Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.
Invited by their friends Sir James and Lady Kay-Shuttleworth, Mrs. Gaskell and her daughters stayed at Briery Close near Lake Windermere the summer of 1850. It was there, in August, that she completed The Moorland Cottage. Her publishers Chapman & Hall asked for a Christmas book, she agreed but confided to a friend that it was,
A very foolish engagement of mine, which I am angry with myself for doing, but I promised it and I have done it
Originally called Rosemary, Edward Chapman objected and foolishly suggested a rude title to which Mrs. Gaskell said she’d disown the book. He was something of a bully towards her and even withheld the royalties of one of her novels for four years. I’m assuming his lack of professionalism stemmed because she was female. Writing was considered a male profession. Her contemporaries Charlotte Brontë and Mary Ann Evans both wrote under a male pseudonym, Currer Bell and George Eliot respectively.
Gakell and Chapman compromised, settling on December Days but in the end it was published as The Moorland Cottage.
It was very different from Mary Barton and some of friends were disappointed at the ‘simple, sketchy story’ others loved it. Victorian poet, Matthew Arnold, is said to have been moved to tears and Charlotte Brontë wrote it:
Finished like an herb — a balsamic herb with healing in its leaves… the little story is fresh, natural, religious. No more need be said.
“An Elizabeth Gaskell Chronology.” The Victorian Web: An Overview. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Dec. 2010. <http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/gaskell/chron.html>.
“The Brontës: 1850 Burnley, Lancashire; and Windermere, Cumbria.” Penn Libraries. University of Pennsylvania , n.d. Web. 27 Dec. 2010. <http://www.library.upenn.edu/collections/rbm/photos/biswanger/brontes-1850.html>.
Uglow, Jennifer. Elizabeth Gaskell: a habit of stories. London: Faber and Faber, 1993. Print.