Gaskell House Blogs

It’s 1853 in our time line series!

12th August 2021
in blog, Events, Literature, People, Volunteering

It’s a hugely busy year for Elizabeth Gaskell! On January 10, Ruth – perhaps Gaskell’s most controversial novel – is published. Frankly confronting Victorian attitudes to seduction and illegitimacy, it was never going to have an easy reception – it was a brave book for Gaskell to write. Published in three volumes on January 10 by Chapman and Hall, it cost £1/11/6 (£1.57.5p) and Gaskell received £500 for the copyright. Between January and May, five instalments of Cranford appear in Household Words. She also prepares a stand-alone piece, Cumberland Sheep Shearers, for the magazine which appears on January 22. Her output is truly prodigious – the first and second parts of Morton Hall and My French Master are in Household Words in November and December. Every issue of the magazine this year seems to include Elizabeth Gaskell!

Reading accounts of her 1853 travel and visiting schedule leaves me breathless! In the middle of May, she’s in Paris with William, then spending time in London from the end of the month until the middle of June. She’s away for the whole of July in Wales, and then travelling in France. And this is the year that she and Charlotte Bronte cement their friendship. Charlotte Bronte has a week at Plymouth Grove from April 21 to 28. After this visit, Gaskell writes : I thoroughly loved her before she left, – and I was so sorry for her! She has had so little kindness & affection shown to her; she said that she was afraid of loving me as much as she could , because she had never been able to inspire the kind of love she felt. Gaskell returned this visit later in the year when she stayed with Charlotte Bronte at Haworth in September. After she leaves, Charlotte writes: After you left, the house felt very much as if the shutters had been suddenly closed and the blinds let down. One was sensible during the remainder of the day of a depressing silence, shadow, loss and want. However, if the going away was sad, the stay was pleasant and did permanent good.

So what’s happening in the rest of the world?

  • On January 28, Charlotte Bronte’s Villette is published. Charles Dickens’ Bleak House continues to be serialised in Household Words and later in the year is published by Bradbury & Evans in book form.
  • Were there queues? On February 4, the Halifax Permanent Benefit Building Society takes its first payment.
  • In March, Levi Strauss and Co is founded in San Francisco – who knew we’ve been wearing jeans for 170 years!
  • Manchester is granted City status by letters patent on March 29,.
  • On March 30, Vincent Van Gogh is born in Zundert in Holland.
  • In May, the first public aquarium opens at London Zoo.
  • Over the summer, John Everett Millais is with the Ruskins at the Brig o’Turk in Scotland, painting what will be one of his most famous portraits – that of John Ruskin. Cue love and Victorian scandal!
  • On August 24, tradition has it – though it is often disputed! – that in Saratoga, George Crum invents the chip!
  • In September, the first pillar box on the British mainland goes up in Carlisle.
  • It’s a big year for chocolate lovers! JS Fry and Sons of Bristol launch the Cream Stick – the very first mass-produced and affordable chocolate bar. Fast forward to 1866, and the Cream Stick is re-formulated and launched as our well loved Fry’s Chocolate Cream!

If you want to know more about some key years in Gaskell’s life check out others of our timeline series here, here and here.

Lesley – Volunteer at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

Possibly the best second-hand book shop in Manchester

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