Elizabeth Gaskell, the daughter of William Stevenson, was born in London in 1810 but after her mother's early death was brought up by her aunt, mainly in Knutsford, the town with which she is always associated. She was educated for a period at Stratford-upon-Avon, and from her marriage to the Reverend William Gaskell, in 1832, she lived in Manchester. She died suddenly, during the course of a visit to Alton in Hampshire in 1865.
Elizabeth Gaskell's life in Manchester centred on the Unitarian Chapel in Cross Street, of which her husband was minister; at the same time she was a remarkable independent person and an enthusiastic traveller, both at home and on the continent. She was thus able to draw upon a wide range of experience in her writing. Her literary output may surprise those who know her through a single work, whether it be Cranford, Mary Barton her Manchester based novel, or her outstanding biography of her friend Charlotte Bronte, for she tried her hand at many genres, in all of which she achieved distinction.
As a novelist she wrote on social problems with a regional background, as well as domestic and historical fiction, together with tales of murder, mystery and the supernatural. She also wrote biography, essays and reviews; her interests ranged from the sociological to the antiquarian and were often reflected in occasional journalism as well as in her more formal work.
Elizabeth Gaskell has never been out of public favour. The publication of The Letters of Mrs. Gaskell, edited by Arthur Pollard and J.A.V. Chapple in 1966 marked a revival of scholarly interest in her work. Subsequently, her industrial novels attracted renewed admiration, and the influence of feminism in literary studies has further widened and enhanced her reputation.
Although the Society has no building as headquarters, its centre is Knutsford, with its many Gaskell associations, as CRANFORD and Hollingford in WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. Here she spent a happy childhood, was married at the Parish Church and is buried in the three-hundred-year-old Brook Street Chapel's graveyard, surrounded by her ancestors' graves.
The Society hold its AGM in Knutsford about the end of September and a General Meeting is held in the Spring in Manchester, where Elizabeth Gaskell lived and wrote, Her house at Plymouth Grove is used as an International Student Centre by Manchester University and may be visited on application. The Society is affiliated to the Alliances of Literary Societies.
The Gaskell Society Journal is published annually from the English Department of the University of Manchester. Jo Pryke is the Editor and Alan Shelston the Consultant Editor. It includes scholarly articles and notes on all aspects of Gaskell studies.
Newsletters are published half-yearly, containing shorter articles, notes and details about forthcoming events and society activities.
To record sources of information about the work of Elizabeth Gaskell and any other material relating to her life, family, work and memory.
To foster and stimulate an understanding of her work and life by other means.
To arrange visits to places associated with her or her books.
To encourage republication of her work.
To promote and support special projects relating to her life and work at suitable times.
To co-operate with other societies having an interest in Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell and her times.
There is a 'Cranford Walk' Leaflet (Price £1), identifying places in Knutsford associated with Elizabeth Gaskell and her works.
Brook Street Chapel and Elizabeth Gaskell's grave
* "An Invitation To Join The Gaskell Society" is reprinted here with the Society's permission.
Top of Page Matsuoka's Home Page