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

vrijdag 9 juli 2010


online Bronte studies

Empty Letters and the Ghost of Desire in Charlotte Brontë's Villette
pp. 95-106(12) Author: Jackson, Rachel

'Nothing could be worse for the work of mourning, than confusion or doubt: one has to know who is buried and where', writes Jacques Derrida in Spectres of Marx. This paper offers a reading of Charlotte Brontë's Villette and its depiction of haunting, letters and desire through the context of M. Paul's uncertain death at the end of the novel. Using Derrida's notion of spectral ambiguity and the impossibility of knowledge posed by the ghost, I situate the obfuscation of M. Paul's death as a primal scene informing upon the text as a whole; offering a hindsight which underwrites Lucy Snowe's fixation with the perpetual frustrations and losses of erotic desire. I would suggest that this sense of bereavement manifests itself in Lucy's repeated correlation between letters and haunting, and the shared syntax of desire through which she interprets the lacuna permeating both. To Lucy, letters come to stand in the place of bodies and this misreading of the displaced Other prefigures her response to the 'ghost' nun. Both letters and the ghost thus become dialectical in creating the traffic of confused readings instigated by M. Paul's forever absent body, and the haunted 'counter-knowledge' fixed by the text's ultimate, final recalcitrance to pronounce dead or alive.

Ambivalent Desires in Charlotte Brontë's Villette and Grace Aguilar's Vale of Cedars
pp. 107-117(11) Author: Klein, Kathrine

My paper argues that religious tolerance in Charlotte Brontë's novel Villette (1853) and Grace Aguilar's novel The Vale of Cedars; or, the Martyr (1850) translates into a desire for the other. The anti-Catholic sentiment of both narratives is well established: Charlotte Brontë articulates the threats English Protestants felt from 'Papal aggression', while the Anglo-Jewish writer Aguilar uses the Spanish Inquisition to show that, like the English, Jews have been persecuted by Catholics. Both authors, however, express a more complicated engagement with Catholicism, suggesting through their heroines that sensual desire is the product of toleration and self-realization. The Catholic Other in each novel is an ambivalent attraction for the heroine. On the one hand, Lucy Snowe is charmed by Catholic devotion, manifested in Paul Emanuel. On the other, she is repulsed by Catholic practice, manifested in Madame Beck. For Marie Morales, sexual desire is at odds with religious devotion and patriarchal authority. While her husband legally possesses her body, her Catholic lover governs her desire, making her sexually transgressive. It is only her platonic desire for Queen Isabella that makes acceptable Marie's longing for the Catholic Other. Villette and Vale explore religious otherness and mediate sexual longing in mid-Victorian England.

From Pasha to Cleopatra and Vashti: The Oriental Other in Charlotte Brontë's Villette
pp. 118-127(10) Author: Ramli, Aimillia Mohd

Critics have argued that Jane's engagement with the Orient in Jane Eyre (1847) is grounded in the vocabulary of her role as liberator and the discourse of female slavery and male domination as represented by the use of the harem metaphor in the text. Yet little is said about how this same metaphor exposes in Villette (1853) the ambivalence inherent in the construction of a Western character that has been invaded by the so-called menacing influences of the Orient. In the novel, the Oriental familial institution of the harem is figuratively and literally seen as a contaminant that poses a threat to a racial and gendered colonial British character. It suggests that this contamination destabilizes this character, blurring the line that divides both East and West, fantasy and reality, and argues that the Oriental institution of the harem, the artistic representations of women as illustrated by the Orientalist portrait of Cleopatra and the actress playing Vashti and, finally, M. Paul, represent the different ways in which this character is gendered and orientalized.

Charlotte Brontë's Textual Relics: Memorializing the Material in Villette
pp. 128-136(9) Author: Crowther, Kathryn

Charlotte Brontë's ambivalence towards her role as an artist and a writer in the literary marketplace manifests itself in Villette as a desire to memorialize the labour of writing through the production of textual relics: books, letters or collections of documents which are isolated and treasured for their materiality. The textual relic, I argue, reifies a narrative desire to reinstate the materiality of the original text; it bears the trace of the writer's body through its handwriting and thus represents the authentic connection of the original text to the author. It stands, therefore, in opposition to the lost materiality of the infinitely reproducible text which is produced by the commodified literary marketplace.

