited her often. When Charlotte died in 1855, her father, Patrick Brontë, asked Gaskell to write her biography. The ‘Life of Charlotte Brontë’ (1857) made her even more popular although some critics queried the amount of personal detail included.
She spent time in the South, traveled abroad with her daughters, and had just bought a new house when she had a massive heart attack in October 1865, dying on 12 November 1865, leaving her longest work, ‘Wives and Daughters’ incomplete.
Her house in Manchester is now a Museum, the street in Knutsford where she lived has been renamed in her honour, and Manchester University has an Elizabeth Gaskell library.
BBC history site:
The Gaskell Society:
From the same site a detailed account of her life and works:
An article of the Daily Mail:
FREE links to her work:
Wives and daughters:
The Grey Woman and Other Tales:
My Lady Ludlow:
And links to TV versions of her work (BBC):
Cranford (I truly love this series! It’s a must!)
Return to Cranford (Yes, I also love this one).
North and South:
Wives and Daughters:
Her page in imdb with information on other TV series (earlier versions):
Thank you for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed, and if you have, remember to like, share, comment, and CLICK! It’s FREE!