The Gaskell Society

The Gaskell Society

Celebrating the life and work of Elizabeth Gaskell

On 31st May 2019, the Gaskell Society held a joint celebration at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in Manchester.  Members of the Gaskell Society committee joined with past and present editors of the Gaskell Journal to launch the long-awaited Index of the first thirty volumes, 1987-2017.  

As you are probably aware, an index, which makes searching academic journals so much easier, is far from easy to compile – the Gaskell Journal Index was no exception. It has been anticipated with excitement for some time and we were not disappointed. Sporting a colourful cover made up of the illustrations used for Gaskell’s published works it will make an attractive addition to any bookshelf. Judge a book by its cover and you judge it correctly – excellent. 

Libby Tempest, the current Chair of the Gaskell society, introduced the proceeding. She paid tribute and raised a glass to Janet Dudley, the indexer responsible for producing this masterpiece. Sadly Janet was unable to be present, so she was unable to receive personally the thanks she unquestionably deserves for her amazing achievement. We’ll be popping a gift in the post for her – an inscribed Folio Society edition of Cranford, illustrated by Joan Hassall. 

However, this was not the only highlight of the day. In addition,  the society was honouring Fran Baker, former archivist at the John Rylands’ Library Deansgate, now Librarian and Archivist at Chatsworth. Fran has been a constant friend of the Elizabeth Gaskell House and the Society and supporter of all things Gaskell.

In recognition of her work and dedication, Janet Allan, President of the Manchester Historic Buildings Trust,  presented Fran with two antiquarian copies of Gaskell works – a copy of Cousin Phillis, with colour illustrations by Wheelhouse, and a first edition of Lizzie Leigh and Other Tales, illustrated by Du Maurier and, published by Smith Elder. While Fran was delighted with her gift, she also delighted us by revealing a secret – a new Gaskell letter found in the archives at Chatsworth. We are now intrigued and eagerly await Fran’s promised article on this very exciting discovery.

The whole day was a resounding success and as you can see from the photographs, everyone had a thoroughly enjoyable time meeting up with old friends and – of course –  discussing Elizabeth Gaskell. I’m sure she would have been delighted to host such a gathering. As we know from her letters, one of her great loves was to share her home with friends. 

Diane Duffy