'Do the duty that lies nearest to thee': Elizabeth Gaskell, Philanthropy and Writing
Armshaw, Louise Simone
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis examines the relationship between Gaskell’s philanthropy and her three social problem novels. Examining Gaskell in the context of Victorian philanthropy, I will argue that this is a relationship of far greater complexity than has previously been perceived. Gaskell’s Unitarian faith will be of particular relevance as different denominations often had unique approaches to philanthropy, and I will begin by examining Gaskell’s participation with philanthropy organised by her congregation, taking the charity bazaar as my example of this. Examining Gaskell’s three social problem novels in chronological order I will demonstrate that Gaskell rejects these forms of organised Victorian philanthropy, referred to as ‘associated philanthropy,’ in favour of developing her own vision of philanthropy in her novels. I will examine how Gaskell’s participation with ‘associated philanthropy,’ and the individual pursuit of her own philanthropic interests, shapes the development of her philanthropic vision in her fiction. I perceive her first novel, Mary Barton, as a tentative exploration of this vision, and by examining Gaskell’s three philanthropic novels in chronological order, I will demonstrate how Gaskell rewrites the traditional philanthropic relationship to offer a reciprocal form of philanthropy which has the ability to cross class boundaries in both directions. I argue that Gaskell’s rejection of associated philanthropy was an integral part in the development of this vision, as inspired by her faith, she founds her own vision in a more personal approach.
MPhil in English