I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.
Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights

vrijdag 10 september 2010

Shirley

ShirleyContemporary critics found Shirley (1849) inferior to Jane Eyre. In the Edinburgh Review, G. H. Lewes complained that the novel lacked “all unity in consequence of defective art” . However, recent criticism has discovered in Shirley a significant condition-of-England theme as well as a clearly feminist discourse. Patricia Ingham, for instance, considers Shirley an industrial novel that successfully tackles both gender and class issues during the Industrial Revolution in England.

Shirley was published at the end of the “Hungry Forties,” a decade of profound social unrest. In the novel, Charlotte Brontë both refracted some of Carlyle’s concerns raised in “Signs of the Times” (text) and “Chartism” as well as Disraeli’s anxiety about the two nation divide and also blended them with the Woman Question. The novel has a complex plot: an unromantic tale with two interpolated social commentaries: on the history of the Luddite riots in the cloth-making district of Yorkshire, and on the struggle for female independence from male dominance in patriarchal society. At the outset, the narrator assures its readers that they will not find narrative a conventional romance.

If you think, from this prelude, that anything like a romance is preparing for you, reader, you never were more mistaken. Do you anticipate sentiment, and poetry, and reverie? Do you expect passion, and stimulus, and melodrama? Calm your expectations; reduce them to a lowly standard. Something real, cool, and solid, lies before you; something unromantic as Monday morning, when all who have work wake with the consciousness that they must rise and betake themselves thereto.

In other words, Shirley, which differs considerably from Jane Eyre, declares its affinity with Benjamin Disraeli’s Sibyl and Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton and North and South. The novel contains an explicit social discourse about the Condition of England aimed at highlighting the class and gender divide and its possible social consequences.

In early 1812, Luddism spread to Yorkshire, where croppers, a small and highly skilled group of cloth finishers, turned their anger on the new shearing frame that they feared would put them out of work. Soon Parliament passed the Frame Breaking Act which made machine-breaking a capital offence. The following passage, in which Brontë proves to have a fine ear for the local dialect, suggests that the author sympathises with workers who are most concerned with the loss of employment. They do not want to destroy machines because of ignorance but because they believe that factory owners will constantly reduce the number of employees thanks to the introduction of labour-saving machinery.

“I’ve not much faith I’ Moses Barraclough,” said he; “and I would speak a word to you myseln, Mr. Moore. It’s out o’ no ill-will that I’m here, for my part; it’s just to mak’ a effort to get things straightened, for they’re sorely acrooked. Ye see we’re ill off, — varry ill off: wer families is poor and pined. We’re thrawn out o‘ work wi’ these frames: we can get nought to do: we can earn nought. What is to be done? Mun we say, wisht! and lig us down and dee? Nay: I’ve no grand words at my tongue’s end, Mr. Moore, but I feel that it wad be a low principle for a reasonable man to starve to death like a dumb cratur’: — I will n’t do’t. I’m not for shedding blood: I’d neither kill a man nor hurt a man; and I’m not for pulling down mills and breaking machines: for, as ye say, that way o” going on ’ll niver stop invention; but I’ll talk, — I’ll mak’ as big a din as ever I can. Invention may be all right, but I know it isn’t right for poor folks to starve. Them that governs mun find a way to help us: they mun mak’ fresh orderations. Ye’ll say that’s hard to do: — so mich louder mun we shout out then, for so mich slacker will t’ Parliament-men be to set on to a tough job""

Brontë did not witness the Luddite riots, although she had some first-hand accounts of them from her father, who sometimes acted on behalf of the authorities during the riots. Like Carlyle and Gaskell, Charlotte Brontë is concerned with the plight of the industrial workers. She is aware that the revolt against the unemployment caused by the introduction of machines during the early phase of the Industrial Revolution might lead to major social upheavals. However, what Brontë eventually offers is a simplified solution to remedy the antagonism between masters and workers. Her solution is based on an idealised co-operation and co-existence between benevolent masters and loyal workers. As Patricia Ingham points out in the conclusion of her analysis of Shirley “The novel speaks for the working class but still cannot let them speak for themselves. They remain what Carlyle in Chartism (1839) called ’that great dumb toiling class which cannot speak’”

The Woman Question — that is, issues regarding women’s legal status and their roles in both the public and private spheres — parallels the Condition-of-England Question in the novel. The eponymous character, Shirley Keeldar, is one of the first independent and strong-willed heroines in English literature, who anticipates the New Woman at the end of the Victorian era. Shirley’s foil, Caroline Helstone, represents a conventional Victorian female: she is shy, submissive and self-repressed. Both women struggle, each in their own way, to find happiness and fulfilment in life, but the epilogue of the novel demonstrates that options available to women were very limited. They both fail to find self-fulfilment outside conventional marriage.

As Rosemarie Bodenheimer has demonstrated, “paternalism is an assumption central to Charlotte Brontë’s imagination of human relations.”  Brontë proposes in Shirley paternalism as a solution to both industrial disputes and the Woman Question. Paternalism seems to have been advocated by Victorian writers as an alternative to a number of social ills. Victorian paternalism was a consequence of the laissez-faire doctrine. It offered an alternative to free-market economy by defining the relationship between employers and employees based on humane principles. Paternalism propagated the vision of an industrial society as a big hierarchical family with benevolent employers and dependent employees who revived the old master-servant relationship.

