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“What a certainty of instinctive faith I have in heaven, and in the Mama’s living on”: Unpublished letters of Mrs. Gaskell and unpublished Gaskell family letters.

William Baker, Northern Illinois University


1 I wish to thank the Department of Manuscripts and the British Library for permission to consult and quote from manuscripts in their holdings. Special thanks are due to Professor Donald Hawes for his assistance with the far from easy task of deciphering these holograph letters. Thanks are also due to Professors Peter Kitson and Nancy Henry for help with the Welsh references in Letter 3.

2 For Henry Crompton see The Dictionary of National Biography (DNB), Supplement (London: Oxford University Press, 1966 reprint), I, 445-446. See also T. R. Wright, The Religion of Humanity: The Impact of Comtean Positivism on Victorian Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1986): 118-119, and passim (subsequently cited as Wright). For Sir Charles John Crompton, see DNB., 5: 146-147.

3 The Letters of Mrs Gaskell, ed., J.A.V. Chapple and Arthur Pollard (Manchester: Mandolin [Manchester UP], 1997), 706, 505: subsequently cited as Letters, followed by page numbers.

4 William Gaskell to Eliza Gaskell, 16 September 1832, cited Jenny Uglow, Elizabeth Gaskell ‘A Habit of Stories’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1993): 80-81: subsequently cited as Uglow). See also J.A.V. Chapple, “The Gaskell Honeymoon,” Gaskell Society Newsletter, 9 (March 1990): 5-7 and Jo Pryke “Wales and the Welsh in Gaskell’s fiction,” Gaskell Society Journal, 13 (1999): 69-84.

5 Envelope addressed to “H. Crompton Esq | 27 Hyde Park Sq | London” and postmarked “No 27 | MANCHESTER 18 | [63].”

6 The rest of the letter is written in heavier brown ink on its first leaf over the opening sentences of the letter.

7 Proved in London, 17 August 1837 and 30 December 1837 (Uglow 634, n.1). Hannah Lamb in her will left Elizabeth Stevenson Gaskell “an annuity of £80, with the reversion at the death of Abigail Holland [d.1848] of the further half of her estate. The legacy marked the beginning of Elizabeth Gaskell’s financial independence” (Winifred Gerin, Elizabeth Gaskell: A Biography [Oxford: Oxford UP, 1976]: 58).

8 Elizabeth Gaskell wrote to Charles Eliot Norton, 4 July 1864: “Julia …left school ‘for good’ a fortnight ago” (Letters 733)

9 There are several possibilities. “Llewellyn Turner” could be a relative of the distinguished Unitarian minister William Turner (1761-1859), who retired to Manchester, and with whom Mrs. Gaskell spent part of her childhood. Or, it is possibly a reference to some of JMW Turner’s many drawings, watercolors and oils made as a result of his 1797-1798 tours in North Wales.

10 Probably Pendyffryn Hall near Conway, where Elizabeth Gaskell stayed in late November 1856: “The lovely and romantic residents of Mr. R., Duckinfield Darbishire.” He “used to invite Unitarian minister of Lancashire and Cheshire to take Sunday services in his drawing room” (Further Letters 163, n.1).

11 Son of Samuel Dunkinfield Darbyshire, old family friends from Manchester.

12 A reference to Beddgelert’s famous historical feature “Gelert’s grave.” According to legend, the stone monument in the fields marks the resting place of “Gelert” the faithful hound of the medieval Welsh Prince Llywellyn the Great. In the 7th chapter of Ruth “gelert does not howl for nothing” (Ruth, ed., Nancy Henry [London: J.M. Dent, 2001]: 70).

13 The family of Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie (1817-1880), who became Professor of chemistry at Oxford, in 1865. They were old friends of the Gaskells.

14 Plymouth Grove, where Mrs. Gaskell lived from midsummer 1850 until her death in 1865.

15 Mrs. Gaskell wrote to Mary Holland [c. late May 1860] “Cooks are dearer to me than cousins |, Of cousins I’ll get many an one | Of cooks perhaps ne’er anither” and a cook is coming to see me on Friday afternoon. (Further Letters of Mrs. Gaskell 209): cf. Mrs. Gaskell to Marianne Gaskell [? 26 May 1860], and to Mrs. Fielden, 28th of May [1860] regarding servants and cooks (Letters, 617, 619).

16 Elizabeth Gaskell wrote to her daughter Marianne “I am so sorry to think that we shall never see the dear, kind judge again.” ([? 31 October 1865] Letters 781). In their “Introduction,” Chapple and Pollard comment that “the lament assumes an ironic tinge as we contemplate the fact” of Elizabeth Gaskell’s own imminent death (Letters xxiii).

17 This note is found with the previous letter and an envelope addressed to “The Lawn (?) | Holy bourne | nr Alton.” On the envelope, in another hand, is written “Telling of the | death of | Mrs. Gaskell.”

18 Letter written on black edged mourning paper. Envelope postmarked “E | NO 17 | MANCHESTER | 1865 | 30.” Addressed: “Henry Crompton | 22. Hyde Park Square | W. | London.” On back of envelope: “I went down to them at Alton on receipt of this HC.”

19 Written on the first leaf of the letter.

20 In an unknown hand on the letter which is written on black-edged mourning paper.

21 “Cranford” and “1870” written in a different hand from that of the letter.

22 Probably a reference to the engagement of Henry Crompton to Lucy Henrietta, daughter of John Romilly, first Lord Romilly. They married on the 8 November 1870. See The Letters of George Henry Lewes Volume III with New George Eliot Letters, ed., William Baker (Victoria, B. C., : English Literary Studies, 1999), 59.

23 “Crompton’s ‘Letters on Social and Political Subjects,’ reprinted from the ‘Sheffield Independent,’ were published in book form in 1870, and after his death some papers by him were collected under the title ‘Our Criminal Justice,’ with an introduction by Sir Kenelm Digby (1905)” (DNB [Supplement], I, 446).

24 Positivist dates.

25 John Morley (1838-1923), journalist, politician, biographer, and exponent of the ideas of the Positivist Auguste Comte: see Wright: 137-142.

26 Possibly the Birmingham Positivist John Oliver (see Wright: 255).


Page 1

"Letter 8"

"Letter 7"

"Letter 7"

"Letter 3"

"Letter 11"

"Biographical Appendix"

Page 13

"L 4"

"L 10"

"L 2"