By Shirley Foster
This literary biographical research examines the lifestyles and works of the mid-Victorian girl novelist, Elizabeth Gaskell, whose recognition is now good demonstrated. It areas her writing within the context of her attitudes in the direction of artistic construction, her courting with publishers, and her literary friendships, in addition to analyzing these occasions of her lifestyles which fed into her paintings. It will pay specific awareness to the ways that she sought to reconcile the conflicting calls for made upon her, as girl and as artist.
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Additional info for Elizabeth Gaskell: A Literary Life
Her letters indicate pleasure at the company she met there (reference to a large house party in October 1851 notes that the guests include a Bishop, a Bishop’s widow, and a Lady). ’ (Letters, p. 833). In what was perhaps an attempt to show her guest how the other half lived, Gaskell took her to the local schools at Swinton, to the Deaf and Dumb asylum, and to the Schwabes’ print works. The visit was clearly a great 44 Elizabeth Gaskell: A Literary Life success (Mrs Davenport charmed everyone by her attention and concern for the children), but for Gaskell she seems to have continued as a standard of social superiority rather than as a philanthropic mentor.
Stone’s William Langshawe is particularly interesting here. Despite notable parallels between this novel and Mary Barton, including the Manchester setting, the patriarchal relations between the ‘Cotton Lords’ and their employees, and the murder of the factory owner’s son, Gaskell disclaimed intimate acquaintance with Stone’s work. In a letter to Catherine Winkworth of 11 November 1848, less than three weeks after the anonymous publication of Mary Barton, she states that ‘Marianne Darbishire told me it [the novel] was ascertained to be the production of a Mrs Wheeler, a clergyman’s wife, who once upon a time was a Miss Stone, and wrote a book called “The Cotton Lord” ’ (Letters, p.
13 24 Elizabeth Gaskell: A Literary Life Engels in fact lived near the Gaskells, off Oxford Road, during his time in Manchester from 1842 to 1844, and William may have read his work (which was available only in German at this time). But though Gaskell herself may have been aware of it, as well as perhaps reading James P. Kay’s The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes Employed in the Cotton Manufacture of Manchester (1832) and the annual reports of the Manchester Domestic Home Mission, each of which described the worst parts of the city, the vividness of her depiction of places such as the Davenports’ cellar dwelling in Mary Barton certainly owes as much to personal as to textual knowledge.
Elizabeth Gaskell: A Literary Life by Shirley Foster