Home  »  Volume XIII: English THE VICTORIAN AGE Part One The Nineteenth Century, II  »  § 17. Mrs. Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Brontë

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.

XI. The Political and Social Novel

§ 17. Mrs. Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Brontë

Yet, at this very time, she turned aside from this to another field of composition in which she was a novice. Mrs. Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Brontë, to which she devoted the whole of the year 1856 and which was published, in two volumes, in the following year, is a possession for ever, and while, in the words of Charlotte Brontë’s father, the work had been done “in such a way as no person but the writer could have done it,” no later treatment of the same theme, critical, controversial, supplementary, or retouching, will ever in any sense supersede it. Even were the present the most appropriate place, it would be impossible to notice here—quite apart from all discussion of details, whether of statement or of omission—cavils concerning the entire method and spirit of treatment adopted by the biographer, more especially in the earlier portions of the book. No more spontaneous honour, it has been said, was ever offered by one woman of genius to another than when Mrs. Gaskell wrote the life of her friend; and the time cannot be distant when those who care most both for the fame of Charlotte Brontë and her sisters will be the readiest to acknowledge what it owes to the generous and truthful record that made them enduring memories.