Elizabeth Gaskell born on this date in 1810. Mrs. Gaskell, as she is known, was the wife of a Unitarian minister; she started her writing career as a way to assuage her grief over the death of her infant son. As a result of her husband’s work, Mrs. Gaskell met many luminaries including Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Ruskin, and Charles Dickens. She was asked by Dickens to create a sketch for publication in his journal Household Words; the sketch became very popular and eventually evolved into the novel Cranford, which depicts the quite country life of “elegant economy” lived by unmarried women in an English village.
Perhaps Mrs. Gaskell’s most famous relationship is her friendship with fellow author Charlotte Brontë. The two wrote to each other, and Mrs. Gaskell eventually went to the Brontë home in Haworth. After Brontë died, Mrs. Gaskell wrote the biography, The Life of Charlotte Brontë, which was for many years the definitive biography of the reclusive author. However, Mrs. Gaskell unintentionally laid the foundation for many misconceptions that have persisted about the Brontë sisters and their work.