Elizabeth Gaskell

The Grey Woman


ELIZABETH GASKELL (1810–1865) is a highly regarded Victorian novelist. Her father was a minister; her mother died when she was an infant, and she was raised by an aunt, to whom she was very close. At the age of 22, she married William Gaskell, a minister, and lived in Manchester. She had a very busy life as a wife and mother; as well, she was active in charity and social justice work. Much of Gaskell’s writing espoused social causes, such as Mary Barton, a story of a working-class family in late 1830s Manchester. Her most popular novel is Cranford, a story of the day-to-day life of inhabitants of a small village. Charlotte Brontë was a close friend of Gaskell, and Gaskell’s 1857 biography The Life of Charlotte Brontë was much admired. Gaskell’s final book, Wives and Daughters, unfinished upon her sudden death, is considered by some to be her finest work. Her writing fell out of favour in the early twentieth century but is enjoying renewed respect among academics and lovers of good books.