Charlotte Brontë, Mary Taylor, and the 'Redundant Women' Debate
pp. 137-148(12) Author: Fenton-Hathaway, Anna

Two years before Charlotte Brontë published Villette, the 1851 British Census reported an 'excess' of over 400,000 'redundant women', a population imbalance that philanthropists and pundits were frantic to resolve. This essay contextualizes Villette within the debate that followed. Charlotte Brontë's private correspondence with her childhood friend Mary Taylor, conducted after Taylor emigrated to find employment abroad, reflects the public debate's greatest tensions, and this essay argues that Charlotte Brontë and Mary Taylor extend the conversation in their novels. In Villette, Lucy Snowe's narrative contortions indicate that any generalized claim, whether feminist or anti-feminist, is equally harmful to the individual (a subtle jab at Taylor's feminist proclamations). Taylor's Miss Miles (1890) features a more frank dissection of female 'redundancy'. The critical premium on psychological complexity that has increased Villette's status has relegated the simpler Miss Miles to literary obscurity, yet both novels deserve renewed attention for their insight into the 'redundant women' debate.

Perception and the Suppression of Identity in Villette
pp. 149-159(11) Author: Haller, Elizabeth K.

Lucy Snowe, the primary character of Charlotte Brontë's Villette, unobtrusively surveys events, observes reactions, studies character all as a means of obtaining involvement without being an active participant. In this veiled existence Lucy can experience life but at a safe distance, in shadow, where 'unobserved I could observe' (V, p. 156). However, I contend that it is as a direct result of her silent surveillance, of her unassuming presence, that she is drawn into each occasion of action in her life. Lucy admits that she is incapable of provoking change on her own behalf: 'To sit still in actual circumstances was my instinct […] I must be stimulated into action. I must be goaded, driven, stung, forced to energy' (V, pp. 290, 42). Indeed, Lucy is consistently goaded into action both by circumstance and by false perception. Ultimately, the forced pretence of her shadowy existence serves as a defence mechanism against the agony of deprivation.

Curiosity, Surveillance and Detection in Charlotte Brontë's Villette
pp. 160-171(12) Author: Jung, Sandro

The article offers a contextualization of female curiosity by relating it to different characters who, in the course of Villette, adopt a criminal, sexual and clinical gaze and use it as a tool to make sense both of gendered and normative reality; I will discuss their self-fashioning in the light of — and as a response to — the constraints of the strictly patrolled and inquisitive patriarchal and religious community at the Pensionnat and in Villette as a whole. In reading the system of surveillance and detection at the Rue Fossette, I will relate questions of the marketability of commodified knowledge and a pseudo-scientific reliance on phrenology to Lucy Snowe's successful negotiation of this society by participating in an economics of love which remains untouched by the moral taint of espionage and the invasion and tradable uses of privacy.

Ohio University Press Free Downloads in Victorian Studies

donderdag 8 juli 2010

Benjamin Herschel Babbage

Haworth in the mid 1800’s was not the romantic village that one thinks of when reading all those books written by the Bronte sisters, but in reality was quite a grim place to live and had many social problems because of it’s poor water supply and virtual lack of sanitation. Over 40% of children died before attaining the age of six years, and the school records from this time are testament to the poor health of local children with smallpox, measles, whooping cough and scarlet fever frequently mentioned as the cause of death. The average age of death in the village was 25.8 [years], which was about the same as in Whitechapel, St.George-in-the-East, and St.Luke, three of the most unhealthy of the London districts.

