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Women, Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain, 1830s-1900sThe Victorian Period$
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Alexis Easley, Clare Gill, and Beth Rodgers

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474433907

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474433907.001.0001

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Elizabeth Gaskell and the Habit of Serialisation

Elizabeth Gaskell and the Habit of Serialisation

Chapter:
(p.429) 26 Elizabeth Gaskell and the Habit of Serialisation
Source:
Women, Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain, 1830s-1900s
Author(s):

Catherine Delafield

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474433907.003.0027

In this essay, Catherine Delafield highlights the importance of the literary periodical and the practice of serial publication for the form and content of women’s novels. By revisiting the original periodical publishing contexts of two novels by Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South (1854–5), first published in Household Words (1850–9), and Wives and Daughters (1864–6), first serialised in the Cornhill Magazine (1860–1970), Delafield demonstrates Gaskell’s incisive understanding of the publishing conventions of the serial novel, even if she struggled with the artistic limitations of that form. A careful comparison of the periodical and volume versions of the novels yields the conclusion that the ‘structure and style of her novels’ were ‘formed in response to their periodical contexts,’ with Gaskell shown to not only be a diligent student of the serial but also an innovator of that form (p.429). Gaskell’s prominent place within the genealogy of the Victorian serial was not entirely without friction, however. As Delafield demonstrates, she actively challenged the interventions of her male editors, including Charles Dickens (1812–70), though not always successfully. In this sense, Gaskell’s ‘habit of serialisation’ was flavoured with both ‘conformity and instruction,’ given her willingness to work within and push the boundaries of the artistic and material constraints of the serial form (p.440).

Keywords:   Elizabeth Gaskell, Household Words, Cornhill Magazine, serialisation, Charles Dickens

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