This is a blog about the Bronte Sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne. And their father Patrick, their mother Maria and their brother Branwell. About their pets, their friends, the parsonage (their house), Haworth the town in which they lived, the moors they loved so much, the Victorian era in which they lived.
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.
Charlotte Brontë wrote not one but two masterpieces. Most readers know Jane Eyre. Even non-readers feel they know it, because they have seen a film version, or just because it is a part of our common culture. But Villette, Brontë’s last and – to my mind – greatest novel, is less popular, perhaps because it is so uncompromising and so original. It is high time it was recognised as the blazing work it is. Reading it you enter an area of experience – of passion and disappointment and the violent return of the repressed – that has seldom been so lucidly articulated.
It is also an astonishing piece of writing, a book in which phantasmagorical set pieces alternate with passages of minute psychological exploration, and in which Brontë’s marvellously flexible prose veers between sardonic wit and stream-of-consciousness, in which the syntax bends and flows and threatens to dissolve completely in the heat of madness, drug-induced hallucination and desperate desire.
“Villette! Villette!” wrote George Eliot. “It is a still more wonderful book than Jane Eyre. There is something almost preternatural in its power.” It was unlike the strong-minded Eliot to be reduced to exclamation marks and vague talk of a “something”. But Villette was so innovative for its time, and remains to this day so potently strange, that critics have struggled to find words to describe it. “There are so few books, and so many volumes,” wrote Eliot’s partner GH Lewes. “Among the few stands Villette.” Lewes thought it was unique. Lesser authors were “reverberating the vague noise of others”. Brontë spoke out boldly in a voice that was all her own.
Villette is the most autobiographical of Brontë’s novels. In it, she elaborates on the true story of her unrequited love for a married schoolmaster called Constantin Héger. In 1842 Brontë, then aged 26, went with her sister Emily to Brussels. There they worked as student-teachers in the Hégers’ school with the intention of perfecting their French, and returning home to set up a school of their own.
Emily, miserably homesick for the Yorkshire moors, left first. Charlotte stayed for two years, and subsequently wrote Monsieur Héger a series of letters to which he, probably in obedience to his wife, never replied. Brontë saw him as her intellectual mentor, but the yearning tone of her letters, and the two novels for which her Belgian experiences provided her with raw material, make it obvious that she was in love with him. Read more: telegraph/Why-Villette-is-better-than-Jane-Eyre Bloggerswriting about Vilette:
After 2011 when two Brontë film adaptations were premiered followed two years (2012, 2013) dominated by the frenzy of mash-up novels, young adult revisitations and the latest erotic retellings under the shadow of the fifty shades, everything suggests that this will be a quiet year in the Brontë front.
The big screen news will probably spin around the Clothworkers Films production of a Brontë biopic initially scheduled for 2016 (to coincide with the bicentenary of Charlotte Brontë's birth).We are pretty sure that this year will bring some news about the cast and crew that will be delivered through its active Twitter and Facebook accounts and its quite indefatigable communication strategy.
January will also bring a collector's limited edition set of Wuthering Heights 1967 for Region 2 combined with a hardback illustrated book under the title The Brontës: Their Lives and Works. An edition of 1000 copies released by Front Row Books.
Read more on this blog. There are also beautiful photographes on this blog.
I'd spent the morning looking through an old book, picked up recently in the local Oxfam shop;
"Victorian Ouseburn - George Whitehead's Journal"
George must have been a plain-speaking chap - intent on recording facts as he found them, with little emotion or detail, he notes;
"Robinsons set off for Scarboro' Friday July 4th 1845."
"Robinsons came back from Scarboro' Friday Aug 8th 1845,"
"Miss Lydia Robinson made her exit with Henry Roxby (a play actor) Monday morning, Oct 20th. They went to Gretna Green and got married that night. She was a fortnight turned 20 years that day. A bad job 1845."
("Finished shearing beans and peas, Oct 20th 1845.")
Then the penny dropped and I remembered who the Robinsons were!
A clergyman's family living at Thorpe Green House, near Little Ouseburn, the Robinsons had employed Anne Bronte as a governess between 1840 and 1845, and also Branwell Bronte, as a tutor to their son, from 1843. George Whitehead's diary does not mention Anne the governess, nor her brother Branwell, though he records Robinson family trips to Scarborough which it is known that Anne enjoyed.
"Rev. E Robinson was interred, June 5th. There was about 60 Odd Fellows followed him. His Mrs and Misses Elizabeth and Mary and the young master followed him to the church 1846."
Rumour has it that Branwell hoped that the newly widowed Mrs Robinson would marry him, but this was not to be...
"Mrs Robinsons labouring men, 4 in number, namely John Abbey, Thos. Brigg, Richard Bowser Jr. and Geo. Kaye paid off Aug 1st.""Mrs Robinson's land let about July 25th 1846." "Mrs Robinson's sale at Thorpe Green. Farming stock and implements. Feb 12th 1847" "Mrs Robinson had a sale of oak wood at the Black Swan York March 2nd 1847" "All Robinsons left Thorpe Green March 3rd. Mrs went among her relations that day and the young master and the young ladies were at Lodgings at York until March 10th and they went southward to their Mamma. It will be a bad job for many people them leaving Thorpe Green 1847."
George was born in 1824 and lived in the village of Little Ouseburn in North Yorkshire. He was a joiner, wheelwright and farmer. He wrote up an account of his observations, both personal and also from newpapers as a series of journals from around 1840 to 1909. His writings provide a fascinating insight into the day to day life of the 19th century, including accounts of the movements and activities of people in his community.
George's Journals are available thanks to Helier Hibbs, who discovered the journals, edited them and then published the Jounals as a book in 1990.
Burried deep beneath Haworth Old Hall, leading off from the cellars of this 400 four hundred-year old Tudor manor house, are two elaborate tunnels each nearly a mile in length. Once used as an escape route, one of the tunnels connects directly to Haworth Parish Church.
During the 1600s, The Emmott family owned most of the property in Haworth including what is now known as Haworth Old Hall. The Emmotts were recusants (those who remained loyal to the Roman Catholic Church and did not attend Church of England services) who kept up the old faith in the church and protected the priest and people from persecution during penal times.
During times of religious persecution, the Emmott family would use the tunnels beneath the house to offer the nonconformist people of Haworth a safe passage of escape from the forces of the Church of England. The last of the Emmott line to remain at the manor house was General Emmott Rawdon, also known as Green-Emmott-Rawdon. The association of the family and the Old Hall continues to this day among the characters described by the Bronte sisters in their novels.
This fine example of an old hall house, also known as a communal dwelling house, court house or resting place, stands at the bottom of the Church Gate, no doubt on the site of the original manor house. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Haworth Old Hall as it now stands was erected as a collection of rooms that led off the main entrance hall, which itself was a most magnificent room with polished oak rafters.
By the 1870s the Old Hall had been divided into two cottages before being reconverted into one residence at the beginning of the 20th Century when the ancient hall became the dining area, revealing two magnificent stone fire places that had previously been hidden. hawortholdhall
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.
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.