Feb 3, 2013

Reading Check-In: A Gaskell Mood

Right now I'm focused on non-fiction reads related to the Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell. Her writings are varied, from the industrial and gritty novels like Mary Barton and North and South.

To her charming everyday tales like Wives and Daughters and her most recognized work Cranford. I've always been drawn to her writing and interested in her life so this year I'm working on what I'm calling my Gaskell Project of really getting to know her better.

One of the books is about the Cheshire town of Knutsford, where she grew up. It's written by a local who was recognized for both her historical knowledge of it and Gaskell: Joan Leach, who passed away the day after Gaskell's bicentenary celebrations in 2010. It's filled with old photographs and some engravings.

Jenny Uglow's biography A Habit of Stories is another. I'd referenced it a great deal before but never read it through. Haven't reached too far into it-- about a quarter of the way, but I'm enjoying the details of her family and those around her. It's also lovely to see a color version of the miniature of Gaskell's Aunt Hannah Lumb, who raised her.

My favorite of the pile is The Letters of Mrs. Gaskell. It was an exciting find, published in the1960s (although there is a more recent edition) it contains a collection of her letters to friends and her daughter Marianne.What can be more charming than reading her own words and special turns of phrases? The anecdotes of her experiences and personalities of those around her.

As I read them I feel she's becoming a friend. Although it's a larger volume it's only a handful in comparison to the thousands she must have written during her lifetime. It's believed her other daughter Meta may have burnt many in a bonfire ...remind anyone else of Cassandra Austen? Others were destroyed during the World Wars. Further Letters of Mrs. Gaskell leaves some hope though, with some more which have been uncovered.

This afternoon when I checked my mail box I found Yvonne Ffrench's biography waiting. I'd previously read it at the Seattle library a few years back and am glad to have my own copy. From what I remember it's short and slightly critical of her writing, contrasting her with George Eliot. Barbara Brill's At Home with Elizabeth Gaskell and Winifred Gerin's biography are also on their way. I've seen the latter mentioned as one of the best out there so I'm curious to read it!

6 comments

Diana said...

I adore Elizabeth Gaskell. I'm especially intrigued by this collection of her letters. I always enjoy reading letters written by authors. It seems like a special glimpse into their souls. I look forward your thoughts on these gems!

Caroline Helstone said...

Ooh, sounds exciting! Mrs Gaskell was one of your multitasking busybodies - her life should be interesting. No wonder her books are some of the most varied. Her letters should be fun. Her daughters said that many of her characters were remarkably similar to real people they knew. I saw a cheap edition in Hampstead but thinking of the lack of space on my shelf, decided not to buy it.

Emily Coleman said...

What a great project! I love Elizabeth Gaskell. I might read one or two of those. The letters look intriguing!

Felicia said...

I added some of the books listed to my wish list! Thanks for this post!

Caro said...

I'm ashamed to say I know nothing about Elizabeth Gaskell. All I know about her is that she wrote a biography of the Brontës. I really need to remedy that soon.
Lovely project! The letters especially seem amazing.

Elena said...

These sound very interesting. I read and loved Cranford last year and I think it's clearly underrated. I don't know why it is almost never included in literature programs along Dickens who, by the way, admired Gaskell.

Feb 3, 2013

Reading Check-In: A Gaskell Mood

Right now I'm focused on non-fiction reads related to the Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell. Her writings are varied, from the industrial and gritty novels like Mary Barton and North and South.

To her charming everyday tales like Wives and Daughters and her most recognized work Cranford. I've always been drawn to her writing and interested in her life so this year I'm working on what I'm calling my Gaskell Project of really getting to know her better.

One of the books is about the Cheshire town of Knutsford, where she grew up. It's written by a local who was recognized for both her historical knowledge of it and Gaskell: Joan Leach, who passed away the day after Gaskell's bicentenary celebrations in 2010. It's filled with old photographs and some engravings.

Jenny Uglow's biography A Habit of Stories is another. I'd referenced it a great deal before but never read it through. Haven't reached too far into it-- about a quarter of the way, but I'm enjoying the details of her family and those around her. It's also lovely to see a color version of the miniature of Gaskell's Aunt Hannah Lumb, who raised her.

My favorite of the pile is The Letters of Mrs. Gaskell. It was an exciting find, published in the1960s (although there is a more recent edition) it contains a collection of her letters to friends and her daughter Marianne.What can be more charming than reading her own words and special turns of phrases? The anecdotes of her experiences and personalities of those around her.

As I read them I feel she's becoming a friend. Although it's a larger volume it's only a handful in comparison to the thousands she must have written during her lifetime. It's believed her other daughter Meta may have burnt many in a bonfire ...remind anyone else of Cassandra Austen? Others were destroyed during the World Wars. Further Letters of Mrs. Gaskell leaves some hope though, with some more which have been uncovered.

This afternoon when I checked my mail box I found Yvonne Ffrench's biography waiting. I'd previously read it at the Seattle library a few years back and am glad to have my own copy. From what I remember it's short and slightly critical of her writing, contrasting her with George Eliot. Barbara Brill's At Home with Elizabeth Gaskell and Winifred Gerin's biography are also on their way. I've seen the latter mentioned as one of the best out there so I'm curious to read it!

6 comments:

Diana said...

I adore Elizabeth Gaskell. I'm especially intrigued by this collection of her letters. I always enjoy reading letters written by authors. It seems like a special glimpse into their souls. I look forward your thoughts on these gems!

Caroline Helstone said...

Ooh, sounds exciting! Mrs Gaskell was one of your multitasking busybodies - her life should be interesting. No wonder her books are some of the most varied. Her letters should be fun. Her daughters said that many of her characters were remarkably similar to real people they knew. I saw a cheap edition in Hampstead but thinking of the lack of space on my shelf, decided not to buy it.

Emily Coleman said...

What a great project! I love Elizabeth Gaskell. I might read one or two of those. The letters look intriguing!

Felicia said...

I added some of the books listed to my wish list! Thanks for this post!

Caro said...

I'm ashamed to say I know nothing about Elizabeth Gaskell. All I know about her is that she wrote a biography of the Brontës. I really need to remedy that soon.
Lovely project! The letters especially seem amazing.

Elena said...

These sound very interesting. I read and loved Cranford last year and I think it's clearly underrated. I don't know why it is almost never included in literature programs along Dickens who, by the way, admired Gaskell.

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Maira Gall