The Gaskell Society

The Gaskell Society

Celebrating the life and work of Elizabeth Gaskell

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Manchester Meeting – Mr Darwin & Mrs Gaskell

Tuesday 4 October, 2022, 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm BST

£5 – £6

Mr Darwin and Mrs Gaskell: a tale of two storytellers

In October, we welcome Gordon Chancellor, who will examine the many connections between Charles Darwin and Elizabeth Gaskell, both in their family lives and in their work as great Victorian storytellers. They were distantly related via the Wedgwoods and Hollands and they both had daughters whose lives were intertwined for decades. 

Darwin and Gaskell both found fame through their writing in the 1840s, Darwin for his Voyage of the Beagle and Gaskell for her Mary Barton – both then went on to write many other books. Darwin was a great admirer of Gaskell’s novels and Gaskell’s masterpiece Wives and Daughters (1866) features the young scientist Roger Hamley, who was modelled on Darwin. She alludes in the book to Hamley’s admiration of the French naturalist Étienne Geoffroy St Hilaire whose rivalry with his former assistant Georges Cuvier was a great cause célèbre in the 1830s. Gaskell was familiar with the Portico Library’s copy of Cuvier’s Règne Animal and she met Geoffroy’s son while in Paris in the 1860s. Certainly, Wives and Daughters was Darwin’s favourite novel and he had it re-read to him on his deathbed.

In addition to exploring their family connections and providing an overview of Darwin’s life and work, especially the background to and impact of his theory of evolution, the talk will focus on Gaskell’s relationships with those scientists and thinkers whose work impinged on Darwin’s work. 

Gordon Chancellor recently retired from a career in museums and archives and is now researching the great naturalist Charles Darwin. Having been brought up in a maritime environment and trained as a geologist, Gordon has always been fascinated by the voyage of HMS Beagle (1831-1836) which led to Darwin’s masterpiece On the Origin of Species (1859). Gordon is currently intrigued by the evolution of human art, especially storytelling both in fiction and in explanation, as a means to develop the understanding and co-operation which has made our species so successful. Gordon is an Associate Editor of Darwin Online and co-author of Charles Darwin’s Notebooks from the Voyage of HMS Beagle (Cambridge University Press 2009).

Doors open at 1pm – the chapel will be selling tea and coffee and you are most welcome to bring a packed lunch! The talk begins at 1.30pm.

All are welcome.

£5 members, £6 non-members

This talk takes place in person in Manchester, but we have made a video recording of the talk available until 8 November 2022.


Tuesday 4 October, 2022
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm BST
£5 – £6
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Cross Street Chapel
Cross Street,
Manchester, M2 1NL United Kingdom
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