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 11 september 2010

Brontë Myths

I found an interesting website
giving information

Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 and Patrick Bronte

In 1833 Earl Grey, the Prime Minister, set up a Poor Law Commission to examine the working of the poor Law system in Britain. In their report published in 1834, the Commission made several recommendations to Parliament. As a result, the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed. The act stated that:

(a) no able-bodied person was to receive money or other help from the Poor Law authorities except in a workhouse;
(b) conditions in workhouses were to be made very harsh to discourage people from wanting to receive help;
(c) workhouses were to be built in every parish or, if parishes were too small, in unions of parishes;
(d) ratepayers in each parish or union had to elect a Board of Guardians to supervise the workhouse, to collect the Poor Rate and to send reports to the Central Poor Law Commission;
(e) the three man Central Poor Law Commission would be appointed by the government and would be responsible for supervising the Amendment Act throughout the country.

Patrick Brontë (1777–1861)
Born into poverty in Ireland, he won a scholarship to St John’s College, Cambridge, and was ordained into the Church of England. He was perpetual curate of Haworth in Yorkshire for forty-one years, bringing up four children, founding a school and campaigning for a proper water supply.
Although often portrayed as a somewhat fobidding figure, he was an opponent of capital punishment and the Poor Law Amendment Act, a supporter of limited Catholic emancipation and a writer of poetry.

vrijdag 10 september 2010


ShirleyContemporary critics found Shirley (1849) inferior to Jane Eyre. In the Edinburgh Review, G. H. Lewes complained that the novel lacked “all unity in consequence of defective art” . However, recent criticism has discovered in Shirley a significant condition-of-England theme as well as a clearly feminist discourse. Patricia Ingham, for instance, considers Shirley an industrial novel that successfully tackles both gender and class issues during the Industrial Revolution in England.

Shirley was published at the end of the “Hungry Forties,” a decade of profound social unrest. In the novel, Charlotte Brontë both refracted some of Carlyle’s concerns raised in “Signs of the Times” (text) and “Chartism” as well as Disraeli’s anxiety about the two nation divide and also blended them with the Woman Question. The novel has a complex plot: an unromantic tale with two interpolated social commentaries: on the history of the Luddite riots in the cloth-making district of Yorkshire, and on the struggle for female independence from male dominance in patriarchal society. At the outset, the narrator assures its readers that they will not find narrative a conventional romance.

If you think, from this prelude, that anything like a romance is preparing for you, reader, you never were more mistaken. Do you anticipate sentiment, and poetry, and reverie? Do you expect passion, and stimulus, and melodrama? Calm your expectations; reduce them to a lowly standard. Something real, cool, and solid, lies before you; something unromantic as Monday morning, when all who have work wake with the consciousness that they must rise and betake themselves thereto.

In other words, Shirley, which differs considerably from Jane Eyre, declares its affinity with Benjamin Disraeli’s Sibyl and Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton and North and South. The novel contains an explicit social discourse about the Condition of England aimed at highlighting the class and gender divide and its possible social consequences.

In early 1812, Luddism spread to Yorkshire, where croppers, a small and highly skilled group of cloth finishers, turned their anger on the new shearing frame that they feared would put them out of work. Soon Parliament passed the Frame Breaking Act which made machine-breaking a capital offence. The following passage, in which Brontë proves to have a fine ear for the local dialect, suggests that the author sympathises with workers who are most concerned with the loss of employment. They do not want to destroy machines because of ignorance but because they believe that factory owners will constantly reduce the number of employees thanks to the introduction of labour-saving machinery.

“I’ve not much faith I’ Moses Barraclough,” said he; “and I would speak a word to you myseln, Mr. Moore. It’s out o’ no ill-will that I’m here, for my part; it’s just to mak’ a effort to get things straightened, for they’re sorely acrooked. Ye see we’re ill off, — varry ill off: wer families is poor and pined. We’re thrawn out o‘ work wi’ these frames: we can get nought to do: we can earn nought. What is to be done? Mun we say, wisht! and lig us down and dee? Nay: I’ve no grand words at my tongue’s end, Mr. Moore, but I feel that it wad be a low principle for a reasonable man to starve to death like a dumb cratur’: — I will n’t do’t. I’m not for shedding blood: I’d neither kill a man nor hurt a man; and I’m not for pulling down mills and breaking machines: for, as ye say, that way o” going on ’ll niver stop invention; but I’ll talk, — I’ll mak’ as big a din as ever I can. Invention may be all right, but I know it isn’t right for poor folks to starve. Them that governs mun find a way to help us: they mun mak’ fresh orderations. Ye’ll say that’s hard to do: — so mich louder mun we shout out then, for so mich slacker will t’ Parliament-men be to set on to a tough job""

