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

woensdag 4 april 2012

A Comparison of Charlotte Bronte Biographies

Over the years, there have been many biographies written about Charlotte Bronte. Elizabeth Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Bronte has been regarded as the standard work. Winifred Gerin's biography, Charlotte Bronte: The Evolution of Genius (published in 1967) was the first to include new information on Bronte. Gerin says, "It is paradoxical that the standard work is still Mrs. Gaskell's Life. This remains a great biography, but published two years after its subject's death it suffered from the inevitable limitations thus imposed . . . and was not bettered by immediate followers" (xiv). Gerin felt that "the main contributions to Bronte studies in this century have been on the editorial plane" and sought to write a factual, unbiased biography (xiv). Lyndall Gordon's biography, Charlotte Bronte: A Passionate Life, took a feminist view, which was a different view from that of all previous biographies. Each biographer was affected by the cultural views of women of the time. Since Jane Eyre is seen as a reflection of Bronte’s life, the view of Jane Eyre has also changed with the times. In her biography, Gaskell sought to hide Bronte's excess passion and blamed it on the tragedies she suffered, whereas Gerin recognized Bronte 's passion as a part of her personality that contributed to her writing, and Gordon embraced it as the most important aspect of Bronte 's life. 


In June of 1855, Mrs. Gaskell received a letter from Reverend Patrick Bronte, on behalf of himself and Bronte's husband, Reverend Arthur Bell Nicholls, asking if she would write a biography of Charlotte Bronte. Ellen Nussey, Bronte's friend, had written to Patrick Bronte and Nicholls concerned with her friend's reputation and some speculations made by the press. Ellen Nussey demanded that these speculations be challenged. Had the Bell brothers (Charlotte, Emily and Anne's pseudonyms) been three separate people? Were they male or female? According to Gaskell, people began wondering if the "author [of Jane Eyre] forfeited the right to keep the company of respectable women" (vii) because of her coarseness ("by which Victorians meant vehemence and passion") (Gordon 347)? Ellen suggested that Gaskell, a friend of Bronte’s and an established author, write Charlotte's biography. 

In writing the biography, Gaskell used her own notes and letters describing her meetings with Charlotte Bronte. Patrick Bronte provided a skeleton biographical outline (not always accurate in detail) of himself and his family (Gaskell xiii). Gaskell traveled to Haworth and Cowan Bridge, to Casterton (where the clergy daughter's school located) to Thorton (where Bronte was born), to London to see George Smith and to Brussels to meet Constantin Heger. She spoke to those who had known Bronte and relied heavily on letters Bronte had written to Ellen Nussey, which Ellen had saved (Gaskell xv). 
Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Bronte was published in 1857. Gaskell then spent some time in Italy and upon her return "found a heap of correspondence waiting for her" most of which were "attacks on grounds of misrepresentation" (Gaskell x). She then wrote a revised edition, which was later revised again and expanded (x). 

Through the biography Gaskell sought to repudiate charges of "coarseness" (brought on by Bronte's bold, passionate writing) by showing that "It was not Bronte's nature but her environment that made her wild" (ix). Gaskell felt that Charlotte's life "was but labour and pain" (457). She attempted to protect her friend by removing all reference to Bronte's love for M. Heger from the biography. Due to the fact that the biography was published only two years after Bronte's death, Gaskell had to omit information that could have damaged the reputations of people who were still living. 

Gaskell's perspective of Bronte's life is one of loss and grief. To this, she attributes the aspects of Bronte's writing and personality that were unacceptable at the time. She writes: 

Miss Bronte never dared to allow herself to look forward with hope; she had no confidence in the future; and I thought, when I heard of the sorrowful years she had passed through, that it had been this pressure of grief which had crushed all buoyancy of expectation out of her. (94) 

This perspective of Bronte also applies to Jane Eyre. After reading Gaskell's biography, one can see how autobiographical aspects of Bronte's life emerge in Jane Eyre. For example, Charlotte Bronte attended Cowan Bridge as a child, a school for the clergy’s daughters, which is represented as "Lowood" and her sister Maria is represented as the character "Helen Burns" (Gaskell 51). It is important to remember that Gaskell was writing for a different time, when women were to be seen and not heard. Bronte's bold behavior was not normal and could only be explained by the misery Bronte endured. Taking this into consideration, one can see Gaskell's view of Bronte's life reflected in Jane: her passion a result of her suffering. 

Winifred Gerin's biography, Charlotte Bronte: Evolution of a Genius, was published in 1967. She used a variety of sources in writing the biography including Bronte's juvenile writings (preserved in manuscript only), and Bronte's letters. Gerin researched the personalities and backgrounds of Bronte's known acquaintances and visited sights from Bronte's life (from Thorton, to Cowan Bridge, to the home in Ireland where she stayed on her honeymoon) (Gerin xv). Gerin received information on Charlotte Bronte's experience in Belgium first hand from the Heger family. All of this was published for the first time in her biography. 

Gerin focused on Bronte's "evolution towards fulfillment" (xv). Gerin viewed Bronte’s grief as an essential part of her character. Gerin revealed the passion that Bronte had felt for M. Heger, which was something Gaskell had not done. Gerin also saw the importance of Bronte's childhood writings and felt that they traced Bronte's development as a writer. She felt that they were the "key to her mature productions" and spent a great deal of time analyzing them (xv). 

Gerin's biography recognized how the events in Bronte's life shaped her character. She recognized that Bronte's love for M. Heger was an important factor in her life and included it in her book. She was as concerned as Gaskell with defending Bronte, rather with presenting facts, and thus she did not omit things or modify them as Gaskell did. One hundred years later, women are viewed differently. What was once considered coarse, is no longer so. Gerin was able to present Bronte's life as it was. 

Read on: 123helpme/view.
wiki/Winifred Gerin

1 opmerking:

  1. Useful information shared..I am very happy to read this article..

    BeantwoordenVerwijderen

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.

Blogarchief

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails

The Parlour

The Parlour