Search This Blog

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

A Spooky Premonition

Some very intriguing news for literary fans last week. Novelist Mrs Gaskell (author of Mary Barton , North and South) had a premonition some time in the months before her death in 1865 that she would not survive much longer. Gaskell was a prolific letter writer, and the story of her spooky premonition was discovered in a new collection of her correspondence recently acquired by the John Rylands Library in Manchester. It will be very interesting to see how the 'new' letters shed light on Gaskell's life and work.

Image: Mill design changes in fifty years. Reports of Factory Inspectors, October 1873. (Author’s collection.) Gaskell's novels 'Mary Barton' and 'North and South' were set in Victorian Manchester, home of the cotton industry. You can find out more about the cotton workers' lives in my book Narrow Windows, Narrow Lives.


JaneGS said...

While I am excited about what else we might learn about Gaskell from these letters, I have to tell you how my eyes rolled with regards to the "premonition" report. Had Gaskell written something of this nature herself, I would give it more credence but still look somewhat askance. However, a third-hand report after her death, I don't put much stock in and am not ready to say that Gaskell foretold her own death. That's a bit much for this skeptic.

Sue Wilkes said...

Hi Jane, I think you are very right to be sceptical; we would have to see all the relevant correspondence to be certain. And yet Gaskell put herself under a huge amount of stress,moving heaven and earth to get her new house ready for her husband William... could it be that she had an inkling that her health wasn't as good as she hoped?