Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell is one of the Victorian authors British readers love the most. She wrote very important social novels like Mary Barton and Ruth, and some other interesting novels like North and South, Cranford and Wives and Daughters. Italian readers have come to know these latters during the last years thanks to some recent Italian editions and to Laeffe’s broadcast of the perfectly strctured BBC dramas dubbed into Italian. Elizabeth Gaskell is also known for having written the very first biography of Charlotte Brontë, which caused a great stir at the time it was published. In fact, Gaskell had to work on it a lot and had to censor some parts to avoid penal provisions by the living people mentioned in it.
Elizabeth was a very sensitive woman regarding the social problems of her time. She lived in Manchester with her husband and her four daughters for fifteen years, from 1850 to her sudden death in 1865, in a very nice house in the suburbs of the city. In this house at 84, Plymouth Grove, the authoress hosted many literary guests like Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë, the American Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, e Charles Hallé. Today, readers, scholars and tourists from allover the world can visit the house, recently restored thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund grant.
In this very house you can really sense what the everyday life of the author, and of her family, was like. In fact, visitors can walk in the rooms where personal objects and the portraits of Gaskell’s daughters are on show. Furthermore, they can also visit the studio – full of books- of Gaskell’s husband, who was a Unitarian pastor; the elegant living room with the fireplace, core of many nights spent talking about literature; the dining room with the table set for six people, with the original, colorful, pottery set, and Elizabet’s writing desk, on which she wrote her novels and many of the letters she sent to friends and relatives. Outside the house visitors can enjoy the lovely garden and the Victorian plants and trees. On the facade there’s an oval blue plaque with the exact date Gaskell lived in the house.
Mes Gaskell’s house is supervised by volunteers, and today is a very important cultural centre hosting different kind of literary events and tours for tourists. They are usually welcomed in the basement where, in a tea room which is also a library, they can taste delicious cakes before taking their tours.