Actresses in the tv adaptation in 1830s dress


Wives and Daughters: An exciting events programme for you in 2024

15th December 2023
in Events, Literature, news

Sometimes one likes foolish people for their folly, better than wise people for their wisdom.’

Wives and Daughters was Elizabeth Gaskell’s last, and unfinished, novel. It has been called ‘the most underrated novel in English’. The story centers on young Molly’s response to her father’s new marriage and its impact on those around her. Set in a small English country town, the book is a literary masterpiece. Its wit and charm are often compared to writers like Jane Austen and George Eliot.

Three women in 1830s period dress from Tv adaptation

In 2024 you can join a host of events celebrating this fascinating novel and TV series.

Take a look at the social and personal context in which the book was written and then try talks on everything from historic locations, characters, ‘missing’ mothers and the ITV television adaptation.

Watch this space as more events are added all throughout the year.

All talks are online and £5 per person unless otherwise stated. All previous event recordings are available for purchase and if you book, you will receive the recording whether you watch live or not – please see our FAQ. You can also support the house by buying Wives and Daughters from our online shop.

So, read on and see what awaits you…

Online Talk: Wives and Daughters- TV Classic

Wednesday 17 April 2024, 7-8pm

The BBC TV adaptation of Wives and Daughters was hailed as the rediscovery of a ‘forgotten’ classic when it was broadcast in 1999. The series featured a wealth of stars including Francesca Annis, Keeley Hawes and a BAFTA-winning Michael Gambon. Andrew’s Davies’ screenplay pealed back the layers of Elizabeth Gaskell’s final novel. The TV series reflected both the book’s comedy and the pathos of provincial life.

The classic novel and TV adaptation vividly portraits life in the 1830s, but the character study and relationships between family members will be familiar to any age. Enjoy a wealth of characters from young Molly and her put-upon father to the rural squire and the scheming wife. Libby Tempest takes a closer look at the faithful adaptation of Wives and Daughters from page to screen.

Tv Show image

The speaker was fantastic, warm, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and full of infectious love for her subject’ Visitor to previous Libby Tempest event

Ticket £5

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Online Talk: Cynthia V Molly: ‘Love me as I am, sweet one, for I shall never be better.

Wednesday 12 June 2024, 7-8pm

Molly is the moral heart of classic novel Wives and Daughters, but it is her flawed step-sister Cynthia who may appeal to readers more. The two girls are a study in comparisons. Molly is concerned with goodness, while Cynthia’s relationship with her ghastly mother Mrs Gibson echoes that of Lizzie and Mrs Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s final novel is a masterpiece of character observation. She shows the two women in their full complexity, using humour and poignancy.

Now Sherry Ashworth compares and contrasts these two unique characters written by Elizabeth at the height of her literary powers.

Truly found well organised, technically good and great insights’ Audience feedback

Ticket £5

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Online Event: As Seen on Screen – Costume in TV Adaptations

Wednesday 10 July, 7-8pm

Join Curator Elinor Camille-Wood as she takes you on a riotous journey through the fabulously outrageous fashions of the 1830s, the time Elizabeth Gaskell set her novel, Wives and Daughters. Discover what the characters would have worn from large sleeves to intricate hairstyles in a period of flamboyant ladies and fashionable gentleman.

The talk will include a discussion about the costumes worn in the 1999 BBC adaptation of Wives and Daughters and other notable on screen dramas such as BBC’s Gentleman JackPride and Prejudice and Poldark.

Elinor Camille-Wood is a freelance Curator whose previous roles have included working with a variety of museums across Yorkshire and most recently with Calderdale Museums opening a Fashion Gallery at Bankfield Museum, Halifax. She has curated several fashion exhibitions across both Bankfield Museum and Shibden Hall including the hugely popular ‘Costumes from Gentleman Jack’.

Tickets £5

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Online Talk: Charles Darwin – Literary Science in Wives and Daughters

Wednesday 4 September, 7-8pm

Elizabeth Gaskell’s final novel Wives and Daughters explores the Victorian interest in science and logic through the character of Roger Hamley and the gentleman scientist Lord Hollingford. Roger was heavily based on the famous evolutionary scientist, and author of The Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin. Wives and Daughters was Darwin’s favourite novel and he had it re-read to him on his deathbed. Discover how Elizabeth’s knowledge of the public debates around science influenced her story-telling in her last literary masterpiece. With speaker Gordon Chancellor.

If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week.” Charles Darwin

Darwin’s ship, The Beagle, in South America. Watercolour painted by ship’s artist Conrad Martens.

Ticket £5

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Online Event: Wives and Daughters V Mansfield Park – The Domestic Novel

Wednesday 18 September, 7-8pm

Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell are two of the nation’s best-loved authors. Rightly lauded for their classic works, they are often depicted as writing about marriage and the narrow social confines of women’s lives. Now, we look at them afresh as we explore the ‘domestic novel’ of the 19th century.

