Elizabeth Gaskell had been straightforward with George Smith the publisher writing that "I have three people I want to libel - Lady Scott (that bad woman who corrupted Branwell Bronte), Mr. Newby, & Lady Eastlake". A compromise was negotiated on Newby and Lady Eastlake, but to her cost not Lydia Scott.
The first edition of "The Life" was published on March 25th., 1857, and well received; Lady Scott sued for libel and the matter seemed to have been settled in Elizabeth's absence. A second edition, a straightforward reprint, was announced on May 9th. Then, unexpected, came a letter from Lady Scott's solicitors announcing that legal action would follow unless all passages about her were withdrawn and a public apology made. All unsold copies were called in and on May 26th., two days before Elizabeth returned, William Shaen, one of the Gaskells' solicitors sent a formal letter of retraction which was placed in "The Times" and the "Athenaeum".
The revisions took all summer and so depressed Elizabeth that at the end of June she wrote to George Smith asking him if he could find someone else as editor. He astutely did not reply, and Elizabeth resigned herself to "my weary and oppressive task". When it was finally finished in November, the third edition was longer than the first.