The Brontës in Brussels
Peter Owen Publishers
ISBN 978 0 7206 1588 3
In 1842 Charlotte Brontë (1816–55) and her sister Emily (1818–48) arrived in Brussels to improve their languages, five years before becoming best-selling authors. Emily stayed for a year, Charlotte for two. Although this is a little-known episode of their lives, it is a fascinating one. Two of Charlotte’s four novels – Villette and The Professor – were based on her time in Belgium, which was pivotal for her both as a writer and personally, since she fell in love with her married teacher Constantin Heger. This book describes the sisters’ life in Brussels and provides information on places with Brontë connections. Although the Pensionnat Heger school where they stayed has gone, there is still much to be seen of the city they knew.
In 1913 Charlotte’s highly emotional letters to her teacher were donated by his descendants to the British Museum and on publication caused something of a scandal. Since then those with an interest in the Brontës’ literary achievements have been intrigued by this influential period in their lives.
The book includes a wealth of illustrations and maps, extracts from Villette demonstrating how the novel reflects Charlotte’s experiences in Brussels, translations of four of the sisters’ French essays and of Charlotte’s moving letters to her teacher and a Brontë walk around the city with maps and historical information on places and people especially associated with the sisters’ stay. For anyone who takes an interest in the life and work of the Brontës or who appreciates the literary associations of places, this is a compelling read.
HELEN MACEWAN is a translator and former teacher who lives in Brussels. Her experiences as the founder of the Brussels Brontë Group, the Belgian branch of the Brontë Society, which organizes guided literary walks and conferences in the city, are related in her previous book Down the Belliard Steps.The book will be presented by the author next June 26 at the Waterstones Brussels store. Here you can find the author herself talking about her book.bronteblog