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Home > Archived Newsletter Messages > Nancy Weyant eNewsletter No. 5

Archived Newsletter Messages

Nancy Weyant eNewsletter No. 5

Sent: December 18, 2012

eNewsletter No.  5                                                                                                                                                   December 18, 2012
Almost two years ago, when I posted my last newsletter (is it REALLY that long ago? SORRY!), I was still floating with a sense of euphoria from having attended the dedication of the stained glass window at Westminster Abbey (a window I fleetingly spotted when I was dutifully watching the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton). Being present for the celebration of the installation of that window in Poets Corner was such a special experience. The post-Evensong dedication was followed by a celebration in the Westminster School facility with wine, hors d’oeurves, a range of comments by Society officers and a reading from Gaskell’s letters by the actress/Gaskell Society member Miriam Margolyes. Ten months later, I returned to England to attend the biennial Gaskell Society Conference. Prior to heading to Winchester, the site of the 2011 Conference, I spent several days with Elizabeth and Brian Williams (Gaskell Society members, officers and friends) who graciously picked me up at the airport and, after establishing that I was not in need of a nap, took me to Quarry Bank Mill, a Heritage Site that boasts a restored, functioning Industrial Revolution-era cotton mill. Elizabeth Gaskell’s uncle, Peter Holland, was the doctor at this factory. The noise from the sights and sounds of the exhibits pulled me into the narrative of North and South. The next day, Elizabeth and I drove to Plymouth Grove where I was able to assess the progress in the restoration of the home occupied by the Gaskells from 1850 until their respective deaths. Elizabeth Williams gave me a “behind the scene” tour of the entire structure. WHAT A PRIVILEGE! As you may or may not know, this structure is about to close so the restoration work made possible by the major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (£1.85M) can move forward in a purposeful and timely manner. Most Exciting!
The 2011 Gaskell Conference was held just outside Winchester. The papers presented focused on comparisons between Gaskell and Jane Austen (their letters, their use of satire and domestic comedy), eighteenth-century novels by women, treatment of the Gothic by Gaskell and Charlotte Brontë and the family in the writings of Gaskell and Charlotte Yonge. These scholarly explorations were balanced with a range of afternoon trips to Winchester and to sites significant to the lives of both Gaskell (Holybourne, the village where Gaskell purchased the house in which she died) and Austen (Chawton). After the intensity of the programing for the bicentennial year, the Society’s officers are to be commended for having crafted a conference program with the range and depth of that in July, 2011.

During the Conference, in late-evening “chats”, a small group of members (including myself) revisited the idea of a Gaskell Society trip to America, focusing on the greater Boston area because of the Norton-Gaskell connection. Because I had lived and worked in Boston from 1968-1971 and because close college friends made Boston their life-time home, I have spent a lot of time in this WONDERFUL city. I volunteered to plan an event that would focus on places Gaskell might have visited, were she to have traveled to Boston in her lifetime or ours. The group that participated included Gaskellians from America, England, Japan and Greece. We stayed at the John Jeffries House, an exceptionally reasonable hotel on the edge of Beacon Hill within easy walking distance of the Charles Street MTA stop and numerous restaurants. Christine Bhatt, a member of the Gaskell Society is writing an article on the week-long event for the Spring issue of the Gaskell Society Newsletter. I don’t want to undermine her reporting skills so I will limit my comments here. Suffice it to say that we couldn’t have had better weather, better tour guides in Boston, Lexington, Concord, Hartford or Lowell or more articulate and insightful scholars at the Harriet Beecher Stow Center, Harvard, and the Lowell Campus of the University of Massachusetts. Highlights for me included walking the Black Heritage Trail, viewing Tom Recchio’s exceptional collection of editions of Cranford, seeing the manuscript of Lois the Witch the day after visiting Salem and, after almost forty years, returning to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library and Museum. I have long embraced the mantra “Every day you learn something new is a good day.” EVERY DAY OF THE BOSTON GASKELL TRIP WAS A GOOD DAY!

