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    Elizabeth Gaskell

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    Elizabeth Gaskell

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    Biography

    Elizabeth Gaskell 1810-1865. was born in Chelsea, London, in 1810. Her mother, worn out by giving birth to eight children, of whom only two survived, died thirteen months later. Elizabeth's father, William Stevenson, was a Unitarian but had given up preaching to become the Keeper of the Treasury Records. Unable to raise her himself, Stevenson sent Elizabeth to live with her aunt Hannah Lamb, who lived in Knutsford, Cheshire. More ...

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    Biography of Elizabeth Gaskell

    Elizabeth Gaskell 1810-1865. was born in Chelsea, London, in 1810. Her mother, worn out by giving birth to eight children, of whom only two survived, died thirteen months later. Elizabeth's father, William Stevenson, was a Unitarian but had given up preaching to become the Keeper of the Treasury Records. Unable to raise her himself, Stevenson sent Elizabeth to live with her aunt Hannah Lamb, who lived in Knutsford, Cheshire.

    Elizabeth shared her father's religious beliefs and attended the local Unitarian chapel and taught at Sunday School. At the age of eighteen, Elizabeth's brother, John Stevenson was drowned at sea. The news devastated her father and he went into a deep depression. Elizabeth now 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 30th August, 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 work in the city. She also started writing a novel that attempted to illustrate the problems faced by people living in industrial towns and cities.

    Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life was published in 1848. With its casts of working-class characters and its attempts to address key social issues such as urban poverty, Chartism and the emerging trade union movement, Gaskell's novel shocked Victorian society. It also was greatly admired by other writers such as Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, John Ruskin, Charles Kingsley and Thomas Carlyle. Dickens was so impressed that he arranged for Gaskell's next novel, Cranford, to be serialised in his journal, Household Words (1851-1853).

    Other novels written by Gaskell include Ruth (1853), North and South (1855), and Sylvia's Lovers (1863). In her books Gaskell expressed a deep sympathy for the poor and suggested the need for large-scale social reform. Gaskell also wrote an acclaimed biography of Charlotte Bronte. This also created controversy and some allegedly libellous statements had to be removed before The Life of Charlotte Bronte could be published. Elizabeth Gaskell died in 1865.

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