Brontë did not witness the Luddite riots, although she had some first-hand accounts of them from her father, who sometimes acted on behalf of the authorities during the riots. Like Carlyle and Gaskell, Charlotte Brontë is concerned with the plight of the industrial workers. She is aware that the revolt against the unemployment caused by the introduction of machines during the early phase of the Industrial Revolution might lead to major social upheavals. However, what Brontë eventually offers is a simplified solution to remedy the antagonism between masters and workers. Her solution is based on an idealised co-operation and co-existence between benevolent masters and loyal workers. As Patricia Ingham points out in the conclusion of her analysis of Shirley “The novel speaks for the working class but still cannot let them speak for themselves. They remain what Carlyle in Chartism (1839) called ’that great dumb toiling class which cannot speak’”

The Woman Question — that is, issues regarding women’s legal status and their roles in both the public and private spheres — parallels the Condition-of-England Question in the novel. The eponymous character, Shirley Keeldar, is one of the first independent and strong-willed heroines in English literature, who anticipates the New Woman at the end of the Victorian era. Shirley’s foil, Caroline Helstone, represents a conventional Victorian female: she is shy, submissive and self-repressed. Both women struggle, each in their own way, to find happiness and fulfilment in life, but the epilogue of the novel demonstrates that options available to women were very limited. They both fail to find self-fulfilment outside conventional marriage.

As Rosemarie Bodenheimer has demonstrated, “paternalism is an assumption central to Charlotte Brontë’s imagination of human relations.”  Brontë proposes in Shirley paternalism as a solution to both industrial disputes and the Woman Question. Paternalism seems to have been advocated by Victorian writers as an alternative to a number of social ills. Victorian paternalism was a consequence of the laissez-faire doctrine. It offered an alternative to free-market economy by defining the relationship between employers and employees based on humane principles. Paternalism propagated the vision of an industrial society as a big hierarchical family with benevolent employers and dependent employees who revived the old master-servant relationship.


Luddism in Nineteenth-Century Literature

Literature written in response to the 1811-12 Luddite revolt and resulting movement by workers against the English textile factories that displaced craftsmen in favor of machines.

Although at the time relatively little was written about the revolt—either in the press or in literary works—the Luddites and their cause became well known, and this local movement by a small number of displaced textile workers remains a familiar episode in English history. However, the Luddites are often wrongly associated simply with a distrust of technology when in fact Luddism is better characterized as an early movement that recognized the dangers and social costs associated with human dependence on new technology. The nineteenth-century figures who wrote about the 1811-12 rebellion focused on this aspect of the workers' struggle. While not all were directly sympathetic with the Luddites, almost every writer who discussed the disturbances acknowledged that the celebrated economic progress associated with industrialization failed to take into account the dramatic changes that emerging technology had inflicted on the lives of workers. The two most famous authors who wrote about the rebellion were the poet George Gordon, Lord Byron, who delivered an impassioned speech in the House of Lords defending the actions of the Luddites, and Charlotte Brontë, whose novel Shirley (1849), set during the time of the disturbances, offers a complex view of the changes precipitated by the new technology. Although the Romantic poets William Wordsworth, Percy Shelley, John Keats, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge did not directly acknowledge the revolt in their writing, some of their poems have been interpreted as supporting the cause of the workers. Less familiar to most readers today are the broadside poems and ballads written by workers in response to the new factories, as well as the poems, songs, threatening letters, petitions, and proclamations written by the Luddites themselves. Most accounts of and discussions about Luddism have been written by historians who note the paucity of responses to the event by contemporary writers. Critics who have written about the literature associated with the Luddites have discussed the “hidden” Luddite sympathies in the works of Romantic and Victorian writers, examined Brontë's attitude toward the rebellion and the recording of history in Shirley, and discussed the rhetorical strategies and style of the Luddites in their writings. Scholars have also noted that the lessons taught by the Luddites and their literary sympathizers are especially relevant in the twenty-first century, as computers and their associated technology have fundamentally altered the role of contemporary workers just as machines changed the lives of nineteenth-century craftsmen.

In what kind of a world were they living?

On the moment I am reading
a biography of Darwin
Very interesting in this book
are the
cultural, religieus and sociale influences
of his time
He is a contemporary
of the Bronte Sisters
In what kind of a world were they living?
I will start to search for information

In 1812 England was in turmoil--Napoleon ruled Europe and English troops were engaged in a far flung, confused, and fruitless war in North America. At the same time in the cities, towns, and countryside of England the industrial revolution was drastically reshaping the fundamental nature of traditional economic and social relationships. In Nottingham, Lancashire, Leeds, and a few other parts of England, these changes met with bitter, and sporadic well-organized resistance.

For at least three hundred years the weavers from in and around the central English town of Nottingham, though commoners, enjoyed the status and rewards accorded to fine craftsmen. The weavers of Nottinghamshire produced lace and stockings that dominated the English markets and were prominent items in export trade. These products were hand made, often in the weaver's home. Today, it would be called a cottage industry. The weavers worked mainly as independent contractors, not as employees of a factory owner. Apprenticeships, family tradition and community values insured a product of high quality. The weavers of Nottingham could afford to practice their craft with care; prices for their products, as well as for their expenses and the support of their families did not vary with the market conditions, but were governed by tradition. And the weavers had the additional protection of an ancient royal charter restricting certain kinds of textile production in England to within ten leagues of the town of Nottingham. The weavers and their families were reasonably secure in their modest lifestyle.

