Geraldine Jewsbury was born on 22 August 1812, in Measham, Derbyshire, to Thomas Jewsbury, a cotton trader and manufacturer and an insurance agent, and Maria Jewsbury. Her parents had six children, of which Geraldine was the fourth.
Her siblings include her elder sister Maria Jane and her brothers namely, Henry, Frank, Tom, and Sydney. After the failure of her father’s cotton business due to the War of 1812, Geraldine moved with her family to Manchester in 1818 at the tender age of six. It was Maria Jane and Geraldine who took care of the family after their mother’s death.
Geraldine did her schooling from the Miss Darbys boarding school at Alder Mills near the market town of Tamworth, Staffordshire. She later went to pursue further studies in London in 1830 to build and develop her language and diction skills.
Between 1830 and 1831, Geraldine studied quite a few subjects like French, Italian, and drawing.
Maria Jane and Geraldine, caretakers of the family
Even though Maria Jane frequently contributed to the Manchester Gazette, it was always family first when it came to her responsibilities. After their mother’s death, following Sydney’s birth, it was Maria Jane who took charge of the familial wellbeing.
She took care of her siblings and her working father with the utmost care.
In 1832, after Maria Jane got married, Geraldine was just twenty years old when she took over the responsibility of her family. After Maria Jane’s death due to cholera and their father’s death in 1840, Geraldine took care of her brother, Frank, until his marriage in 1853.
It was in 1841, that Geraldine Jewsbury formally met with the Carlyles for the very first time. Essayist Thomas Carlyle asserted her to be “one of the most interesting young women I have seen for years”.
Although it was Thomas Carlyle, whose words rang with the audience, it was the indelible romantic relationship that Geraldine had with Mrs. Jane Carlyle over the course of their life that was truly memorable. Overwhelmed, Geraldine even moved to Chelsea from Manchester just to be close to her friend.
Ever since they met until Jane died in 1866, they remained close aids.
List of works as a Novelist
Geraldine was a stout critic of the societal idealization of women, the role of mothers and wives. By often making her female characters wittier and smarter than their male counterparts, she would, with great zeal and zest, mock the patriarchy. Zoe: the History of Two Lives, chronicles a girl’s love for a Catholic priest, showing themes of independence and moral and religious dilemma. Initially rejected, later it got published in 1845.
Other novels include The Half Sisters (1848), Marian Withers (1851), Constance Herbert (1855), and Angelo, or, The Pine Forest in the Alps (1855), one of her novels for children.
Short story writer
During her stay in Manchester, Geraldine wrote and contributed articles to many Manchester publications. Amongst her notable contributions are articles for Douglas Jerrold’s Shilling Magazine and the Westminster Review.
During her very illustrious career, she also managed to write for the great Charles Dickens’ periodical, Household Words. The grand success of her first two novels caught the attention of Dickens who admired her work so much that he insisted on her, through a letter, to write articles for his periodical.
Between 1850 and 1859, Geraldine submitted a total of 17 stories to the Household Words.
Geraldine was very notable for her austere criticism. As a moral feminist, the idea of a character who cannot distinguish between correct and incorrect was something that never suited Geraldine.
According to her, the ethical correctness of an otherwise expressive character is more imperative than the story itself. During her expansive career, she is said to have contributed more than 2000 reviews from 1846 to 1880, including reviews of memoirs, children’s books, biographies, novels, and histories, mainly to the Athenaeum.
Some of the more notable writers Geraldine reviewed were Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, and Wilkie Collins.
Geraldine and Jane
After Jane’s death, Thomas Carlyle turned to Geraldine to pen down some anecdotes about his wife. These anecdotes were later used by both Thomas Carlyle, who used them in his essay Jane Welsh Carlyle, and J.A. Froude, who used the notes for his biography on Thomas Carlyle.
Virginia Woolf wrote a piece on Geraldine and Jane’s friendship, Geraldine and Jane, which got published in The Times Literary Supplement in 1929.
Marriage and death
Geraldine never married in her life even though she did have carnal and platonic relationships with many men and women alike. After Jane died in 1866, Geraldine moved to Sevenoaks, Kent.
She was still writing for Bentley before she passed away. Her last report as a reader came in on September 9th, 1880. She left all her papers to John Stores Smith, a businessman, and feminist with whom she had had a sturdy relationship. She died on 23 September 1880, in a London hospital at Burwood Place, after contracting cancer. She was laid to rest at the Brompton cemetery.