Wives and Daughters season at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House online

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor
Elizabeth Gaskell's House

Until 30 November 2024 Tickets from £5.00 — Book now

Each year, the team at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House on Manchester’s Plymouth Grove picks one of the famous 19th-century author’s texts to take – in modern parlance – a deep dive into: in 2024, it’s the turn of Wives and Daughters.

Throughout the next 12 months, you can enjoy a host of events celebrating this fascinating novel and TV adaptation and, going on previous feedback, you can some expect great insights from enthusiastic and knowledgeable speakers. Audiences will have the chance to find out more about the context in which the book was written, including a background to Elizabeth Gaskell’s personal life and the influence of the industrial Manchester in which she lived.

So far, we’ve studied the novels Cranford and North And South by Chorlton-on-Medlock’s most famous writer, and in 2023 it was the turn of Mary Barton: A Tale Of Manchester Life – Gaskell’s first novel. From there, we jump to her last, and unfinished, work, Wives and Daughters, a literary masterpiece that is described as ‘the most underrated novel in English’ but which shows Gaskell at the height of her literary powers.

Wives and Daughters is set in a small English country town, based, we’re told, on Knutsford, with the big house being a loose version of Tatton. The story centres on young Molly Gibson’s response to her doctor father’s new marriage and its impact (and that of her difficult stepmother and beautiful stepsister) on those around her, and the novel teems with understated wit, revealing Elizabeth Gaskell’s skill at comedy and offering a wry social commentary on rural life.

The Wives and Daughters season starts with a full introduction to the novel, looking at the social and personal context in which it was written; read on for details of all the talks lined up for the year so far and watch this space as more events are added, including an exciting new partnership with the George Eliot Fellowship.

Wives and Daughters – An Introduction (Wednesday 17 January) The Wives and Daughters season begins with a special introduction by popular speaker Elizabeth Williams to Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic novel when you can find out more about the context in which the book was written, including Victorian social change.

The Real Wives and Daughters Locations (Wednesday 31 January) Enjoy a literary journey of discovery as Dr Diane Duffy takes you on a virtual visit to the places, buildings and landmarks of the Cheshire countryside featured in Wives and Daughters. This intriguing talk promises to interest anyone who wants to find out more about the historic reality of Elizabeth’s writing and Victorian life.
Missing Mother – Motherless Girls in Literature (Wednesday 20 March) Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Shelley, the Brontë sisters and George Eliot were all relatively young when they lost their mothers, and all created female characters affected by the loss of a mother. But is this necessarily a bad thing? What were the drawbacks and the freedoms of being motherless in Victorian fiction? Join expert Sherry Ashworth for a closer look.
Wives and Daughters – A TV Classic (Wednesday 17 April) The BBC TV adaptation of 1830s-set Wives and Daughters was hailed as the rediscovery of a ‘forgotten’ classic when it was broadcast in 1999, with a screenplay by Andrew Davies and starring Francesca Annis, Keeley Hawes and Michael Gambon, who won a BAFTA for his role. Libby Tempest explores the adaptation from page to screen, which reveals the comedy and pathos of provincial life.
Cynthia v Molly ‘Love me as I am, sweet one, for I shall never be better’ (Wednesday 12 June) Molly and her flawed stepsister Cynthia are a study in comparisons. Molly is concerned with goodness, while Cynthia’s relationship with her ghastly mother Mrs Gibson echoes that of Lizzie and Mrs Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Compare and contrast these two unique characters with speaker Sherry Ashworth.

Charles Darwin and Literary Science in Wives and Daughters (Wednesday 4 September) The character of Roger was probably based on evolutionary scientist Charles Darwin, and Wives and Daughters was Darwin’s favourite novel. Gordon Chancellor will help you to discover how Elizabeth Gaskell’s knowledge of science debates influenced her storytelling.

Until 30 November 2024 Tickets from £5.00 Book now


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Where to go near Wives and Daughters season at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House online

caprismcr - restaurant
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Elegant cocktail bar in the centre of Manchester, with a relaxed atmosphere and wonderfully friendly staff.

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