Many Georgian and Victorian stories focused on the life of girls from the gentry, or middle-classes, and the minutiae of their daily lives.

Austen’s classic novel Mansfield Park tells the story of Fanny Price who lives on the edge of family life with her richer relatives, trying to navigate love and loneliness. Elizabeth Gaskell’s last novel Wives and Daughters shows the coming of age of heroine Molly Gibson in a small English country town.

Both girls are central characters, observant of the people around them and recognised by others for their goodness. But reading between the lines, what hints does each author give us about domestic life? What do they have to say about women’s lives? And do they support or challenge the status quo?

A partnership event with Jane Austen’s House.

Elizabeth Williams conveyed her intimate knowledge of Gaskell’s life and works lightly and easily. I learnt a lot, quickly and effortlessly.’  Audience member

Ticket £5

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Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot – Wives and Daughters V Middlemarch

One must not judge others.’

Wednesday 2 October, 7-8.15pm

Two giants of Victorian literature, Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot were very different in almost every way. George Eliot was private and intellectual while Elizabeth was outgoing, gossipy and deeply shocked by the scandal of her fellow writer’s personal life. So how did these differences affect their work? How did they approach similar themes such as provincial life, women’s education, humorous characters and the inner life?

George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell

What are the similarities (and differences) in novels such as Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters and George Eliot’s Middlemarch? And what did each author really think of the other? Join Dr Diane Duffy and Professor Ruth Livesey for a closer look at two unique writers and their literary masterpieces.

A partnership event with The George Eliot Fellowship.

I enjoyed Diane Duffy’s knowledge & expertise – and lovely humorous delivery.’ Previous audience member

Ticket £5

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Online Event – Unmarried Women: A Life of Freedom?

Wednesday 16 October, 7-8pm

Elizabeth Gaskell’s last novel, Wives and Daughters, explored the position of women in 19th century society and the pressure on them to marry. Her book had much to say about marriage, including storylines like Mrs Gibson’s marriage of necessity, Cynthia’s secret engagement and Molly’s hoped-for love-match. Now we compare fiction with reality in this special dual talk on Unmarried Women.

Firstly, popular speaker Elizabeth Williams explores the life and options for unmarried women in Wives and Daughters and other Elizabeth Gaskell novels. How did the writer view marriage? Did she suggest other options to her readers?

Secondly, writer Charlotte Furness introduces four historical women who each challenged and defied the societal expectations of their times by making the conscious decision not to marry a man. She brings to light the life and times of Anne Lister of Shibden Hall, Elizabeth Isham of Lamport Hall, Anne Robinson of Saltram and Rosalie Chichester of Arlington Court. To what extent could these real women live the life they wanted?

Join us for an evening looking at unmarried women in fact and fiction. PS We know that Anne Lister was, now rather famously, actually married to another woman but we are looking at women who rejected social expectations of traditional marriage.

Elizabeth Williams conveyed her intimate knowledge of Gaskell’s life and works lightly and easily. I learnt a lot, quickly and effortlessly.’  Audience member

Ticket £5

Book now

Watch this space – more events to be added soon!

Wives and Daughters Recordings Available

We record almost all our talks and they are available to watch for a donation to the House. Please see the link to our Events FAQs for details and there is more information on the talks available below.

Online Talk: Wives and Daughters – An Introduction

Recorded Wednesday 17 January 2024

Our season of Wives and Daughters events began with a special introduction to Elizabeth Gaskell’s final book. The novel tells the story of Molly Gibson as she grows up in a rural English town with her doctor father, difficult stepmother and beautiful stepsister. You can find out more about the context in which the book was written, including Victorian social change and Elizabeth’s personal life. Wives and Daughters teems with understated wit, offering a wry social commentary on rural life. Watch popular speaker Elizabeth Williams as she introduces us to this classic novel.

Online Talk: The Real Wives and Daughters Locations

Recorded Wednesday 31 January 2024

Enjoy a literary journey of discovery as Dr Diane Duffy takes you on a virtual visit to the places, buildings and landmarks featured in Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic novel Wives and Daughters. Extracts from the book map the way to locations around Knutsford and the Cheshire countryside. This intriguing talk will interest anyone who wants to find out more about the historic reality of Elizabeth’s writing and Victorian life.

Online Talk: Missing Mother – Motherless Girls in Literature

Recorded Wednesday 20 March 2024

Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Shelley, the Brontë sisters and George Eliot were all relatively young when they lost their mothers. Moreover, all of them created female characters who are affected by the loss of a mother. But is this necessarily a bad thing? What are the drawbacks and the freedoms of being motherless in Victorian fiction? Starting with Elizabeth Gaskell’s heroine Molly in Wives and Daughters, Sherry Ashworth gives this insightful talk looking at the importance of missing mothers in classic literature.

We've got a certainly is a beauty...I must try and make the house give as much pleasure to others as I can.’

Elizabeth Gaskell, in a letter to her friend Eliza Fox in 1850.