In the first years of the 19th century stocking frames and the early automation of the power loom threatened this long-standing way of life. Because the new equipment was expensive, the weavers could not afford to purchase it themselves and the balance of power shifted away from the weavers to the factory owners. Simultaneously the Tory government adopted a laissez-faire economic policy. For the weavers, this meant that they were asked to endure a drastic decrease in income and to submit to the regimented and unpleasant atmosphere of a factory, while the price for their food, drink, and other necessities of life increased. The weavers complained bitterly that the machines made mass produced products of shamefully inferior quality. Naturally, the weavers saw the new technology as the most powerful tool of their new oppressor, the factory owner. A vulnerable tool.
Legend has it that about this time, a "feebleminded lad" by the name of Ned Ludd broke two stocking frames at a factory in Nottingham. Of course he meant no harm, and could hardly be punished for his innocent act of clumsiness. Henceforth, when an offending factory owner found one of his expensive pieces of machinery broken, the damage was conveniently attributed to poor Ned Ludd.
During a short period climaxing in the spring of 1812, inspired perhaps by the French Revolution and the writings of Thomas Paine, the weavers formed into something akin to a guerrilla army and took substantial control over the territory near Nottingham and several neighboring districts. Their army was a secret army. They controlled the night, they knew the back trails between villages. If threatened by government troops they would simply disappear into the same hills and forests that fostered the legend of Robin Hood. Most of all, they enjoyed almost universal support of the local people.
The Luddites often appeared at a factory in disguise and stated that they had come upon the orders of General Ned Ludd. These demands included restoration of reasonable rates of compensation, acceptable work conditions, and probably quality control. Faced by the intimidating numbers and the surprisingly disciplined actions of the Luddites, most factory owners complied, at least temporarily. Those that refused found their expensive machines wrecked. At the outset, the Luddites scrupulously avoided violence upon any person.

The non-violent period of Luddism ended at Burton's power loom mill in Lancashire on April 20, 1812. A large body of Luddites, perhaps numbering over a thousand attacked the mill, mostly with stick and rocks. The mill was defended by a well armed privately hired group of guards. The guards repulsed the attack, and the Luddites instead burned the owners house. They were met up with by the military and several were killed. A government crackdown ensued, and many suspected Luddites were convicted, imprisoned, or hanged.

Excerpt from Shirley
Published in 1849
—Charlotte Brontë

The introduction of newly invented water- or steam-powered machinery into England's textile industry, starting in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, had a major impact on workers right from the beginning. People skilled at making yarn or fabric with traditional hand-operated spinning machines or looms soon discovered that with the new equipment, one or two workers could produce the same amount of yarn or cloth as a dozen or more workers using the old machines. With fewer workers needed to produce the same amount of goods, jobs in textiles became harder to find. In 1811 near Nottingham, England, a group of...

Bronte Blog

The best blog I know about th Brontes is the Bronte Blog

It is the fifth anniversary CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!
Five years ago, on a day like today, we joined the blogosphere determined to see what afterlife was like for the Brontës in the 21st century. We were aware that the Brontës and their literary output were far from dead and still touched daily the lives of all kinds of people around the world. We were nonetheless surprised by the sheer volume of Brontë presence across all sorts of formats, productions, genres, books, etc. Five years later we are still surprised day after day when we rake the internet for Brontë stuff.

BrontëBlog was born on Blogger but is also now available on social networks such as Twitter, Tumblr, Netvibes, Facebook. And of course you can still take our feed and read it on your favourite feed reader or subscribe by email.

Oakwell Hall

Oakwell Hall in Birstall will be celebrating with a Living History event from noon-5pm both days, when entry and all activities are free.

There will be historical demonstrations, a beekeeping display, knitting and stitching in the museum, while outside there will be a birds of prey display with a griffon vulture – which has an 8ft wingspan – an American bald eagle, harris hawks and an eagle owl.

In addition the Friends of Oakwell, who organise the museum's monthly Living History events, will demonstrate butter making and painting. On the Saturday visitors can make God's Eyes – a hanging decoration originally made in South America to ward off evil spirits – and on Sunday they can have a go at quill pen writing.

Visitors to Red House in Gomersal will see the period house, former home to Mary Taylor, which was the model for Briarmains in Charlotte Brontë's novel Shirley.

dinsdag 7 september 2010

Heritage Open Days 11/09/2010

Come and see the chapel decorated for harvest, hear talks about William Grimshaw, the village curate who encouraged Methodism in the 18th century and pick up history leaflets. Tea and cakes 2pm to 5pm Saturday. Harvest festival 2.30 Sunday followed by refreshments.

Haworth West Lane Methodist Grimshaw Centre, opposite the Old Sun Hotel

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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