> Skip to content
  • Published: 28 November 1996
  • ISBN: 9780140434224
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 528
  • RRP: $27.99

Sylvia's Lovers




Elizabeth Gaskell's only historical novel, Sylvia's Lovers, is set in 1790 in the seaside town of Monkshaven (Whitby) where press-gangs wreak havoc by seizing young men for service in the Napoleonic wars. One of their victims is whaling harpooner, Charley Kinraid, whose charm and vivacity have captured the heart of Sylvia Robson. But Sylvia's devoted cousin, Philip Hepburn, hopes to marry her himself and, in order to win her, deliberately withholds crucial information - with devastating consequences. With its themes of suffering, unrequited love, and the clash between desire and duty, Sylvia's Lovers is one of the most powerfully moving of all Gaskell's novels, reputedly described by its author as 'the saddest story I ever wrote'.

  • Published: 28 November 1996
  • ISBN: 9780140434224
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 528
  • RRP: $27.99

About the author

Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell was born in London in 1810, but she spent her formative years in Cheshire, Stratford-upon-Avon and the north of England. In 1832 she married the Reverend William Gaskell, who became well known as the minister of the Unitarian Chapel in Manchester's Cross Street. As well as leading a busy domestic life as minister's wife and mother of four daughters, she worked among the poor, traveled frequently and wrote. Mary Barton (1848) was her first success.

Two years later she began writing for Dickens's magazine, Household Words, to which she contributed fiction for the next thirteen years, notably a further industrial novel, North and South (1855). In 1850 she met and secured the friendship of Charlotte Brontë. After Charlotte's death in March 1855, Patrick Brontë chose his daughter's friend and fellow-novelist to write The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857), a probing and sympathetic account, that has attained classic stature.

Elizabeth Gaskell's position as a clergyman's wife and as a successful writer introduced her to a wide circle of friends, both from the professional world of Manchester and from the larger literary world. Her output was substantial and completely professional. Dickens discovered her resilient strength of character when trying to impose his views on her as editor of Household Words. She proved that she was not to be bullied, even by such a strong-willed man.

Her later works, Sylvia's Lovers (1863), Cousin Phillis (1864) and Wives and Daughters (1866) reveal that she was continuing to develop her writing in new literary directions. Elizabeth Gaskell died suddenly in November 1865.

Also by Elizabeth Gaskell

See all

Related titles