chapter  3
16 Pages

Illustrating the Everyday: Illustration and Text in Gaskell’s ‘Wives and Daughters’

ByAlan Shelston

On 1 March 1860 Elizabeth Gaskell wrote to George Smith of Smith Elder, publisher of The Cornhill Magazine, thanking him for some autographs by Thackeray which he had sent her. Gaskell's career stretched over the mid-Victorian decades and in itself illustrates developments within the novel form. Mary Barton and North and South established her reputation as an 'industrial' novelist, but she had a deep affection for the hierarchies of provincial society. The Cornhill publications of the mid-1860s reflect the early stages of Du Maurier's career following his work on sensational texts, and, albeit unexpectedly, the last stages of Gaskell's. For her part Gaskell readily accepted Smith's invitation to write the full-length novel which became 'Wives and Daughters'. The opening instalment of 'Wives and Daughters' is retrospective; the next moves forward to Molly's seventeenth year. This everyday story will reveal the pains and difficulties of daily life: friendships, deaths, self-seeking, human weakness and the development of love.