Jewsbury, Geraldine (1812–1880)

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Jewsbury, Geraldine (1812–1880)

English novelist. Born Geraldine Endsor Jewsbury in Measham, Derbyshire, England, on August 22, 1812; died of cancer in London on September 23, 1880; daughter of Thomas Jewsbury (a Manchester merchant and insurance agent) and Maria (Smith) Jewsbury; sister of Maria Jane Jewsbury (1800–1833); never married; no children.

When her mother died in 1819, seven-year old Geraldine Jewsbury's education and upbringing were taken over by her elder sister Maria Jane Jewsbury . Both sisters would become writers. Geraldine was strongly influenced by George Sand , and her first novel Zoe: The History of Two Lives, published in 1845, revealed her feminist views as she detailed the drawbacks of marriage. It was followed by The Half Sisters (1848), Marian Withers (1851), Constance Herbert (1855), The Sorrows of Gentility (1856), and Right or Wrong (1859). In 1850, Geraldine was invited by Charles Dickens to write for Household Words; she was also a frequent reviewer of fiction for the Athenaeum and Westminster Review, as well as other journals and magazines.

In 1841, Jewsbury met the Carlyles. After this first meeting, Thomas described her as "one of the most interesting young women I have seen for years; clear delicate sense and courage looking out of her small sylph-like figure." From this time until Jane Welsh Carlyle 's death in 1866, Geraldine Jewsbury was her closest friend. The selections from Jewsbury's letters to Jane Carlyle (edited by Annie Ireland , 1892) define the bond between the two women that continued for a quarter of a century. In 1854, Jewsbury moved from Manchester to Chelsea to be near her friend. When Jane died, Thomas Carlyle asked Jewsbury to write some anecdotes of his wife's childhood and early married life which he incorporated into his essay, "Jane Welsh Carlyle," These same notes were used by J.A. Froude when editing Carlyle's Reminiscences.

Consulted by Froude while he was preparing Thomas Carlyle's biography, Jewsbury told him that Jane had at one time thought about having her marriage legally annulled. Thomas Carlyle was "one of those persons who ought never to have married," said Jewsbury, who also maintained that Jane had confided to her on one occasion that Thomas had used physical violence against her. Though there has been a concerted effort to discredit Jewsbury in relation to the domestic violence question, there seems to be little ground for doubting that she accurately repeated the confidences of her friend Jane Carlyle. Virginia Woolf wrote of their friendship in "Geraldine and Jane" for The Times Literary Supplement (February 28, 1929).