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London & South East Gaskell Society Meeting

Saturday 8 February, 2020, 12:45 pm - 4:30 pm


Was it quite impossible but that your Ruth should die?: Elizabeth Gaskell’s self-sacrificial heroine and the Life of Charlotte Brontë 

A talk by Dr Angharad Eyre

How did Elizabeth Gaskell manage to present the controversial Charlotte Brontë as a popular Victorian heroine? This was no easy task, especially given Gaskell’s own disapproval of Brontë’s novels. Nevertheless, Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Brontë secured Brontë’s place in respectable Victorian culture for the rest of the century. This paper explores the various religious literary traditions that Gaskell drew upon – such as missionary life writing – to ensure her version of Brontë would gain a sympathetic audience. It suggests that Gaskell was prepared for the task of memorialising such a controversial woman writer by her earlier writing of the eponymous heroine of Ruth andwill show how Gaskell employed similar techniques in constructing both her heroines.

Angharad is a Teaching Associate at Queen Mary, University of London. She received her PhD in 2014 with a thesis on the influence of the female missionary on nineteenth-century women writers. A book version of the thesis is now being prepared for publication with Routledge. In 2015 Angharad carried out research on Charlotte Brontë’s friendship with Ellen Nussey as part of a Harry Ransom Center (University of Austin, Texas) fellowship, and in 2017 she gained a fellowship at the John Rylands Institute in Manchester to research Elizabeth Gaskell’s friendship with Charlotte Brontë. Her resulting article, ‘Elizabeth Gaskell and the Coarse Authorship of Charlotte Brontë: religious perspectives on women’s writing’, was published in Brontë Studies in 2019.   


All meetings are held at Francis Holland School for Girls, 39 Graham Terrace London SW1W 8JFThe school is only a three-minute walk from Sloane Square tube station on the District and Circle line. This central location means that the meeting is convenient for anyone interested  in Elizabeth Gaskell’s writing. 

Everyone is welcome any time after 12.45pm – please bring a packed lunch. Talks begin at 2pm and usually last about an hour. Each talk is followed by questions, and then tea is served.

At each meeting there is a bring-and-buy book stall in aid of The Gaskell House in Manchester. Please bring any books that you wish to rehome and which will be of interest to other members, marked with an appropriate price. If, at the end of the meeting, your books have not been sold, we will ask you to take them away with you again.

We ask for a contribution of £5.00 to cover speakers’ expenses, a donation to the school and tea. If you have any queries please contact Jenny Keaveney
07791 309784     

Come along – you will be sure of a friendly welcome!


Saturday 8 February, 2020
12:45 pm - 4:30 pm
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Francis Holland School
39 Graham Terrace
London, SW1W 8JF United Kingdom
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