26 January, 2009

Elizabeth Gaskell Connections & Chronology

I discovered a definite connection between Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell, and have enjoyed reading some letters between the two this past weekend.

What got my interest going on this...

While watching the BBC version of Elizabeth Gaskell's "North and South" recently, I thought to myself how Gaskell's story was like a neat hybrid of Jane Austen (or even Charlotte Bronte) and Charles Dickens. I had not read the book, yet (for shame, I know!) and wondered if the movie adhered closely to the book. I have since read that there are just a couple of changes for the movie. I look forward to seeing what they are.

I have read most of Wives and Daughters (EG's unfinished novel because of her early death) and am two-thirds of the way through Cranford. Wives and Daughters (the movie) follows the book quite well, but Cranford is very different...whole parts of the movie are made up, other parts are rearranged or enbellished that were not in the book as I've read it so far.

That set me to thinking about Gaskell, her contemporaries, and who had input or influence in her life.

This interesting chart is from my copy of Cranford, copyright 1909:

(click to enlarge)

The notes are helpful, but I was ever so excited when I found the Norton Critical Edition of North and South at our library last week. In it are letters from Charles Dickens to Mrs. Gaskell, as some of her work was printed by Dickens, in serial form (in weekly, numbered appearances) in his magazine called "Household Words." He liked her writing and her ideas, but shared (in all manner of gentlemanly fashion) his opinion of an occasional edit needed in order for a particular scene to fit into his magazine.

I was excited to find out that there was a relationship between the two authors, and that his input had some bearing on her work. As well, Gaskell was one of few friends to Charlotte Bronte, and Gaskell even wrote a biography of Miss Bronte. There is at least one letter that EG wrote to Bronte for input on North and South, and a letter back from her. Other letters included are from Thackery, John Forster (friend of EG and of Dickens, who became principal biographer of Dickens), Harriet Beecher Stowe, and several others.

I think I may have to find a copy of this book for our library, because two weeks is simply not long enough to 1) read all of North and South, 2) pour over the details of various literary criticisms from EG's own time, but also 3) read the extra letters, notes, the short story of "Lizzie Leigh," (written in 1850) also set in an industrial town in England.

Stay tuned for more thoughts on this topic in the near future.

Ciao for now,



Sherry said...

Yes, I read Mrs. Gaskell's biography of Charlotte Bronte a long time ago, and I remember it being quite interesting.

Ellie said...

I love [the movie] North & South! I think it would be interesting to read the book...