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Parsonage

Parsonage

Charlotte Bronte

Presently the door opened, and in came a superannuated mastiff, followed by an old gentleman very like Miss Bronte, who shook hands with us, and then went to call his daughter. A long interval, during which we coaxed the old dog, and looked at a picture of Miss Bronte, by Richmond, the solitary ornament of the room, looking strangely out of place on the bare walls, and at the books on the little shelves, most of them evidently the gift of the authors since Miss Bronte's celebrity. Presently she came in, and welcomed us very kindly, and took me upstairs to take off my bonnet, and herself brought me water and towels. The uncarpeted stone stairs and floors, the old drawers propped on wood, were all scrupulously clean and neat. When we went into the parlour again, we began talking very comfortably, when the door opened and Mr. Bronte looked in; seeing his daughter there, I suppose he thought it was all right, and he retreated to his study on the opposite side of the passage; presently emerging again to bring W---- a country newspaper. This was his last appearance till we went. Miss Bronte spoke with the greatest warmth of Miss Martineau, and of the good she had gained from her. Well! we talked about various things; the character of the people, - about her solitude, etc., till she left the room to help about dinner, I suppose, for she did not return for an age. The old dog had vanished; a fat curly-haired dog honoured us with his company for some time, but finally manifested a wish to get out, so we were left alone. At last she returned, followed by the maid and dinner, which made us all more comfortable; and we had some very pleasant conversation, in the midst of which time passed quicker than we supposed, for at last W---- found that it was half-past three, and we had fourteen or fifteen miles before us. So we hurried off, having obtained from her a promise to pay us a visit in the spring... ------------------- "She cannot see well, and does little beside knitting. The way she weakened her eyesight was this: When she was sixteen or seventeen, she wanted much to draw; and she copied nimini-pimini copper-plate engravings out of annuals, ('stippling,' don't the artists call it?) every little point put in, till at the end of six months she had produced an exquisitely faithful copy of the engraving. She wanted to learn to express her ideas by drawing. After she had tried to draw stories, and not succeeded, she took the better mode of writing; but in so small a hand, that it is almost impossible to decipher what she wrote at this time.

I asked her whether she had ever taken opium, as the description given of its effects in Villette was so exactly like what I had experienced, - vivid and exaggerated presence of objects, of which the outlines were indistinct, or lost in golden mist, etc. She replied, that she had never, to her knowledge, taken a grain of it in any shape, but that she had followed the process she always adopted when she had to describe anything which had not fallen within her own experience; she had thought intently on it for many and many a night before falling to sleep, - wondering what it was like, or how it would be, - till at length, sometimes after the progress of her story had been arrested at this one point for weeks, she wakened up in the morning with all clear before her, as if she had in reality gone through the experience, and then could describe it, word for word, as it had happened. I cannot account for this psychologically; I only am sure that it was so, because she said it. ----------------------She thought much of her duty, and had loftier and clearer notions of it than most people, and held fast to them with more success. It was done, it seems to me, with much more difficulty than people have of stronger nerves, and better fortunes. All her life was but labour and pain; and she never threw down the burden for the sake of present pleasure. I don't know what use you can make of all I have said. I have written it with the strong desire to obtain appreciation for her. Yet, what does it matter? She herself appealed to the world's judgement for her use of some of the faculties she had, - not the best, - but still the only ones she could turn to strangers' benefit. They heartily, greedily enjoyed the fruits of her labours, and then found out she was much to be blamed for possessing such faculties. Why ask for a judgement on her from such a world?" elizabeth gaskell/charlotte bronte



Poem: No coward soul is mine

No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the worlds storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heavens glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.


O God within my breast.
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life -- that in me has rest,
As I -- Undying Life -- have power in Thee!


Vain are the thousand creeds
That move mens hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,


To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The steadfast Rock of immortality.


With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.


Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.


There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou -- Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.


--
Emily Bronte

Family tree

The Bronte Family

Grandparents - paternal
Hugh Brunty was born 1755 and died circa 1808. He married Eleanor McClory, known as Alice in 1776.

Grandparents - maternal
Thomas Branwell (born 1746 died 5th April 1808) was married in 1768 to Anne Carne (baptised 27th April 1744 and died 19th December 1809).

Parents
Father was Patrick Bronte, the eldest of 10 children born to Hugh Brunty and Eleanor (Alice) McClory. He was born 17th March 1777 and died on 7th June 1861. Mother was Maria Branwell, who was born on 15th April 1783 and died on 15th September 1821.

Maria had a sister, Elizabeth who was known as Aunt Branwell. She was born in 1776 and died on 29th October 1842.

Patrick Bronte married Maria Branwell on 29th December 1812.

The Bronte Children
Patrick and Maria Bronte had six children.
The first child was Maria, who was born in 1814 and died on 6th June 1825.
The second daughter, Elizabeth was born on 8th February 1815 and died shortly after Maria on 15th June 1825. Charlotte was the third daughter, born on 21st April 1816.

Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls (born 1818) on 29th June 1854. Charlotte died on 31st March 1855. Arthur lived until 2nd December 1906.

The first and only son born to Patrick and Maria was Patrick Branwell, who was born on 26th June 1817 and died on 24th September 1848.

Emily Jane, the fourth daughter was born on 30th July 1818 and died on 19th December 1848.

The sixth and last child was Anne, born on 17th January 1820 who died on 28th May 1849.

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