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The Collected Writings of Geraldine Jewsbury (1812-1880)

Publisher's Note

"An enterprising publishing venture, making available books essential to an understanding of popular Victorian fiction and now often difficult to find."

Dr Sheila Smith

Formerly Reader in Victorian Studies

University of Nottingham

The goal of Adam Matthew Publications' Collected Writings series is to make available the literary output of individual authors whose work is the subject of re-assessment but whose original publications are now out of print.

Using as a basis Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, we aim – wherever possible – to offer the complete creative writings of individual authors in our microfilm editions.

Libraries do not need to sign up for the entire programme

- they can pick and choose the authors which interest them

- and we can also make available individual reels.

The series is also a contribution to the preservation of Nineteenth Century texts, many of which are showing signs of acid deterioration.

We are delighted to start our project with The Collected Writings of Geraldine Jewsbury.  Whilst her published output was modest (all of it is covered in this project), Jewsbury was a leading figure in the Victorian literary world, as a reviewer, a publisher's reader and as a literary hostess.  She is remembered for her great friendship with Jane Carlyle, but her own writings can now be read and enjoyed again.

Geraldine Endsor Jewsbury was born in Measham, Derbyshire, in 1812.  She was the fourth of six children, having an elder sister, Maria, and four brothers – Henry, Frank, Tom and Sydney.  Because business in Derbyshire was poor, the family moved to Manchester in 1818, where their father, Thomas Jewsbury, was employed as a merchant and an insurance agent.  At about this time, their mother died following the birth of Sydney, leaving Maria, aged 19, to look after the family while her father worked.

Geraldine Jewsbury attended the Miss Darbys' boarding school near Tamworth and went to London in 1830 to improve her elocution and languages and to learn to draw.  But when Maria married in 1832 (becoming Mrs Fletcher) Geraldine, just 20, was forced to take over the running of the household.  A year later the family received news that Maria had died in India.  This was a great shock for Geraldine as they were a close family and Maria had, literally, been a mother figure to her.  After a number of years her father became ill, and she nursed him through his final illness until his death in 1840.  The household broke up and Geraldine went with her brother Frank, acting as his housekeeper until his marriage in 1853.

The house became a social and intellectual centre in Manchester.  Her friends included the Kingsley's, the Rossettis, Sydney, Lady Morgan, Lady Llanover, Helena Faucit, Viscountess Combermere, Ruskin, Huxley, Froude and Bright.

In 1841 Geraldine Jewsbury met the Carlyles.  Thomas Carlyle pronounced her "one of the most interesting young women I have seen for years, delicate sense & courage looking out of her small sylph-like figure."  But it was her instant rapport with Jane Carlyle that was of lasting significance.  The two became firm friends, regular correspondents, mutual critics, and conspirators against the forces of society.  In the words of Mrs Ireland, editor of her Selected letters (Reel 3), "one was married and lonely, the other was unmarried and lonely….The one was masculine in many ways, and she it was who bore the yoke of marriage, and the deeper cross of wedded loneliness.  The other, feminine to the heart's core, seemed to have the full cup of love ever at her lips, yet by some irony of fate was left lonely, died lonely, in one sense; and the women loved each other passionately."

Geraldine Jewsbury's first book, Zoe: the history of two lives, was published by Chapman & Hall in 1845, and was one of the earliest Victorian novels to explore religious scepticism.  It opens thus:

"On the fourteenth of June, 17--, the little town of Sutton, in Warwickshire, was thrown into a state of violent excitement by the news, that the son of the old squire who "used to belong to the old Manor House, was to have his own again," that he had married in foreign parts some grand lady, -- a princess at the very least according to some versions, that the king had written him a letter with his own hand begging him to come to England, and making him welcome to his old house, and all that land, that had been in the family for generations and generations.

This astounding report was set forth on the market day by old Peter Brocclehurst, the tailor, - who had heard it read with his own ears out of a newspaper, in a public house in Birmingham, where he had been the day before to lay in a supply of West of England broadcloths, and "superfine narrow," for the exigencies of his profession for the next six months.  Old Brocclehurst was not an authority to be lightly called in question, for from the sanctuary where he sat enthroned on his shop-board, stitching at the tough corduroys of all the ploughboys and farmers for six miles round, issued also the news, scandal, marvellous occurrences, useful information of all sorts, that went to enlighten the ignorance, and refresh the united intellect of all Sutton."

The effortless style, compelling narrative, and acute observation of detail, won the book many plaudits and encouraged Jewsbury to write again.

The half-sisters, also published by Chapman & Hall, 1848 (Reel 2), is arguably her finest work, exploring existential questions and contrasting the focussed and meaningless life of a manufacturer's wife.  Jewsbury challenges established stereotypes of women and argues that they should be educated to be strong and rational and not meek and dependent.

Charles Dickens read and admired these novels and wrote to Jewsbury in February 1850 to ask her to contribute to his new journal, Household Words:

"Dear Miss Jewsbury, -- I make no apology for addressing you thus, for I am a reader of yours, and I hope that I have that knowledge of you which may justify a frank approach…..if I could induce you to write any papers or short stories for it I should, I sincerely assure you, set great store by your help, and be much gratified in having it."

Jewsbury was already a major contributor to the Athenaeum, writing more than 1600 reviews from 1849 onwards.

Marian Withers, her third novel, was first serialized for the Manchester Examiner & Times and appeared in book form in 1851 (Reel 3).  This was published by Colburn & Co and was heavily influenced by Saint-Simonian ideas, exploring entrepreneurship and industrialism.

After the marriage of her brother Frank in 1853, Jewsbury moved to Chelsea to be closer to Jane Carlyle.  She published 3 more novels, Constance Herbert, 1855 (Reel 4), The Sorrows of gentility, 1856 (Reel 2) and Right or Wrong, 1859 (Reel 5) and 2 volumes for children, The history of an adopted child, 1853, and Angelo, 1856 (both Reel 6), but from 1858 onwards she devoted her principle efforts to acting as a reader for Bentley's – she was the only woman in such an influential position.

Jane Carlyle died in 1866, leaving Geraldine Jewsbury lonely and distraught.  After contracting cancer, Jewsbury moved to private hospital at Burwood Place on the Edgware Road, dying on 23 September 1880.  She was cremated at Brompton cemetery and her epitaph reads:

"Qui multum amavit"

This microform edition makes available complete reprints of the first editions of all of the 6 novels and 2 children's stories that Geraldine Jewsbury published in her life-time, together with her selected letters to Jane Carlyle, published posthumously.  These works will enable scholars to re-assess a writer who was praised by Dickens and Virginia Woolf and has much to offer the modern reader.



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