Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell (née Elizabeth Cleghorn Stevenson, September 29, 1810 – November 12, 1865) was a British author known for short stories and novels focusing on social classes, from the poor to the middle class to the rich. The upheaval of class boundaries, the industrialization of England, and women’s issues in the Victorian era were all themes of her work. So too was religion — her father and husband were both Unitarian ministers. She was often referred to simply as “Mrs. Gaskell.”

Gaskell’s mother died a year or so after giving birth to her. Her father wasn’t able to care for her, so she was sent to live with an aunt. They lived in Cheshire, England, which years later inspired her story, Cranford. Her aunt encouraged her to read classic books, which led to her love of writing. Her brother, who traveled widely, sent her books from near and far.


A child dies, then a career is born

Her first novel, Mary Barton, published in 1848, followed the death of her first child, a son, at age one (she subsequently had four daughters). The praise she received caught the attention of Charles Dickens, who hired her to write for his magazine Household Words. This is actually where Cranford was first published, in 1853.


Elizabeth Gaskell

You might also like: Quotes from Elizabeth Gaskell’s Novels


Poetry and social reform

“Sketches of the Poor, No. 1” was a series of poems she wrote with her husband, John Gaskell, and was published in January of 1837 in Blackwood’s Magazine. Both she and her husband were involved in social reform and seeking justice for the poor.


Life of Charlotte Brontë

After making a name for herself she became friends with many well-known writers, including Charlotte Brontë, with whom she was good friends. When Brontë passed away, her father asked Gaskell to write a biography of Charlotte’s life. Life of Charlotte Brontë was published in 1857, and it helped secure the literary reputation of both author and subject.


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2 Responses to “Elizabeth Gaskell”

  1. This page is very nicely done. A small suggestion: people using your profile of Elizabeth Gaskell might find it useful if you were to add the short list of bibliographies for further research. In addition to my two published bibliographies and my updates posted on my website (see above), you would be ale to provide complete bibliographic coverage of secondary sources by also including those by Jeffrey Welch (Elizabeth Gaskell: An Annotated Bibliography, 1929-1975) and Robert L. Selig (Elizabeth Gaskell: A Reference Guide). Selig covers 1848-1974. Walter E. Smith’s Elizabeth Gaskell: A Bibliographic Catalogue identifies all of the first and early editions of Gaskell’s works.

    • Thank you, Nancy. I shall certainly do so. And if there is any other pertinent information you think should be added to this page, let me know. I’ll try to add the information you provide later tonight!

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