Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford: Writing & Publishing

Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.

An edition of Household Words

Published in Charles Dickens’ journal Household Words, “Our Society at Cranford” made it’s first appearance December 1851. Written as a short story, at the time, Elizabeth Gaskell had no intention of continuing it. She was focused on her next novel, Ruth. But Cranford was a favorite with many readers and Dickens, much to Gaskell’s annoyance, prompter her for more.

The two had a difficult business relationship. She did not like his interference with her writing and was upset with his editing. He changed Miss Jenkyns’ dialogue at the end of chapter two:

“Mr. Hood, you know –Hood –Admiral Hood: when I was a girl; but that’s a long time ago, –I wore a cloak with a red Hood”

and what Captain Brown was reading (Pickwick Papers) at a critical moment in his storyline, reasoning that it seemed like self-promotion. But he admired her storytelling ability, calling Gaskell his ‘dear Scheherazade’ and when he asked her to write for Household Words wrote,

“I should set a value on your help which your modesty can hardly imagine”

A first edition of Cranford

What changed her mind about Cranford? Perhaps her delightful characters beckoned her to write more. Or the darker tone of Ruth and controversial reception of Mary Barton made her want to write something charming and nostalgic.

It appeared in the journal, under no particular schedule, until May 1853 then was published in it’s own right the next month. Early critics dismissed Cranford as captivating vignettes but layered within the charm Mrs. Gaskell addresses social issues, specifically how the rules of society affect women.

Gaskell later wrote a short tale called, “The Cage at Cranford” which was published in Dickens’ second magazine, All the Year Round, November 1863.



“Cranford, Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell – Introduction.” Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Juliet Byington. Vol. 97. Gale Cengage, 2001. eNotes.com. 2006. 19 Oct, 2010 <http://www.enotes.com/nineteenth-century-criticism/

Fowler, Rowena. “Cranford: Cow in Grey Flannel or Lion Couchant?.” Studies in English Literature Fall 1984: 717-729. EBSCO Host. Web. 17 Oct. 2010.

Stoneman, Patsy. “Cranford 1851.” Elizabeth Gaskell . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. 87-98. Print.

12 thoughts on “Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford: Writing & Publishing

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Cranford: Writing & Publishing « Elizabeth Gaskell Blog -- Topsy.com

    • Thank you for sharing the link, Adriana! How lovely, I hadn’t known about the red and white sand tradition at Knutsford. :)

      I’m so happy that you’re joining us for the group read!

  2. Dickens and Gaskell definitely had a troubled relationship, but I’m grateful he did serialize her works. I get the feeling he just didn’t know how to deal with a woman who had a mind of her own.

    Writing Cranford must have been such a relief after the grim stories she told in Mary Barton and Ruth, as well as the short stories.

  3. Interesting … I read Cranford for the first time just a few months ago. When I saw the reference to Pickwick Papers in the text, I did wonder if Gaskell was trying to butter up her editor, or if Dickens was doing some “product placement” for his own book. Now I know. Thanks.

  4. I didn’t know the history between Gaskell and Dickens. That was very interesting. It must have been quite frustrating for her to allow that kind of interference with her work. At the same time, he was definitely an admirer of her writing and that kind of support from someone of his caliber would be empowering.

  5. Pingback: Cranford Group Read « Elizabeth Gaskell Blog

  6. Pingback: Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford: Analysis – A Look at the Brown’s Representing Selflessness « Gaskell Blog

  7. Pingback: Elizabeth Gaskell’s Ruth: Chapter One – Analysis « Gaskell Blog

  8. Pingback: Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford: Chronology of Publication in Household Words « Gaskell Blog

  9. Pingback: Cranford | Gaskell Blog

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