Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell was born in London in 1810. She was raised by an aunt in Cheshire following the death of her mother a year later. She married the Reverend William Gaskell, a Unitarian minister and journalist, in 1832. She wrote several short stories in the years following, but spent most of her time raising her four daughters and working among the poor.
The publishing of Mary Barton in 1848, put her in the public eye. This was her first full-length novel, which was both a love story and a social commentary on the condition of the working poor as the industrial revolution progressed in England. She expanded on this theme in North and South published in 1854. She attracted the notice of Charles Dickens, and eventually began contributing to his periodical Household Words. She contributed stories to periodicals for the next thirteen years, in both the industrial novel genre, and the bildungsroman (growth and discovery, or coming of age) genre. She became friends with Charlotte Bronte, and wrote her biography following her death. Gaskell felt that it was in poor taste to write biographies of living people, and rejected a request for information about herself by saying, "I do not see why the public have any more to do with me than to buy or reject the ware I supply them." She was a very strong-willed woman, said to stand her ground even against her editor (Dickens) and unphased by criticism that resulted from the publishing of Ruth, a novel with an unmarried mother as its main character. She died in 1865 in a home she bought for her retirement using the money she earned from her writing.
Elizabeth Gaskell's works include:
The publication dates of Gaskell's novels vary depending on the source used, probably due to the fact that most were published in installments in periodicals before being published in book form. Sources of information for this wu include www.victorianweb.org and the introductions of several Penguin Books editions of Gaskell's novels.