Originally published on the Brussels Brontë Blog:
Down the Belliard Steps: Discovering the Brontës in BrusselsYou can buy it in the English bookstores Waterstones and Sterling Books in Brussels, or from the Brontë Parsonage Museum shop.
ISBN No 978-0-9573772-0-2
Publisher: Brussels Brontë Editions
Charlotte and Emily Brontë’s stay in Brussels in 1842-43 to improve their French was to prove a momentous one for Charlotte in particular. She fell in love with her French teacher, Constantin Heger, and her experiences in the Belgian capital inspired two of her four novels, Villette and The Professor. Yet the Brontës’ Brussels episode remains the least-known of their lives.
When Helen MacEwan moved to Brussels in 2004 she discovered that not many people there seemed to know much about the Brontës’ time in the city. She herself had a lot to find out about their life in the Pensionnat Heger at the bottom of the Belliard steps. In the process of doing so she met other people who were similarly fascinated by the story, and with them formed the Brussels branch of the Brontë Society.
For all these people, following in Charlotte and Emily's tracks in modern-day Brussels, and setting up a literary group, was a voyage of discovery. In the course of telling their story, Helen finds some odd parallels between the Brussels of their day and ours, and reflects on why the Brontës' time there is so fascinating.