Mrs Gaskell was born Elizabeth Stevenson in London in 1810. Her mother Eliza, the niece of the potter Josiah Wedgwood, died when she was a child. Much of her childhood was spent in Cheshire, where she lived with an aunt at Knutsford, a town she would later immortalise as Cranford. In 1832, she married a Unitarian minister, William Gaskell (who had a literary career of his own), and they settled in Manchester. The industrial surroundings offered her inspiration for her novels. Gaskell's first novel, Mary Barton, was published anonymously in 1848. The best-known of her other novels are Cranford (1853) and North and South (1855). Elizabeth met Charlotte Brontë in 1850, and they struck up a great friendship. After Charlotte's death in 1855, her father, the Reverend Patrick Brontë, asked Gaskell to write her biography to counteract gossip and speculation. The Life of Charlotte Brontë was published in 1857. Gaskell was also a skilled proponent of the ghost story. Her last novel, Wives and Daughters, said by many to be her most mature work remained unfinished at the time of her death in 1865.
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