Date: 29 September 1810 – 12 November 1865
Person: Elizabeth Gaskell
Gaskell’s masterpieces, Mary Barton, which was first published anonymously, and North and South, are vivid accounts of poverty in Manchester and reflect her political foresight in the changing industrial age. So controversial was Mary Barton that some mill owners burned copies of the book in protest in front of her husband, a Unitarian minister.
‘It had been thought wiser not to put her name on Mary Barton. Women writers were still regarded suspiciously. But her secret was soon out and when she went to London she was feted as a talented new writer. Charles Dickens, whose David Copperfield was also just published, invited her to dinner. This was the start of a long literary collaboration and friendship. He wanted any novels she could write to serialise in Household Words, a literary magazine he was launching. Cranford was published in this way, starting life as six episodes, before being compiled into a book – as were most of her novels, in Dickens’s or other magazines. Elizabeth often worked to his bidding as he demanded new stories, calling her “my dear Scheherazade”, likening her to the legendary storyteller of Arabian Nights.’ Daily Mail.
“Loyalty and obedience to wisdom and justice are fine; but it is still finer to defy arbitrary power, unjustly and cruelly used–not on behalf of ourselves, but on behalf of others more helpless.” North and South.
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