Elizabeth Gaskell

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Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn (1810–65). Novelist. Born in Chelsea, daughter of William Stevenson, Mrs Gaskell was brought up by an aunt in Knutsford, Cheshire. At the age of 22, she married William Gaskell, a unitarian minister. After the death of a young son from scarlet fever, she turned to writing as a distraction. Her first novel, Mary Barton (1848), based upon her life in Manchester and deploring the gulf between rich and poor, was an instant success. She was taken up by Dickens and wrote copiously for Household Words. Cranford, her best-known work (1851–3), was a gentle picture of life at Knutsford, and North and South (1854–5) returned to Victorian social problems. A life of Charlotte Brontë (1857) involved her in tedious controversy and threats of legal action. She died suddenly of heart failure while her last novel, Wives and Daughters, was being published by instalments.

J. A. Cannon

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Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn (1810–65) English writer. She explored the problems of the industrial poor in her novels Mary Barton (1848) and North and South (1855). Other works include Cranford (1853), Wives and Daughters (1866), and an acclaimed biography of her friend Charlotte Brontë (1857).