Three pages (one leaf folded). Plain stationery but with "46 Plymouth Grove [Manchester]" handwritten at the top. Undated except for "Monday Evening." Signed "E.C. Gaskell."
After the salutation, this letter reads as follows:
We started in such a hurry on Saturday that we found this morning that we had only looked forward to perpetual WARM weather, and had made no provision for rain. Moreover we could not make our purposed expedition ------ by -------- [?]; so we came home, having had two perfect days; and we hope you will consider that our visit to you is only a deferred pleasure. It was very nice seeing you all again last night! Ever yours very truly, E. C. Gaskell
At the end of the letter, in a fainter pen and different hand, it reads "Sep 9th 1866" -- which is impossible as a date for the letter, as Elizabeth Gaskell died on Nov 12th 1865 -- of a sudden heart attack at the age of 55 (sadly, just as she was visiting a house she was secretly buying, as a retirement surprise for her husband); on the back (blank) page of the letter, in the same faint hand it reads "The last letter from her." Perhaps the writer of these notes (presumably the recipient) meant Sept 9th 1865? -- as that would have been just two months before ECG's death.
Darbishire was a common last name in the Manchester area, with several people among the Gaskells' acquaintances; however the closest by far was Robert Darbishire, who had been the subject of a recurring dream Elizabeth had:
In December 1851, Gaskell wrote to Emily Tagart about a repeated bizarre dream she had been having, telling her: "I dream again and again of Robert Darbishire as a Bloomer, a daughter of mine with a 'pig beard under her muffler', & striding along in his pettiloons: you can't think what an uncomfortable dream it is... I don't know any other young man like him." ... The Gaskells and the Dukinfield Darbishires became good friends and their children played together. Gaskell's dream appears to mix cross-dressing (Robert wears girl's clothes), with issues of gender (his pig beard). [Lambert]
"Mrs. Darbishire" may have been Mary (née Blackmore), wife of the solicitor Samuel Darbishire and mother of Robert, or possibly the wife of Robert himself; but Mary and Samuel had five other sons as well...
The letter is just about fine, though once folded into thirds. Item #13723