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

zondag 28 september 2014

Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell's home to re-open to the public

 
From Independent: She is best known for the gentle, humorous exploits of the gossiping women of Cranford, which Dame Judi Dench and co popularly brought to life on the small screen.

Yet so controversial was another of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels to her Victorian readers that it was banned in many households, including her own, being, as she described it, “not a book for young people”. The hostile reaction to Ruth, her 1853 story that has as its heroine a working-class teenage girl who is seduced and abandoned as an unmarried mother, made the writer ill. “I think I must be an improper woman without knowing it, I do so manage to shock people,” she wrote to her friend, Eliza Fox. “Now should you have burnt the 1st vol. [sic] of Ruth as so very bad? Even if you had been a very anxious father of a family? Yet two men have; and a third has forbidden his wife to read it; they sit next to us in chapel and you can’t think how ‘improper’ I feel under their eyes.”

She was not afraid, however, of raising important social issues through her work. While in Ruth she confronts Victorian attitudes to illegitimacy and the “fallen woman”, her first book, the 1848 industrial novel Mary Barton, had tackled topics including drugs, poverty, the relationship between employer and employee, and the Chartist movement. “Writing was Gaskell’s most effective form of philanthropy”, says Jenny Uglow in her biography of the novelist, Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories.


While in the past, “Mrs Gaskell”, as she was known, was often, misleadingly, presented as the perfect housewife, it now appears that there was much more to the author than domesticity. The Manchester Historic Buildings Trust will highlight her status as one of the 19th century’s most important women writers when it opens the doors to her newly restored former Manchester home next week. With displays of artefacts and manuscripts, and a programme of events, the house will become a centre for the understanding of the Gaskell family’s literary and cultural heritage.

Thanks to a £2.5m renovation, part-financed by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, visitors to 84 Plymouth Grove will be able to experience for the first time the suburban villa and its re-established Victorian gardens as they might have appeared during Gaskell’s lifetime. They will follow in some rather famous footsteps: the sociable author was a “networker par excellence”, according to Janet Allan, chair of the trust set up in 1998 with the aim of saving Gaskell’s Grade II*-listed house.
The restored drawing room houses a piano similar to that on which Charles Hallé, the conductor and founder of Manchester’s Hallé orchestra, gave music lessons to Gaskell’s daughters. It is in the same room that a shy Charlotte Brontë hid behind the curtains to avoid seeing guests. Other esteemed visitors over the years included Harriet Beecher Stowe, the American abolitionist and author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and the art critic John Ruskin, not to mention Gaskell’s editor, a certain Charles Dickens.

Born in London in 1810, Gaskell moved the following year, after the death of her mother, to live with her aunt, Hannah Lumb, in the Cheshire town of Knutsford, which would later provide the inspiration for Cranford. Marriage took her to Manchester in 1832.
She lived in Plymouth Grove between 1850 and her death in 1865, a period during which she wrote the popular novels Cranford, Ruth and North and South, the lesser-known Sylvia’s Lovers, and the unfinished Wives and Daughters. She and her husband, William, a Unitarian minister at the city’s Cross Street Chapel, wanted space and fresh air for their four daughters and, when they moved in, the house lay near open fields. Brontë remarked in a letter, in 1951, to her publisher, George Smith, that it was “a large, cheerful, airy house, quite out of Manchester smoke”.

While William worked in his study – in which visitors to the house will see the original bookcases filled with period titles researchers think the family might have read – his wife fitted her writing around the running of the household and, no doubt, disruptions from the morning room used as the girls’ nursery. Without a room of her own, she used to pen wonderfully gossipy letters, and parts of her novels, sitting at a small table in the dining-room window overlooking the garden she so loved.

 


Elizabeth Gaskell's dining room and table from which she wrote her novels (Photo Joel Chester Fildes. Press image from Catharine Braithwaite)

There were times, however, when Lily, as she was known to her family, sought out places to write away from her domestic responsibilities and Manchester. As the passport on display testifies, she was a keen traveller, often with a daughter in tow but usually without her husband, who liked being in the city. “He [William] must have been quite an indulgent husband because she spent an enormous amount of time not at home at all,” says Ms Allan. “There was one year when for almost half the year she wasn’t here. She was whizzing around doing all sorts of other things.” As soon as she had finished writing the biography of her friend, Brontë, in 1857, for instance, she escaped to Rome and so it was William who had to pick up the pieces and deal with the ensuing libel case. The couple were on “parallel tracks” that didn’t always merge, says Ms Allan. While William used to spend holidays with Beatrix Potter’s family, Elizabeth and the girls would go elsewhere. “But it didn’t mean they were at odds with each other,” she adds. “I think it was a very supportive relationship.”

Ms Allan says that, for a long time, the writer was pigeon-holed as “Mrs Gaskell”, the author of Cranford, a work which she claims has a “much more profound emotional element to it” than some people might appreciate, dealing as it does with the position of single women and how they make a life for themselves and manage to circumvent tragedies in their lives.
“It’s only in the past 25 years that her reputation has grown and she’s recognised as a very professional, courageous novelist, who was prepared to write about really difficult issues,” she adds. “I think Cranford, although it is a wonderful book, has in a way done her a great disservice because people just think it’s about silly old ladies in bonnets and I’m afraid that’s been confirmed by the [BBC] television version. There’s a lot more to it than that, and a lot more to her.”
Elizabeth Gaskell’s House re-opens to the public on Sunday, 5 October. Visit www.elizabethgaskellhouse.co.uk
          

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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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