Elizabeth Gaskell

Born: 29 September 1810
Died: 12 November 1865
Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell was born Elizabeth Stevenson in London, England in 1810. In her youth she attended various boarding schools, where she was a voracious reader, before living with various family members and friends following her father’s death. One of these was the Reverend William Turner in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a staunch reformist and opponent of oppressive practices such as slavery, whose attitude profoundly affected Elizabeth’s values and outlook on life. In 1832, Elizabeth married lecturer and Unitarian minister William Gaskell, and they settled in the industrial city of Manchester. Despite having a busy life and four children, Gaskell found time in the evenings to write stories and sketches, and in 1837 her first story, ‘Sketches Among the Poor’, was published in Blackwood’s Magazine. Over the next decade, Gaskell had numerous short pieces published in various periodicals, including Harper’s and Charles Dickens’ All the Year Round, and in 1848 she produced her first novel, Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life. A scathing critique of inegalitarian British society, the novel was an immediate success. Gaskell followed it with the novels Cranford (1851–3), Ruth (1853) and North and South (1854–5). From 1850 onwards, Gaskell and her husband rented a villa in Plymouth Grove, and she became something of a celebrity, mingling with many literary luminaries of the day. Amongst her closest friends was fellow author Charlotte Brontë, whom Gaskell penned the first biography of. She continued to produce fiction, including the novels Sylvia’s Lovers (1863) and Wives and Daughters: An Everyday Story (1865), before dying in 1865, aged 55.

All books by Elizabeth Gaskell