What I imagined grew morbidly vivid,...All this day I have been in a dream, half miserable and half ecstatic: miserable because I could not follow it out uninterruptedly; ecstatic because it shewed almost in the vivid light of reality the ongoings of the infernal world. ...Then came on me, rushing impetuously, all the mighty phantasm that we had conjured from nothing to a system strong as some religious creed. I felt as if I could have written gloriously - I longed to write. The spirit of all Verdopolis, of all the mountainous North, of all the woodland West, of all the river-watered East came crowding into my mind. If I had had time to indulge it, I felt that the vague sensations of that moment would have settled down into some narrative better at least than any thing I ever produced before. But just then a dolt came up with a lesson. I thought I should have vomited.- See more at:bl.uk/collection-items/charlotte-brontes-journal
Claire Harman in her new biography is suggesting Charlotte Bronte was using laudanum/ opium during the time she was a teacher at Roe Head. What does her suggest this:
- Branwell and Charlotte were both reading Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas de Quincy. The young Brontes were fascinated by the book.
- Branwell later told a friend that he had experimented with opium eating after reading de Quincy. Claire Harman thinks it is unlikely, given the opportunity, Charlotte would not have joined him in some testing of the magical drug.
- Phantasms as Charlotte discribes in her Roe Head diary are like the phantoms that was commonly used to describe opium -induced reveries.
- Claire Harman uses a foot-note: Christina Alexander brought readers' attention to something Charlotte wrote 3 years after the priod in Roe Head "Now Thownshend, so suffering, how far did I err when I had recourse to the sovereign specific which a siple narcotic drug offered me"
- Opiates, laudanum drops were a common tranquilliser in the Brontes time, easily available over de druggist counter.
Elizabeth Gaskell is ending with: I cannot account for this psychologically: I only am sure that it was so, because she said so. Claire Harman is asking: Maybe Charlotte being evasive, making a rather specious distinction about the size of a dose and if so, why?
To my surprise in a review in the theguardian the question mark is gone. When Gaskell had asked Brontë about fact and fiction in the novels, she got some unexpected answers. Brontë was evasive about whether she had based the opium trance in Villette on personal experience (in an age when opium was readily available and often used.
It starts to become a truth. Is this the way in the past Bronte myths were created? I wonder is it enough for a biographer to use a question mark, without having a real prove? What is the real prove Claire Harman has? Did she forget that the Brontes from their childhood on were full of imagination?
Is it so incredible to think that Charlotte made her work on her own power of creating? Charlotte was a teenage girl when she was working as a teacher at Roe Head. Is it so strange she had strong visions and feelings? I had them when I was a teenager and I certainly did not use opium.