The Gaskell Society

The Gaskell Society

Celebrating the life and work of Elizabeth Gaskell

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The Joan Leach Memorial Lecture

A Cranford Reader: Margaret Leicester Warren (1847–1921) of Tabley House

Pic: Wikimedia Commons

We’re delighted to welcome Sarah Webb, a trustee of the Tabley House Collection.

In 1861 Margaret Leicester Warren (1847-1921) read Cranford.  She was not impressed.  This novel of devoted sisters, female friendship and the precariousness of female lives did not appeal to her.  She gave it one star.

Margaret’s own life was mapped out by her parents, Lord and Lady de Tabley.  It included an acceptable courtship and marriage to a wealthy and hopefully titled eligible man.  But things did not run according to  plan, and as Margaret’s life progressed, the echoes of Cranford grew more noticeable.  There was her ‘love affair of long ago’ with a cousin, opposed by her parents. Inevitably, she rejected him, just as Miss Matty rejected Thomas Holbrook because of family disapproval.  Margaret felt destined for singledom while longing, like Miss Matty, for a child of her own.

A later, disastrous marriage led to abandonment and social isolation, but in its after-effects, the echoes of Cranford were again redolent.  Margaret’s life was salvaged by her Amazonian sister Catherine Leicester Warren and her devoted circle of female friends.  With her sister she raised her daughter on ‘a genteel competency’ and was supported by her loyal friends such as Mary Gladstone.

Just as Cranford closed with ‘peace and kindliness’ so Margaret’s life ended in 1921, long after she had first read the novel.  She was mourned by her family and friends, who all attested that they were ‘all of us better’ for having known and loved Margaret Leicester Warren

10.30am – Coffee

11am – The Joan Leach Memorial Lecture

12noon – Bring your own picnic lunch. Tea/coffee will be available.

1pm – Finish

Cost: £5 members, £6 non-members. A recording of the talk will be available for ticket holders after the event. We’re sorry that we can’t live-stream, due to the venue acoustics.