Geraldine Endsor Jewsbury (22 August 1812 – 23 September 1880) was an English novelist and woman of letters.
Life and family
Jewsbury was born in Measham, then in Derbyshire, now in Leicestershire. She was the daughter of Thomas Jewsbury (d. 1840), a cotton manufacturer and merchant, and his wife Maria, née Smith, (d. 1819). The family moved to Manchester in 1818, after her father's business failed. After her mother died, she was brought up by her sister Maria Jane Jewsbury (see below).
She was educated at a boarding school kept by the Misses Darbys at Alders Mill near Tamworth, and continued her studies in French, Italian, and drawing in London in 1830–31. After her sister's marriage, Geraldine acted as housekeeper first to her father and then to her brother Frank up to his marriage in 1854, after which she moved to Chelsea, London. She never married. She moved to Sevenoaks, Kent after the death of her friend Jane Carlyle in 1866, but died of cancer in a private London hospital in 1880 and was buried in Brompton Cemetery.
Place in literature
Jewsbury has earned a place in literature in three respects: as a novelist, as a critic and publisher's reader, and as a figure in London literary life.
Jewsbury was primarily a novelist of ideas and moral dilemmas. Her first novel, Zoe: the History of Two Lives (1845), was an immediate success. It had begun as joint project with Jane Carlyle and a mutual friend, Elizabeth Paulet, although the two co-authors soon withdrew. Outwardly a romantic tale, it concerns "the predicament of a gifted and aspiring woman in a society that dictates gender roles, and the mental agonies of a conscientious [male] thinker" who lapses from Catholicism. This places it as a "novel of doubt" (similar attempts being made by Charlotte Yonge, Mrs Humphrey Ward and others) and alongside the "female novels" of the Brontës, Mrs Gaskell and George Eliot. The books' linkage of sexual feelings with spiritual anguish has invited comparison with George Sand. As Jewsbury wrote to Jane Carlyle, the protagonist Zoe is demanding, "What are we sent into this world at all for? What ought we to do with our life?"
Jane Carlyle described the manuscript in a letter of February 1844 as "a wonderful book! - Decidedly the cleverest Englishwoman's book I ever remember to have read." Jewsbury's next novel, The Half Sisters (1848), which the author thought her best, contrasts the life of a businessman's wife with the more meaningful one of her actress half-sister. This again raised an issue that was controversial in its time (cf. Madame de Staël's Corinne and Sand's Consuelo). Her third, Marian Withers (1851), had an industrial setting and was serialized in the Manchester Examiner and Times. Three further novels aimed at adults (Constance Herbert, 1855; The Sorrows of Gentility, 1856; Right or Wrong, 1859) attracted less interest. She also wrote two novels for children, The History of an Adopted Child (1852) and Angelo, or, The Pine Forest in the Alps (1855).
As a woman of letters, Jewsbury began by contributing to Douglas Jerrold's Shilling Magazine in 1846. She went on to be a regular contributor to the weekly Athenaeum, where she is thought to have reviewed up to 2000 books from 1849 onwards. Dickens commissioned 17 stories from her for his Household Words over the years 1850 to 1859. In a magazine essay entitled 'Religious Faith and Modern Scepticism', she saw spiritual problems as "the beginning of a wider and deeper insight - a larger faith and increased knowledge." Meanwhile she also worked as a publisher's reader, for Hurst and Blackett, and from 1859 for Bentley, recommending for instance that Bentley publish Ellen Wood's bestselling East Lynne (1861), yet turn down such later successful authors as Rhoda Broughton, M. E. Braddon, and Ouida.
Jewsbury's growing literary prominence and startling, unconventional personality (smoking and wearing men's clothes like Sand) soon brought her a place in literary society. Her friends included the Huxley, Kingsley, Rossetti, and Browning families, W. E. Forster (with whom she visited revolutionary Paris in 1848), John Bright, John Ruskin and G. H. Lewes. She helped the elderly Lady Morgan with her memoirs (1862).
Her friendship with the Carlyles began in April 1840, when in a state of depression over a love affair and her father's mortal illness, she wrote to Thomas Carlyle that she had lost her faith in God. Her lifelong friendships with both Thomas and Jane Carlyle developed until she became the latter's closest friend. There is a surviving collection of 126 letters to them. The 1892 Selection of the Letters of Geraldine Jewsbury to Jane Carlyle caused controversy over the emotional side of their relationship.
Jewsbury was rewarded in 1874 with a civil list pension of £40 a year.
Maria Jane Jewsbury
Geraldine Jewsbury's eldest sister Maria Jane Jewsbury (1800–1833), a writer and literary reviewer, was also born in Measham. She was educated at a school in Shenstone, Staffordshire and later (through ill health) at home. While bringing up her younger siblings after their mother died in 1819, she read avidly, and began to contribute to the Manchester Gazette and other journals in 1821. Her Phantasmagoria (1825), containing poetry and prose, attracted the attention of William Wordsworth and Dorothy. She paid a visit to the Wordsworths in Lancashire in July 1825. She underwent protracted illness and a spiritual crisis in 1826. Her Letters to the Young (1828) call on children to eschew worldliness. Another close friend was Felicia Hemans, with whom she stayed in Wales in the summer of 1828. Through acquaintance with its editor, Charles Wentworth Dilke, she began to write for The Athenaeum in 1830. Against the wishes of her father, she was married on 1 August 1832 to Rev. William Kew Fletcher (died 1867), at Penegoes, Montgomeryshire. The couple set out for India, where she continued to write poetry and a journal. She died of cholera at Poona on 4 October 1833.
- Pettitt 1999.
- Wilkes 2004.
- Shirley Foster: Introduction. In: Zoe (London: Virago Press, 1989), p. 7.
- Shirley Foster, p. 5.
- Chisholm 1911.
- Westminster Review No. 52, January 1850.
- Geraldine Endsor. In Chambers Biographical Dictionary (London: Chambers Harrap, 2007). Retrieved 22 June 2011.
- ODNB entry by Joanne Wilkes: Retrieved 3 August 2012. Pay-walled.
- Pettitt, Clare: "Jewsbury, Geraldine [Endsor] 1812 - 1880". In: The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English (Cambridge, UK: CUP, 1999). Retrieved 22 June 2011.
- Wilkes, Joanne. "Geraldine Jewsbury". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/14815. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Jewsbury, Geraldine Endsor". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
|Library resources about
|By Geraldine Jewsbury|
- Geraldine Jewsbury's review of George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss, (Athenæum, April 7, 1860).
- Archival material relating to Geraldine Jewsbury listed at the UK National Archives