The situation became so bad that Reverend Patrick Bronte took it upon himself in August 1849 to prepare a petition of 222 signatures to send to the General Board of Health in London, in an effort to improve sanitation in the village. No response was received to this so he sent a second petition in October of the same year, and then in February 1850 wrote to them again asking them to survey the water supply in Haworth. His persistence obviously stirred them into action and in April 1850 an Inspector, Benjamin Herschel Babbage, travelled to Haworth to conduct an investigation into the sanitary conditions in Haworth and the surrounding villages of Stanbury and Near and Far Oxenhope. His report found that the sanitary conditions were poor, with open sewers coursing down Haworth Main Street, and water leaching from the graveyard into the main source of drinking water. Here are some of his findings, which make grim reading:

“There are no water closets in the town, and only 69 privies, being little more than one privy to every four and a half houses….I found seven houses in the main street without a privy….I found twenty four houses lower down with only one privy amongst them….I believe that it would be found that there are no more than two dozen houses in the whole town that have a privy to themselves….two of the privies used by two dozen each, are in the public street, not only within view of the houses, but exposed to the gaze of passers by, whilst a third, as though even such a situation were too private, is perched upon an eminence commanding the whole length of the street. The cesspit of this privy lies below it, and opens by a small door into the main street; occasionally this door is burst open by the superincumbent weight of night soil and ashes, and they overflow into the public street, and at all times a disgusting effluvium escapes through this door into the street. Within two yards of this cesspit door there is a tap for the supply of water to the neighbouring houses….there are no sewers in Haworth;…..as a consequence of the want of sewerage there is a contiguous to each privy a receptacle for the night soil, in some cases walled round… into these midden-steads are thrown the household refuse and the offal from the slaughter-houses, where mixed with the night soil and occasionally with the drainage from pigsties, the whole lies exposed for months together, decomposition goes on and the offensive smells and putrid gases are given off in close proximity to dwelling-houses, making them much more injurious.”

Water Supply
“Bad as is this state of things, [the lack of a sewerage system] perhaps the most crying want of Haworth is water, of which there is an absolute dearth in the dry season…..very few of the inhabitants use the pump-water for cooking or drinking, as they do not fancy that the water is pure and when the soakage into the ground from the midden-stead, and the small depth of the pump-wells are considered, there appears every reason to suppose that the general opinion upon this subject is correct….the supply of water upon the Head Well is so scant in the summer time that in order to have water for the Monday’s washing, the poor people are in the habit of going there at 2 or 3 o,clock on Monday morning, in order to wait their turn to fill their cans and buckets from the slowly running stream. It is stated that the water at this well is very bad at this season, and it is sometimes so green and putrid that cattle, which have been driven there to drink, after tasting the water, have turned away and refused to touch it again”

Burial Grounds

“The churchyard is almost full of graves….it would appear that 1344 burials have taken place in the last ten years….the practice at Haworth is to cover the grave with a flat stone, and the churchyard presents one entire surface of flat stones, some of them simply reposing upon the mound of earth which covers the grave….this practice is a very bad one as it prevents that access of atmospheric air to the ground, which is necessary for promoting decomposition; and beside, the stones take the place of those grasses and shrubs which if planted, would tend to absorb the gases evolved during decomposition, and render the process less likely to contaminate the atmosphere….drains should be laid very deep, below the greatest depth to which the graves would be dug and the drainage should be carried away by airtight pipes into a main sewer… care being taken to lead into one which has no direct communication with any house-drain. I consider the speedy carrying away in covered channels of the water charged with this most dangerous and most subtle matter to be one of the most efficacious means of diminishing the evils, which there can be no doubt always take place from the vicinity of burial grounds to inhabited places.”

Babbage Recommendations

Babbage’s recommendations for improvements in Haworth were as follows:

He thought that water should be collecting from the surface of the nearby moorland, and also collecting from two springs, which had a wholesome supply, and this should then be piped to a reservoir created in one of the many abandoned stones quarries in the area. The water should then be supplied via a new main running down the main street.

A complete sewerage system should be installed in the village.

The costs of the sewerage system would be £863.10s and should be covered by a rates charge per house of 3/4d per week, and the cost of a water supply would be £1274.12s.6p and should be recovered by a rate of 1 1/4d per house per week

As far as the overcrowded graveyard was concerned, he recommended that no more burials should take place there, and a new burial ground should be found a short distance from the village which should be thoroughly drained to a depth of eight feet, and that a ‘code of regulations’ be established to prevent graves being dug too close to each other, and also that no more than one body be allowed to be interred in each grave.

He also recommended that a new small slaughterhouse be established for the use of the village, and that all slaughtering in other places should be prohibited.

