The Gaskell Society

The Gaskell Society

Celebrating the life and work of Elizabeth Gaskell

To celebrate our forthcoming Conference in Caernarfon, North Wales, Dr Diane Duffy has revisited the works and letters of Elizabeth and her family to learn more about their links with Wales. 

I had completed my alterations at the house, erected stables, cow house &c,… by the year 1829, amongst my visitors was my cousin Miss Eliza Stevenson (afterwards Mrs Gaskell who wrote so many novels ) one of which she began to write while staying with me.

Samuel Holland’s Memoirs

We enjoyed our stay in Aber very much indeed-and were not a little loath to leave it last Monday, though hope was leading us on to still more beautiful and grander scenes.
Honeymoon Sept 1832 from William Gaskell to Lizzie Gaskell

BEAU MARIS and the sea shining and sparkling in the morning light, and on our right the hills covered with the richest and warmest tints, and the air so fresh and pure…
Sept 1832 from William Gaskell to Lizzie Gaskell

…the pass of  Llanberis ..the wondrous wildness and rugged grandeur of the scene.
Sept 1832 from William Gaskell to Lizzie Gaskell

We have not had good weather since we came-but on Saturday we had a delightful drive as far as Tan y Bwlch.
Sept 1832 from William Gaskell to Lizzie Gaskell

Beaumaris itself I remember as a pretty watering place, as watering places go; but not wild or grand…; and it is rather tantalising to see mountains without being able to get at them…
Sept 1832 from William Gaskell to Lizzie Gaskell

I know Cwm Morfyn Lake very well. Lucy and I walked there from Ffestiniog late autumn, and I fancy that in dry weather it would be a very pleasant place for a picnic.
July 1838 To Lizzie Gaskell

[Cwm Morfyn Lake]…was as wet and boggy as one could desire and I sopped my feet completely, and went into one of these little cottages to take off my shoes and stockings…the old woman cd speak no English and we no Welsh, but we had merry laughs…and a good piece of oatcake…
July 1838 To Lizzie Gaskell

It is as well that you come down gradually from mountains; not all at once from Snowdonia to flat Lancashire.
July 1838 To Lizzie Gaskell

I remember when I first came from spending a happy fortnight at Plas Brereton (nr Caernarvon you know)* to Liverpool I used to get on a little knoll from which I could see the Welsh hills, and think of all those places beyond again.
July 1838 To Lizzie Gaskell
*Built around 1820 by Thomas Turner (c 1811-1873), a magistrate, mayor (1846 to 1848), and High Sheriff of Carnarvonshire.

Some of us got into a little boat to go across the Straits to service in Bangor Cathedral , but the waves were raging white, & Miss Brendon and Miss Florence were so much frightened we put back.
1853 to Marianne, from Glyn Garth

Today is it planned that we should go to Holyhead if it will but be fine, which it is not now I am sorry to say. It has rained almost ever since we came here.
1853 to Marianne 

All the James Martineau’s come tomorrow. They are at Pendryffryn; I wish they weren’t coming,- I like to range about ad libitum & sit out looking at the views &c; not talking sense by the yard.
1853 to Marianne 

Pen-Morfa, against the walls of whose cottages the winter tides lashed in former days, has come to stand, high and dry, three miles from the sea, on a disused road to Caernarvon.

I do not think there has been a new cottage built in Pen-Morfa this hundred years, and many an old one has dates… which tell of the fifteenth century. The joists of timber… are blackened with the smoke of centuries.

Welsh Wales. I think they might call Pen-Morfa a Welsh Welsh village; it is so national in its ways, and buildings, and inhabitants, and so different from the towns and hamlets into which the English throng in summer.

…rocks high above Pen-Morfa…sweep away, and are lost in the plain. Everywhere they are beautiful. The great, sharp ledges, which would otherwise look hard and cold, are adorned with the brightest-coloured moss, and the golden lichen.

I could tell you of a great deal which is peculiar and wild in these true Welsh people, who are what I suppose we English were a century ago; but I must hasten on to my tale.
‘The Well of Pen Morfa’ Ch 1

The valleys around were filled with thick cold mist, which had crept up the hillsides till the hamlet itself was folded in its white dense curtain, and from the inn-windows nothing was seen of the beautiful scenery around.
Ruth Ch  V

the Welsh tell…this flower is sacred to the fairies, and that it has the power of recognising them, and all spiritual beings who pass by, and that it bows in deference to them…Its Welsh name is Maneg Ellyllyn—the good people’s glove; and hence…our folk’s-glove or fox-glove

she saw the mountains which girdled Llan-dhu, and saw the sun rise from behind their iron outline, just as it had done—how long ago?
Mr Benson to Ruth