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Archived Group Reads 2012 > Elizabeth Gaskell and Wives and Daughters

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message 1: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Feb 28, 2012 02:37PM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Early life
Gaskell was born Elizabeth Cleghorn Stevenson on 29 September 1810, at 93 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, which was then on the outskirts of London. Gaskell was the eighth and last of her parents' children; only she and her brother John survived infancy. Her father, William Stevenson, was a Scottish Unitarian minister at Failsworth, Lancashire but resigned his orders on conscientious grounds, moving his family to London in 1806 with intention of going to India after he had been named private secretary to the Earl of Lauderdale, who was to become Governor-General of India. This position did not materialise, and Stevenson was instead nominated Keeper of the Treasury Records. Stevenson's wife, Elizabeth Holland, came from a family from the English Midlands that was well connected with other Unitarian and prominent families like the Wedgwoods, the Turners and the Darwins, and when she died three months after giving birth to Gaskell she left a bewildered husband who saw no other alternative for young Elizabeth but to be sent away to live with her mother's sister Hannah Lumb, in Knutsford, Cheshire.
While she was growing up Gaskell's future was very uncertain as she had no personal wealth and no firm home, even though she was a permanent guest at her aunt and grandparents' house. Her father had married again to Catherine Thomson in 1814 and the couple had a male heir, William (born 1815) and a daughter, Catherine (born 1816). Although Gaskell would sometimes spend several years without seeing her father and his new family, her older brother John would often visit her in Knutsford. John had early been destined for the Royal Navy, like his grandfathers and uncles, but he had no entry and had to go into the Merchant Navy with the East India Company's fleet.John went missing in 1827 during an expedition to India.
Much of Elizabeth's childhood was spent in Cheshire, where she lived with her aunt Hannah Lumb in Knutsford, a town she would later immortalise as Cranford. They lived in a large red brick house, Heathwaite, on Heathside (now Gaskell Avenue), which faces the large open area of Knutsford Heath.
She also spent some time in Newcastle upon Tyne (with Rev. William Turner's family) and in Edinburgh. Her stepmother was a sister of the Scottish miniature artist, William John Thomson, who painted the famous 1832 portrait of Gaskell in Manchester.
Married life and Plymouth Grove
On 30 August 1832 Elizabeth married minister William Gaskell in Knutsford. They spent their honeymoon in North Wales, staying with Elizabeth's uncle, Samuel Holland, who lived near Porthmadog. The Gaskells then settled in Manchester, where William was the minister at Cross Street Unitarian Chapel. Manchester's industrial surroundings would influence Elizabeth's novels in the industrial genre. Their first child, a daughter, was stillborn in 1833. A son, William, (1844–45), died in infancy, and this tragedy became the catalyst for Gaskell's first novel, Mary Barton. Other children were Marianne (1834), Margaret Emily, known as Meta (1837), Florence Elizabeth (1842), and Julia Bradford (1846). Florence married Charles Crompton, a barrister and Liberal politician, in 1862.
In 1850, following the publication of Mary Barton, the family moved to a villa in Plymouth Grove. Elizabeth wrote all her remaining literary works in this home while her husband held welfare committees and tutored the poor in his study. The Gaskells' social circle included literary greats, religious dissenters, and social reformers, including William and Mary Howitt. Charles Dickens and John Ruskin visited Plymouth Grove, as did American writers Harriet Beecher Stowe and Charles Eliot Norton, while conductor Charles Hallé lived close by and taught piano to one of Gaskell's four daughters. Close friend Charlotte Brontë is known to have stayed there three times, and on one occasion hid behind the drawing room curtains as she was too shy to meet Gaskell's visitors.
Gaskell died suddenly of a heart attack in 1865, while visiting a home she had just purchased in Holybourne, Hampshire. (from wiki)


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Wives and Daughters is a novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, first published in the Cornhill Magazine as a serial from August 1864 to January 1866. When Mrs Gaskell died suddenly in 1865, it was not quite complete, and the last section was written by Frederick Greenwood.
The story revolves around Molly Gibson, only daughter of a widowed doctor living in a provincial English town in the 1830s.


message 3: by Lois (new)

Lois (loisbennett) | 18 comments Is there no reading schedule this time around?


