The Gaskell Society

The Gaskell Society

Celebrating the life and work of Elizabeth Gaskell

It doesn’t seem like nearly two years since we gathered in Caernarvon for our Gaskell Society Conference; but here we are in February 2024, finalising the details for yet another  conference, this time in Hinckley, the heart of George Eliot country. 

A sepia-coloured stamped, handwritten page from a Victorian passport
A page from Elizabeth Gaskell's own passport.
A woman in Victorian costume reads a book in a train
The Travelling Companions (detail), Augustus Leopold Egg (1816-1863)

Our theme this year is Female Travellers with a focus on Elizabeth Gaskell and her contemporaries and what could be more appropriate to think about at the start of July but enjoying a summer holiday.  Our speakers are now booked and I hope enthusiastic, abstracts of their talks and details of each speaker will appear on the website in due course.

As is usual with our conferences, the academic is always accompanied by the entertaining, and we are in the process of arranging some exciting visits to nearby places of interest. We hope to visit Lichfield which has a great number of attractions, not least the houses of Dr. Johnson, a very influential figure in the 18th century, and Erasmus Darwin who had clear connections to Elizabeth.  In the Cathedral,  there are also memorials to Anna Seward, a poet and a friend of Johnson’s who was aptly named the Swan of Lichfield and Lady Wortley Montague (1689-1762), herself a seasoned traveller, who brought the smallpox inoculation from Turkey and promoted it to Western medicine.

Another stop would be Nuneaton where George Eliot was born in 1819. Eliot was just nine years younger than Elizabeth.  On Friday night I will be looking at the use of real locations in Eliot’s work, with, of course, the prerequisite nod to Gaskell who was also fond of utilising real places as settings for her fiction. It will be interesting to see how these locations in Nuneaton live up to the descriptions Eliot gives in her writings. Eliot and Gaskell did communicate and they also enjoyed each other’s work. It is quite easy to make some comparisons between these women, their empathy, their belief in education, and a wonderful satirical eye.

Finally, our return home will be brightened up by a visit to Newstead Abbey, the home of Lord Byron (1788-1824).  Byron was probably the start of the celebrity culture which is all too popular today.  He was certainly a colourful character much talked about in society, but described by some as the greatest poet of his day. He too was a great traveller, living for many years in Italy and dying in Greece in 1824 aged thirty-six.  

We are all very excited about the conference and hope to see many of our friends in Hinkley for what should prove to be a wonderful long weekend – July 5th – July 8th 2024.

See the main conference page here.