A new exhibition, opening in April 2023, will explore how the Victorian writer Elizabeth Gaskell presented Manchester and its people through her novels and short stories, and the impact she had through her work.
Elizabeth was a true radical of her time, but as a woman the influence and importance of her writing has not been recognised by history in the way that it has for her male contemporaries. Seeking to redress this, A Tale of Manchester Life – Elizabeth Gaskell’s Manchester will take place in Elizabeth’s former home, now a heritage visitor attraction.
Elizabeth’s writings about the industrial North made a huge impression during her lifetime, not just for the choice of subject matter, but for the painstaking detail that she went into. In Mary Barton (published in 1848) her descriptions of the appalling state of impoverished workers in the industrial centres of the North and her sympathetic treatment of their plight was said to have been so powerful that it ‘pricked the conscience of a nation.’
To readers today as well as being works to enjoy, the detail and observations in novels such as North and South offers a window through to the past, with elements such as the living conditions and dialect of the time all perfectly recorded for prosperity.
The exhibition, the research for which is led by volunteers, will explore not only how the city of Manchester and its people are presented by Elizabeth Gaskell in her writing, but how relevant this is to the world today. And Elizabeth didn’t just write about poverty, class divide and inequality she was an active citizen that wanted to see change; how she went about this is also something that a visit to Elizabeth Gaskell’s House reveals in the recently opened Brontë Room.
A Tale of Manchester Life – Elizabeth Gaskell’s Manchester will be accompanied by a series of Family Friendly activities and online talks all of which will be bookable from https://elizabethgaskellhouse.co.uk/whats-on/.
The project has been made possible with support from Art Fund and some match funding from Museum Development North West.