History

Elizabeth Gaskell

History

On 25 September 2010 a memorial to Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, novelist and biographer, was dedicated in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. It takes the form of a panel in the Hubbard memorial window, above Chaucer's tomb, which also includes memorials to Alexander Pope, Robert Herrick, A.E.Housman, Frances Burney, Oscar Wilde and Christopher Marlowe. The window was designed by Graham Jones. The inscription just gives her name and dates:

1810 Elizabeth Gaskell 1865

The panel was dedicated by her great-great-granddaughter Rosemary Dabbs and a wreath was laid. The address was given by Jenny Uglow, Vice-President of the Gaskell Society, and Elizabeth Williams, Chairman of the Society, read a lesson. 

Elizabeth Stevenson was born on 29 September 1810 in Chelsea in London, daughter of William and his wife Elizabeth (Holland). After her mother's death she spent her childhood in Knutsford in Cheshire, living with her aunt Hannah Lumb. The area formed a basis for her popular novel Cranford. In Manchester in 1831 she was introduced to William Gaskell, Assistant Minister at Cross Street Unitarian Chapel. After their marriage in 1832 Manchester became their family home. The house at 84 Plymouth Grove, Longsight, was occupied by the Gaskell family until 1913 and is now undergoing restoration. Their daughters were Marianne, Margaret, Florence and Julia but their son William died in infancy. Her varied writings include North and South, Mary Barton and Wives and Daughters. Her friend Charles Dickens helped to make her wriitings more well known when he published them in his magazine Household Words. She died of a heart attack on 12 November 1865 and was buried at Brook Street chapel cemetery in Knutsford.

A photograph of the memorial can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.

www.gaskellsociety.co.uk