"North and South" is a novel by the English author, Elizabeth Gaskell that was originally published in serial installments in the Dickens' magazine, "Household Words" between September 1854 and January 1855. Notable for it's focus on the industrial revolution and the oppression and ill-treatment of factory workers … [Read more...] about North and South
Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell was born Elizabeth Stevenson on the 29th of September, 1810 in Chelsea, London, England. The youngest of eight children, she was one of only two that survived infancy. Elizabeth's father was a minister who resigned his position on conscientious grounds. His wife died after giving birth to her youngest, stillborn daughter and Elizabeth's father was left to raise herself and her brother alone.
Elizabeth was sent to live with her aunt in Knutsford, Cheshire. Elizabeth’s future was uncertain as a child. She had no money and no real home although she was considered a permanent guest at her aunt's home. Still, she spent many years without seeing her father after he remarried and began a new family. Elizabeth's only living brother joined the Merchant Navy and went missing in 1827 during a trip to India.
Growing up, Elizabeth was a kind and considerate young woman. She went to school at a place called Barford House where she received the proper education given to young women of the era until she left school at the age of sixteen and traveled to London to spend time with her cousins.
On August 30th, 1832, Elizabeth married William Gaskell, a Unitarian Minister. Elizabeth then moved to Manchester with her new husband. The industrial town inspired some of her best novels. In 1834, after losing two children in infancy, Elizabeth gave birth to her first daughter, Marianne who ended up being the first of four daughters, all of whom lived to old age.
While a young mother, Elizabeth began writing a diary of her experiences raising her children. This inspired her to write further and in 1836, she and her husband co-authored a collection of poems that was published in Blackwood's Magazine the following year.
In 1840, she published her first solo poem that was attributed to "A Lady". Throughout the 1840's, Elizabeth published several short stories under the pseudonym, "Cotton Mather Mills". In 1848, after losing her only son in infancy, Elizabeth began working on her first novel, "Mary Barton" which was published in October of that year. The novel, that was about the working class people of Manchester, was a success and widely praised by critics.
At this point, Elizabeth became a member of high society and her social circle included other famous writers of the time as well as social reformers and religious dissenters. In particular, Elizabeth was close friends with the author Charlotte Bronte.
Elizabeth later wrote a biography of Charlotte that was very popular. Early in the 1850's, Elizabeth wrote to Charles Dickens asking for advice about assisting a friend of hers in prison. Dickens began publishing Elizabeth's stories in his magazine, Household Words.
Over the course of that decade, she wrote some of her best works, including "North and South" in 1854 and "My Lady Ludlow" in 1859. Elizabeth's last novel, "Wives and Daughters" began in August of 1864 just a few months before she died of a sudden heart attack with visiting a house she had purchased.
A memorial for Elizabeth Gaskell in the Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey was erected in 2010 by her great-great-great granddaughter, Sarah Price.