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Elizabeth Gaskell and Charlotte Brontë

Past display archive
7 September 2010 - 25 April 2011

Room 27


Elizabeth Gaskell
by George Richmond
NPG 1720

To mark the bicentenary of Elizabeth Gaskell's birth, this display highlights the famous novelist's friendship with one of her contemporaries, the equally renowned writer, Charlotte Brontë. Comprised of the two chalk portraits done within a year of each other by the society portraitist, George Richmond, the display brings their personalities into focus and shows how their friendship was underpinned by similar creative ambitions and a shared interest in social reform.

After Bronte's untimely death in 1855, Gaskell wrote a controversial biography of her friend that set new standards for the life-writing of female authors. Her Life of Charlotte Bronte (1857) was a great literary success, and allowed Gaskell, as does this display, to draw attention to the role of the professional woman writer in the nineteenth century and the idea of literary genius in a feminine form.