Online Event: Female Friendship in Literary Lives – ‘Friendship is certainly the finest balm’
Join our four literary houses in an evening to celebrate female friendships to mark International Women’s Day. We’ll be looking at the influence these relationships had on the works and in the lives of some of Britain’s most loved writers.
Jane Austen and Madame Lefroy
One of Jane Austen’s dearest friends was her Hampshire neighbour, Mrs Anne Lefroy. Although she was 26 years older than Jane and mother to six children, Mrs Lefroy and Jane shared many interests including writing, literature and poetry, which they discussed avidly. In this section we’ll get to know Mrs Lefroy, who was a fascinating figure in her own right – a published poet, society hostess, school mistress and nurse, she personally administered smallpox vaccines to her Hampshire neighbours every winter. After her tragic death in 1804, Jane Austen commemorated her ‘Beloved friend’ in a heartfelt poem, that we’ll also share.
Elizabeth Gaskell and Tottie Fox – ‘we must love our friends for their sakes rather than for our own’
Elizabeth Gaskell found strong female friendship with the fabulously named Eliza ‘Tottie’ Fox.
Tottie was an artist and educationalist who enjoyed Elizabeth’s intimate, funny letters and encouraged her to join early feminist campaigns. Dr Diane Duffy reveals the close friendship that supported Elizabeth through her many literary and personal challenges.
Three’s a charm’ – Charlotte Bronte, Mary and Ellen
Charlotte’s most important and most enduring friendships were also her first – Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor, who she met at Roe Head School. In this section we’ll look at how important these friendships were, to both Charlotte’s life then and what we know about her life now.
Mary Wollstonecraft and Amelia Opie
In the Spring of 1796, 26-year old Amelia Alderson (later Opie) met feminist philosopher and writer Mary Wollstonecraft. In the year of their friendship before Wollstonecraft’s life was tragically cut short after the birth of her second daughter, they exchanged letters – of which a few survive – and developed a close friendship, commenting on one another’s work, discussing events in Revolutionary France, and sharing information about mutual friends including the writers Mary Hays and Elizabeth Inchbald. In this section, we explore the relationship between these two extraordinary women, and the ways that Wollstonecraft’s ideas lived on in the work of Opie, who became a prolific novelist and activist later in life.
Thursday 7 March, 8-9.30pm
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Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is run by Manchester Historic Buildings Trust (charity no. 1080606) and all money gained through private tours, talks, room hire and ticket sales goes towards the ongoing maintenance and running costs of the House. If you would like to support the House with an additional donation you can do so via this link.
8pm - 9.30pm