Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865)

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Elizabeth Gaskell was born in 1810 as Elizabeth Stevenson to a former Unitarian minister as his youngest daughter in London in 1810. After the loss of her mother at the age of one, she was brought up by her aunt, Hannah Lamb, who lived in Knutsford, a country town in the suburb of Manchester. Elizabeth shared her father's religious beliefs and attended the local Unitarian chapel and taught Sunday School. At the age of eighteen, Elizabeth's brother, John Stevenson was lost at sea. The news devastated her father and he went into a deep depression that he would never awake from. Elizabeth returned to her father's household in London where she nursed him until his death in 1829. A distant relative, William Turner, a Unitarian minister in Newcastle, invited Elizabeth to live with his family. Elizabeth's was deeply influenced by Turner's religious beliefs and charitable works. On a visit to Turner's daughter, who lived in Manchester, Elizabeth met William Gaskell, a minister at their local Unitarian chapel. They quickly developed a close friendship and were married on August 30th, 1832. Most of William Gaskell's parishioners were textile workers and Elizabeth was deeply shocked by the poverty she witnessed in Manchester. Elizabeth, like her husband, became involved in various charity works in the city. At the age of thirty-four, she lost her nine-month-old son. Mary Barton (1848), which was written in the effort to forget her grief, marked her debut as a novelist. The novel also served to address key social issues such as urban poverty, Chartism and the emerging trade union movement. Gaskell's novel shocked Victorian society, however, it was greatly admired by other writers and she began to associate with Charles Dickens, W. M. Thackeray, Charlotte Bronte, and George Eliot. Dickens was so impressed that he arranged for Gaskell's next novel, Cranford, to be serialized in his journal, Household Words (1851-1853). Elizabeth Gaskell passed away suddenly 1865 in the company of her daughters at the age of fifty-five in the country house she purchased in Hampshire.


Mary Barton
Wives and Daughters
North and South
Sylvia’s Lovers
Cousin Phillis