Subtitled 'A Tale of Manchester Life', Elizabeth Gaskell’s (1810-1865) first novel (published anonymously in 1848) is classed as a ‘Condition of England’ work. It conveys contemporary concerns about the destructive effects of industrialisation. Thomas Carlyle termed this period the ‘mechanical age’, and forecast revolution if changes were not effected. Gaskell was married to a Unitarian minister, and was deeply aware of the need for improved working conditions; for education, and for sanitary reform. The novel's working-class heroine is torn between affection for two very different men, one from her own class, the other an industrialist’s son.
- Article by:
- John Sutherland
- The novel 1832–1880
Professor John Sutherland explores the personal and social circumstances that prompted Elizabeth Gaskell to write Mary Barton, her novel describing industrial poverty in Manchester during the 'hungry forties'.
- Article by:
- Sophie Ratcliffe
- Poverty and the working classes, Technology and science
Writers such as Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell and Charlotte Brontë illuminated contemporary social problems through detailed descriptions of poverty and inequality. Dr Sophie Ratcliffe considers how the Condition of England novel portrayed 19th-century society, and the extent of its calls for reform.
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