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The successive attacks on her were, however, having their effect and 'The Life of Charlotte Bronte' marks the end of her career as a controversial writer. Her remaining books, 'Sylvia's Lovers', 'Cousin Phyllis' and 'Wives and Daughters', are novels written in an increasingly mature, gentle and tranquil vein.

Elizabeth Gaskell's "Wives & Daughters"By far the most important, and one of the greatest in Knutsford interest, is her last work, 'Wives and Daughters', a leisurely novel of country lives and loves. Many Knutsford buildings and personages figure in 'Wives and Daughters'.

In writing of this novel, it is impossible to improve on the comment of the distinguished woman writer, Miss Rosamund Lehmann:

"'Wives and Daughters', Mrs. Gaskell's last novel, is also incomparably her richest and most satisfying. In it, her creative imagination comes to its fullness - a fruit ripened as it were in a memorable year for bloom and crop. A great patient season of sun has gone to its maturing. The rains that freshened it have been temperate and all propitious; and although there is age in it, there is also youth, renewal and the promise of next season's secret buds."

But towards the end of 'Wives and Daughters' in 1865, Mrs. Gaskell was showing signs of weariness. She wrote to her publishers: 'I am so tired of spinning my brain, when I am feeling far from strong. I begin to think that Heaven will be a place where all books and newspapers will be prohibited by St Peter, and the amusement will be driving in open carriages and eating strawberries and cream for ever...'

On November 12th, 1865, with only a few pages of 'Wives and Daughters' to be written, Mrs. Gaskell was sitting round the fire after tea with her daughters in the country house in Hampshire which she had just bought in readiness for her husband's retirement. Elizabeth Gaskell's Grave - Brook St ChapelSuddenly, in the middle of a sentence, she fell forward and died of a heart attack. Whether she had previous attacks we do not know - if she had, she said nothing about them. She was 55.

The body of Elizabeth Gaskell was brought to Knutsford and buried in the Unitarian Churchyard, where her grave is carefully tended. Here, in the town she loved, her memory is ever green.

See our 360° photo of the Unitarian Churchyard...