Elizabeth Gaskell’s Family Series – her Father: William Stevenson, part I

Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.

Gaskell's father grew up during the Georgian era

Born into a Scottish family with a strong Naval background his Post-Captain father, Joseph Stevenson, dearly wanted  a son in the church and decided his second child, William, would be the one.

It must have been difficult growing up with his future already planned. Especially when he seems to have longed for a life at Sea, and hearing his elder brother talk about the Naval Academy, quite different from his Grammar school, made him restless.

“The children are all well and give me no trouble, except William who hardly ever attends school and is constantly running about the walls [the sea was beyond the walls]”

This restless nature calmed down as he grew, perhaps with the help of his younger brother Robert, who also stayed on land and later became a surgeon. But his desire to be active and do something great remained with him and he would put a great effort in searching for the right outlet of that energy all his life.

Bruges, Belgium, where William Stevenson was a tutor © Herve Bry

In 1787 he entered Daventry Academy. He’d been raised in the Old Dissenting (Presbyterian) Church but decided on becoming a Unitarian Minister. Forward thinking and rather brilliant in his studies, after graduating he went abroad as an English tutor, staying in Bruges, Belgium until France declared war on Great Britain and Flanders in 1793.

…Stay Tuned for Part II




Allibone, Samuel A.. A Critical Dictionary of English Literature and British and American Authors (The Principle Works of Samuel Austin Allibone). Washington D.C.: Reprint Services Corp, 1989. Print.

1 Ffrench, Yvonne. Mrs. Gaskell . Denver: Swallow, 1949. Print.

Handley, Graham. An Elizabeth Gaskell chronology . Basingstoke [England: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. Print.

Pollard, Arthur. “Chapter II: Mrs. Gaskell Herself.” Mrs. Gaskell: Novelist and Biographer. Manchester UP, 1965. Print.

Uglow, Jennifer S.. Elizabeth Gaskell: a habit of stories. London: Faber and Faber, 1993. Print.


“Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell.” NNDB: Tracking the Entire World. Web. 27 Sept. 2010. <http://www.nndb.com/people/563/000104251/&gt;.

“Vale Park: Liscard Vale House.” Liberator 31. Web. 27 Sept. 2010. <http://www.liberator31.co.uk/wallasey/mansions_vale_park/index.html&gt;.

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