The Works of Elizabeth Gaskell, Volume 4; Volume 6; Volumes 8-10

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Pickering & Chatto, 2006 - Literary Criticism - 2704 pages
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Elizabeth Gaskell’s sudden death in November 1865, at the height of her career, prompted the Athenaeum to lament the passing of ‘if not the most popular, with small question, the most powerful and finished female novelist of an epoch singularly rich in female novelists’ (18 November 1865). Few of Gaskell's contemporaries were willing to consign her exclusively to the ranks of ‘lady novelists’, and late Victorian memoirists and critics measured her achievements against those of Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot.
Gaskell’s literary output was prolific and varied. As well as five major novels she also wrote several novellas – the most famous of which, Cranford, was for many years her best known work – numerous short stories and articles for the periodical press, and an acclaimed biography of her friend Charlotte Brontë (1857). These volumes reveal a writer who excelled in many genres, and whose impact on the world of mid-Victorian publishing was far-reaching.
The Works of Elizabeth Gaskell is the first comprehensive critical edition of her work to be published. It brings together, for the first time, her journalism, some of which has never been republished, her extensive shorter fiction, which was published in various collections during her lifetime, her early personal writing, including a diary written between 1835 and 1838 when she was a young mother, her five full-length novels and The Life of Charlotte Brontë.

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About the author (2006)

Elizabeth Gaskell was born on September 29, 1810 to a Unitarian clergyman, who was also a civil servant and journalist. Her mother died when she was young, and she was brought up by her aunt in Knutsford, a small village that was the prototype for Cranford, Hollingford and the setting for numerous other short stories. In 1832, she married William Gaskell, a Unitarian clergyman in Manchester. She participated in his ministry and collaborated with him to write the poem Sketches among the Poor in 1837. Our Society at Cranford was the first two chapters of Cranford and it appeared in Dickens' Household Words in 1851. Dickens liked it so much that he pressed Gaskell for more episodes, and she produced eight more of them between 1852 and 1853. She also wrote My Lady Ludlow and Lois the Witch, a novella that concerns the Salem witch trials. Wives and Daughters ran in Cornhill from August 1864 to January 1866. The final installment was never written but the ending was known and the novel exists now virtually complete. The story centers on a series of relationships between family groups in Hollingford. Most critics agree that her greatest achievement is the short novel Cousin Phillis. Gaskell was also followed by controversy. In 1853, she offended many readers with Ruth, which explored seduction and illegitimacy that led the "fallen woman" into ostracism and inevitable prostitution. The novel presents the social conduct in a small community when tolerance and morality clash. Critics praised the novel's moral lessons but Gaskell's own congregation burned the book and it was banned in many libraries. In 1857, The Life of Charlotte Brontë was published. The biography was initially praised but angry protests came from some of the people it dealt with. Gaskell was against any biographical notice of her being written during her lifetime. After her death on November 12, 1865, her family refused to make family letters or biographical data available.

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