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

zaterdag 8 mei 2010

Charlotte Brontë's corset

(1) The cover picture is indeed Charlotte Brontë's corset, slightly retouched to make it seem less intimate somehow. The Brontë Society is quite reluctant to put such private items on display at the Parsonage. Anne Dinsdale, Collections' Manager at the Museum, recently told us the anecdote that this corset - or another belonging to Charlotte Brontë, if there are several of them - was displayed at an exhibition at the end of the 19th century. Ellen Nussey was duly appalled by it. Charlotte's husband was still alive too, living in Ireland, and we don't know if he heard, but rather think it better if he didn't or we can't begin to imagine what he would have felt, poor man. 
Katrina Naomi, the first writer-in-residence at the Brontë Parsonage Museum as part of its Contemporary Arts programme, has fulfilled many a Brontëite's dream: she has spent time at the Brontë Parsonage having all sorts of Brontëana items brought to her from the collection. She has been allowed to (carefully and with gloved hands) interact with them and just be inspired by them.
This collection serves to humanise the Brontës and see them as at home as possible. Katrina Naomi reports that judging from Charlotte Brontë's dainty boots she seems to have pronated, that a flimsy piece of paper written by Anne less than two months before she died was last valued at 180,000 pounds and that the Brontës' toy lion looks like 'he's been tortured'.

So these are the Brontës, lest we ever forget they were real people. Katrina Naomi's collection seems the perfect complement to another commission made in the framework of the Contemporary Arts Programme: Cornelia Parker's 2006 Brontëan Abstracts. Where Katrina Naomi states that she feels like 'a forensic examiner/unearthing layers of mid-thigh/socks' Cornelia Parker showed us a darn in Anne Brontë's stocking. Where Katrina Naomi admits that Anne Brontë is her favourite but she 'daren't touch/the original [letter] for fear I'd start to cough, my lungs/in revolt', Cornelia Parker showed us Anne Brontë's blood-stained handkerchief.

Just like Charlotte's tiny corset managed to contain the great author that was Charlotte Brontë, so does this small collection contain all of the Brontës, what they were, who they were, how they were, what they did and where they lived, and what they are today. This evocative, subtle collection bears endless readings - we have been drifting in and out of it ever since it arrived - and shows both the lasting and varied inspiration of the Brontë sisters in modern culture and, once again, the success of the Contemporary Arts Programme.

zondag 2 mei 2010

Life of Charlotte Brontë

When her Life of Charlotte Brontë was published in 1857, Elizabeth Gaskell said she would never write another biography. The celebrated social and Unitarian novelist had, in addition to the emotional challenge of writing about her recently deceased friend, faced so many complaints and threats of legal action over the Life that it had to be rewritten for republication almost immediately.
Having accepted the invitation from Patrick Brontë to write the life of his daughter Gaskell was keen to bring the same “charm of locality and sense of detail” to the Life that had already characterised her novels Mary Barton, Cranford and North & South. She quickly realised that a visit to Brussels was needed. Gaskell’s investigations were however made more delicate by the fact that when Villette was translated into French, the fictitious city name was changed to ‘Bruxelles’. Individuals portrayed in the novel were thus left with even less to mask their identity and felt understandably wary of welcoming a second English novelist into their homes.
Undaunted, French-speaking Gaskell made contact with locals including the widow of the former English chaplain and the Brussels chief of police. Although failing to win an audience with Madame Heger (the inspiration for the almost certainly slanderous character of Madame Beck), Gaskell was able to meet with Charlotte’s beloved Monsieur Heger (Monsieur Paul).

Samplers of the Bronte sisters

Maria Branwell completed her sampler April 15, 1791. She was 8 years old. Her sampler was a simple one, comprised of an alphabet, biblical text and a simple geometric border. It is worked with dark green silk and pink and ginger brown wool on canvas.

Maria's sampler is the first of a unique family collection. The collection is not unique for the style or technical expertise displayed by the embroiderers. It's interest lies in the fact that three of Maria's daughters grew up to become noted Victorian authors; the Bronte sisters.

Maria's sisters, Ann, Margaret, and Elizabeth Branwell each completed a similar sampler worked in the same dark green silk. Ann Branwell, later Ann Kingston, signed but did not date her sampler. Margaret Branwell signed and dated her work March 23, 1799. Sister Elizabeth finished her signed sampler on 11 October.

Time at Haworth was also devoted to needlework. Emily completed her first sampler April 22, 1828. Anne finished her first piece November 28, 1828. Both of these pieces are again similar to those of their elder sisters, aunts, and mother. The sisters each completed a second, more lengthy piece:
Emily, March 1, 1829; Charlotte, April 1, 1829 and Anne January 23, 1830. All were worked with dark green silk on canvas. All of these pieces were previously in private collections. They are now in the possession of the Bronte Society and on display at the Bronte Parsonage Museum, Haworth.

This is a reproduction of a sampler which Anne Bronte worked when she was eight years old. The reproduction is authorized by the Bronte Society, and the original may be seen at the Bronte Parsonage Museum, Haworth, England.

This is a reproduction of a sampler which Emily Bronte worked when she was ten years old. The reproduction is authorized by the Bronte Society, and the original may be seen at the Bronte Parsonage Museum, Haworth, England.

This is a reproduction of a sampler which Charlotte Bronte worked when she was six years old. The reproduction is authorized by the Bronte Society, and the original may be seen at the Bronte Parsonage Museum, Haworth, England.

gate in Haworth

This photo is of an old metal kissing gate in Haworth, Yorkshire.

This footpath goes from the churchyard out across the moor towards Top Withins. Top Withins is said to be the inspiration for Heathcliff's abode "Wuthering Heights" in Emily Bronte's novel of the same name.

Chair of Branwell Bronte

The photo above shows the chair in the Black Bull public house on the main street in Haworth that was used by Branwell Bronte. The chair is not where it used to be but is now sited on the stairway in front of a nice window.

Patrick Branwell Bronte (26 June 1817 – 24 September 1848) was a painter and poet, the only son of the Bronte family, and the brother of the writers Charlotte, Emily and Anne.

Hair and comb

Sample of Mrs. Maria Brontë's hair (dated 1824).

Emily's comb

Gedichten en brieven

"The primrose pale
Perfumes the gale
The modest daisy, and the violet blue"

Uit een gedichtje dat Patrick Bronte voor zijn vrouw Maria schreef.

Maria schreef hem

"Ik weet zeker
dat niemand ooit van u hield
met een even
vurige genegenheid
 als ik voel''

The Parlour

The Parlour



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).

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.

Top Withens in the snow.

Top Withens in the snow.



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