Nothing much seemed to happen quickly after Mr Babbage’s visit to Haworth, other than his report and recommendations, so in August 1851 Patrick Bronte again wrote to the General Board of Heath saying

“ Yet after, tedious delay, they have as far as we know done almost nothing….We might have thought that this arose from a press of more urgent business, had it not been that we have learned from good authority that their salutatory rules have been adopted and enforced in various other places where there was less necessity for them”.

Eventually Patrick Bronte’s persistence was rewarded when a clean water supply was put into Haworth in 1856.

It is interesting to note that most pictures of Rev.Patrick Bronte show him with a scarf/muffler over his lower face and neck, and it is thought that he always wore this to try and protect himself from the noxious smells and diseases in Haworth. There still prevailed at this time something called “The Miasma Theory”, which lead people to believe that certain diseases, particularly cholera, were more prevalent in places where water was undrained and foul-smelling, and that the viruses were carried in the air. This theory was disproved in the late 1850’s, when it was found that these diseases were not airborne, but were carried in the water supply. Improvements in water supplies and sewerage systems reduced these illnesses dramatically.

Rev Bronte must however have been made of stern stuff because he lived to the grand old age of 84 years and outlived his wife and all six of his children, which was quite an achievement for anyone living in Haworth in those days!

read orignal on the weblog Bancrofts from Yorkshire


The best-known village in Yorkshire is “on the slide” a heritage boss said as he toured Haworth.
Trevor Mitchell, regional director of English Heritage, visited Haworth prior to the release of his organisation’s Heritage at Risk register.

He said it would not be recognised by the Bronte family.

Mr Mitchell pointed out the street clutter, especially signage, “too modern” shop fronts and the state of the setts, which Bradford Council is to repair at a cost of £600,000 over the next three years.
“This is the shop window for the whole of Yorkshire,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands of people come here and it ought to be a world-class experience but people don’t get that.
“There is a lack of a shared vision. We are worried and Bradford Council is worried that the quality of the best-known village in Yorkshire is on the slide.”
He hoped to encourage shopkeepers and homeowners to pay attention to the heritage needs of the village which would bring economic benefits in the long run.
It was hoped to draw up plans and images of what the village should look like.

He was accompanied by Christine Kerrin, City Hall’s team leader for design and conservation, and John Hogg, the Council’s design and countryside manager.
Miss Kerrin said some changes had not been for the best. “Some window details are incorrect and the cumulative effect of signage and boards is not in character,” she said. “Haworth has a wonderful image, it’s an historic place but that character is not there in all places because of poor decision- making.”

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Heritage status

Bronte country and Haworth village are hoping to be granted highly-prized world heritage status.
World Heritage Sites are chosen for their outstanding universal value to culture, history or science.
The Bronte Landscape and Haworth village is one of 38 nominations from across the country.
An independent expert panel will now be set up to assess each bid and advise ministers on which should be included in a shortlist submitted to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) next year.
Keighley and Ilkley Conservative MP Kris Hopkins said: “I am delighted that Bronte Landscape and Haworth Village have been put forward for consideration and, as far as I’m concerned, they are in a league of their own.
“The literacy legacy left by the Brontes is the source of immense local pride as well as fascination for people across the world, many of whom travel to Bronte Country to experience the wildness and the wonders of the moors. Needless to say the bid has my absolute support.”
Earlier this year Government invited councils and others to bid. Sites winning through will join the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Statue of Liberty and more than 800 other sites on UNESCO’s list of the world’s most important historical sites.
Announcing the bidders, Tourism and Heritage Minister John Penrose said: “The UK’s heritage is world-class and this list represents the unique variety and history present in all corners of this country and our overseas territories.
“We wanted a strong and varied list to eventually put to UNESCO and I’m delighted that so many wonderful, diverse places have been put forward.
“Any list that includes Jodrell Bank, the Forth Bridge, Blackpool and the Turks and Caicos Islands certainly doesn’t lack variety. But what all 38 sites have in common is a wow factor and a cultural resonance that makes them real contenders to sit alongside the Pyramids and Red Square in this most distinguished of gatherings.”
The selection process can take between five and ten years.
After the bid is submitted to UNESCO by the UK Government, it will then be assessed by the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the World Conservation Union.
If successful, the application is then judged by the World Heritage Committee, which meets once a year to decide which sites will be inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.


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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