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Lois, I just posted the Wives and Daughters chapters and Sarah will post the Tess chapters. After that, it is read at your own pace and most importantly enjoy. :)

We have allotted two months again for the two books.


message 5: by Lois (last edited Feb 29, 2012 08:06AM) (new)

Lois (loisbennett) | 18 comments Thank you! Just about to start reading Wives and Daughters. Am hoping to read Tess as well, but I'm due to read Mansfield Park in March with another group, so will have to see how it goes!


message 6: by Leslie (new)

Leslie (lnpayton) | 5 comments I'm really looking forward to reading this Wives and Daughters. I just finished my first Gaskell book (North & South), so I'm ready!


message 7: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Welcome, Leslie.


message 8: by Lois (new)

Lois (loisbennett) | 18 comments Ooh, did you enjoy it Leslie? I've seen the TV adaptation and love the story, but I haven't read it yet - hoping to read it in May with one of my other groups.


message 9: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 497 comments Wives adn Daughters is my favourite Gaskell's Novel! I've read and listened to it several times, and everytime it's a surprise!


message 10: by Lynnm (last edited Mar 01, 2012 07:32AM) (new)

Lynnm This will be my first discussion with the Victorians group. Looking forward to it! I've also watched the television series, but have never read the book. It's also (surprisingly) my first Gaskell novel so looking forward to that as well.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Lynnm wrote: "This will be my first discussion with the Victorians group. Looking forward to it! I've also watched the television series, but have never read the book. It's also (surprisingly) my first Gaskel..."

So happy you are joining us, Lynnm! I think you are going to love both the book and the group. :)


message 12: by Leslie (new)

Leslie (lnpayton) | 5 comments Lois wrote: "Ooh, did you enjoy it Leslie? I've seen the TV adaptation and love the story, but I haven't read it yet - hoping to read it in May with one of my other groups."

Lois, I equally loved both versions of North and South. However, there were times when I just want to shake Margaret to help her see the "good" in Mr. Thornton. It's a look book but totally worth it! :) I hope you enjoy it!!


message 13: by Leslie (new)

Leslie (lnpayton) | 5 comments SarahC wrote: "Welcome, Leslie."

Thanks Sarah! I'm looking forward to participating in the discussion! :)


message 14: by Gricel (new)

Gricel (emperatrix) | 8 comments So glad Wives and Daughters was selected :) I've been meaning to read it for a while and always wanted to do it with a group.


message 15: by Parikhit (new)

Parikhit | 22 comments This will be my first Elizabeth Gaskell book. Nothing better than beginning with a discussion.

Thanks for the post Marialyce. I would have been too lazy to find out about the author. Her brother John was never found! Thats tragic. I tried to google more information about her brother (don't know why??) but nothing.


message 16: by Becky (new)

Becky | 170 comments I love Gaskell. I hope I have time for this.


message 17: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments I'm about a third of the way through and can't put it down. It is well worth the time!


message 18: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments I finished and am so glad I read it. I cannot recommend the audiobook version narrated by Prunella Scales too highly.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Bea wrote: "I finished and am so glad I read it. I cannot recommend the audiobook version narrated by Prunella Scales too highly."

I loved it too, Bea......so glad you enjoyed it.....I like all her books that I have read....looking to read her biography of Charlotte Bronte.


message 20: by Denise (new)

Denise (dulcinea3) | 401 comments Although I had been reading Dickens, the Brontes, and Austen since junior high, I had been unaware of Gaskell. In college I read her biography of Charlotte Bronte, but I guess I was still unaware she wrote novels. It wasn't until I started seeing the miniseries based on her books that I got interested in her. Wives and Daughters was the first I read, and it is my favorite so far. Since then I've also read North and South and Cranford, and I have all of them on DVD. I'm looking forward to reading more!

BTW, I love Prunella Scales as Sybil Fawlty! Although it's funny because she tended to have a very irritating voice on that series, so it's interesting that she is a good audiobook narrator. I also liked another Britcom she starred in, After Henry.


message 21: by Bea (last edited Mar 09, 2012 06:24PM) (new)

Bea | 233 comments Prunella Scales did all the characters with different voices and none of them sounded anything like Sybil Fawlty! I particularly liked her mild-mannered Dr. Gibson with the soft Scotch brogue. And Molly was the perfect sweet young girl. Unfortunately, she doesn't have much up on Audible, except some radio/TV BBC material, and what might be dynamite versions of Cranford and Emma


message 22: by Sera (new)

Sera I finished Tess so I'm looking forward to starting this one. It will be my first Gaskell.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Sera wrote: "I finished Tess so I'm looking forward to starting this one. It will be my first Gaskell."

I think you are going to like this! :)


message 24: by Grace (new)

Grace Hendrian I just finished reading North and South, so I'm looking forward to Wives and Daughters. Can't wait to start it!


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Grace wrote: "I just finished reading North and South, so I'm looking forward to Wives and Daughters. Can't wait to start it!"

I know you are going to like this!


message 26: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 497 comments Love it I would say!


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