Without question, the most dramatic publishing trend involves NOT secondary sources but primary sources. Since the cut-off date of my last published annotated bibliography (2001), over 700 new editions of Gaskell’s works have been issued. For several reasons, this is not surprising. Firstly, the BBC’s televising of North and South, Cranford and Wives and Daughters certainly drew a new audience to Elizabeth Gaskell’s narrative skills. When one then factors in the concurrent event of the bicentennial of her birth and the emergence of a new publishing format (Kindle), the explosion of new editions is inevitable. Most of the new editions are in English. Some of these are new editions of established paperback series (Oxford World’s Classics, Penguin Classics, Norton Critical Editions, etc.) while others are reprints of earlier editions by small, new publishers. While new editions of her novels in French, German, Italian and Japanese translations have also been issued, it is noteworthy that scholarly editions of her novels are now also available in Spanish, Russian, Hungarian, Polish, Czech and Slovenian.
As I reviewed the secondary publications issued during the last six months, I am struck by several patters. In terms of simple numbers, I located 47 sources published between 2002 and 2011 and 49 published to date in 2012. In the 2002-2011 scholarship, there continues to be an emphasis on Mary Barton and North and South while Wives and Daughters and Ruth each attract half the critical attention these industrial novels commanded. Some of the topics explored in journal articles and book chapters identified in the last eight months are literacy, sociolinguistics, scientific curiosity, literary and artistic labor of working class women, gender issues, the relationship between Gaskell and Dickens, female oppression, Gaskell’s health issues, the significance of home and male predatory behavior. In addition to a steady flow of dissertations and theses written on the life and works of Elizabeth Gaskell at universities in Great Britain, America and Canada, such scholarly works also have been written in English by neophyte Gaskell scholars at universities in the Czech Republic, Iceland, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Slovenia and Turkey. Clearly, Gaskell is experiencing a steadily-expanding international presence.
Another interesting pattern that began emerging about three years ago (coinciding with the bicentennial of Gaskell’s birth) is reprinting, either in paper or as electronic files, previously published biographies, correspondence and literary analysis. Among those recently reissued are articles, book chapters and entire books first published by Edna Lyle (1897), Shirley Foster (1985), William Baker (2001) and John Chapple (1997). Other titles have been issued in second or revised editions (Chapple and Shelston’s Further Letters, Chapple and Sharps’ Elizabeth Gaskell: A Portrait in Letters, Stoneman’s Elizabeth Gaskell and Shelston’s Elizabeth Gaskell’s Manchester). Such republishing of secondary sources speak to the growing scholarly interest Gaskell the woman and Gaskell the author.
A unique Gaskell chronology published this year is worth noting separately. Tatsuhiro Ohno is both a prolific author of articles analyzing Gaskell’s works AND an avid amateur photographer. In the mid-2000s he created a web site to provide a visual context for Gaskell. He now has extended this online initiative to print form, publishing the monograph, The Life of Elizabeth Gaskell in Photographs. By amassing over 500 photographs of places associated with her life and her writing to accompany his Gaskell chronology, Ohno has provided an interesting contemporary record of this Victorian author. For those Gaskell enthusiasts who lack the ability to visit these sites in person, this volume provides an opportunity to connect with them from a distance. Full bibliographic information is posted in the 2012 Bibliographic Supplement on my web site.
For most of my formative years (1951-1960), I lived in Hoboken, New Jersey. My Father taught chemistry at Stevens Institute of Technology in a period of time when faculty actually lived on campus. In this rather rarefied world, I had unique access to a range of recreational options (clay tennis courts, the college pool, softball fields), a spectacular view of the New York skyline from the back porch of our faculty housing and, most importantly, a college library where I could read books unrestrained by the highly restrictive rules of access imposed on children using the city’s public library. During summers when I was at Swarthmore College, I returned to Hoboken to work in the same library that I had considered my second home growing up. That spatially limited and architecturally boring edifice was replaced by the Samuel C. Williams Library on the upper campus. For a variety of reasons, it was almost thirty years before I returned to Hoboken and to the Stevens campus. When I went to check out the new library, I was stunned to see a casting of Anna Hyatt Huntington’s Torch Bearers prominently installed near the entrance. While I was working on my M.A. in Art History, I had taken a course on women in art and had written a paper and made a conference presentation on two of her heroic equestrian figures: Joan of Arc and El Cid Compeador. I was totally thrilled to see this exceptional Huntington sculpture appropriately installed in front of “my” library. This past September, I took a Gaskell colleague from Japan to Hoboken to provide her with a “photo op” of what I consider to be the quintessential view of New York City – a panoramic skyline view across the Hudson River from what is called “Castle Point”. We were returning to my car after viewing and photographing the New York skyline when I glanced at the Howe Center, a steel and glass cube that now occupies the ground that was once the site of the “Stevens Castle”, There, in the lobby, tucked under a suspended staircase was yet another sculpture by Anna Hyatt Huntington! This one was a reduced-size casting of her Young Abe Lincoln on Horseback. Interestingly, Lincoln is reading a BOOK. My delight at finding a second Anna Hyatt Huntington sculpture in Hoboken on the campus where I grew up and became committed to being a librarian was marked. If you have any interest in Anna Hyatt Huntington and should be in the vicinity of New York, a trip across the Hudson River via the Lincoln Tunnel or via the PATH rail system will give you an easy opportunity to see New York from a very special angle AND give you an opportunity to see two very special sculptures by Anna Hyatt Huntington.

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