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 12 augustus 2011

The letters of Charlotte Bronte

To the dancing shifts of the letters, Margaret Smith, an exemplary editor, provides all the biographical grounding you could want. There is hardly a reference she does not explain, hardly a fictional echo she does not pick up. 'Cf Villette ch 6,' she writes nonchalantly, 'cf Shirley ch 23'. So Caroline Helstone and Lucy Snowe and Jane Eyre are always with us, not in the heavy-handed way that biographers use them, but like a loose net laid over the letters. We can see how they picked up words and images and dreams, netting the silver fishes of Charlotte's lived experience.

But what is not said bears heavily on this volume, which takes us up to 1847 and the publication of Jane Eyre. Apart from the fact that so many letters were destroyed or lost or censored, there is a world going on underneath them, in which Charlotte was writing her chronicles of Angria, composing poems and sketches and, finally, novels.

Because she kept that world completely hidden from her main correspondent, her school friend Ellen Nussey, we become keenly aware of the disjunction between her social and inner life. So, when she takes her father to Manchester for a cataract operation, she writes to Ellen: 'You ask if I have any enjoyment here in truth I can't say I have', although it was during those weeks that she began to write Jane Eyre, drafting its intense opening chapters in little notebooks.

Even if much of Charlotte's heart is left out of these letters, what we find instead is a lucid development of style and tone as she creates the peculiar voice that rooted Jane Eyre and Lucy Snowe so securely in reality. The almost-invisible governess with her biting tongue, her solitude and her anger begins to express herself in barbs directed at her employers and pupils: 'I will only ask you to imagine the miseries of a reserved wretch like me - thrown at once into the midst of a large Family - proud as peacocks and wealthy as Jews,' she writes to Ellen Nussey from her first situation, spikily characterising her employer thus: 'Mrs Sidgwick is generally considered an agreeable woman - so she is I daresay in general Society - her health is sound - her animal spirits are good - consequently she is cheerful in company - but O Ellen does this compensate for the absence of every fine feeling of every gentle - and delicate sentiment?'
Read more: biography.charlottebronte

The Letters of Charlotte Bronte, Volume One, 1829-1847

The Letters of Charlotte Bronte, Volume One, 1829-1847.
The correspondence in this volume spans the period from 1829, when Charlotte wrote her first letter to her father at the age of thirteen, to 1847, when she had just finished the Preface to the second edition of Jane Eyre. A sentence in this first, youthful letter--"On account of bad weather we have not been out much, but notwithstanding we have spent our time very pleasantly, between reading, working, and learning our lessons ..." (105)--seems to prefigure, in a positive key, the famously ominous opening of Bronte's first novel: "There was no possibility of taking a walk that day" (1); and Smith notes such similarities between the letters and the fiction on a number of occasions. These instances confirm Bronte's own subtle acknowledgment, repeatedly amplified by critics, that she used her past as a resource for her novels. What is especially striking about the letters in this volume, however, is the clarity with which we see how self-conscious and determined Charlotte was about the distance she wanted to maintain between life and art. While she used her inner life as a resource for her writing, she insisted from adolescence forward on maintaining a sharp division between this inner life, which she shared only with her siblings, and her practical and external world. We see this division best in her relationship to her close lifelong friend, Ellen Nussey, whom she met at the infamous Clergy Daughters' school and to whom the majority of the letters in this volume were written. While there is no doubt that Bronte loved Ellen dearly and intimately, she never shared with her the imaginative life she participated in with her brother and sisters and strove to maintain in solitude when necessity took her away from home. These early letters help us to understand that Elizabeth Gaskell's famous (and often maligned) statement that "Henceforward Charlotte Bronte's existence becomes divided into two parallel currents--her life as Currer Bell, the author, and her life as Charlotte Bronte, the woman" (2) had its source not solely or simply in Gaskell's wish to emphasize to her public Bronte's womanliness, but in Bronte's own early and consistent practice of dividing her life along these very lines--out of modesty or artistic self-protection, or some combination of the two.

Haworth Main Street - 81 - 87 - c. 1880 - History Pictures

Haworth Main Street - 81 - 87 - c. 1880 - History Pictures

woensdag 10 augustus 2011

  • The beautiful skies the Sisters were so fond of
  • The blossoming moors
  • Sunsets, so beautiful

Recent Dissertations (III)

Recent Dissertations (III)

An Ethnographic Approach to Literature: Reading Wildfell Hall in the L1 and L2 Classroom
Malgesini, Frank. Dissertation: Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, 2010.

Milking Milton : Charlotte Brontë's re-narration of Paradise lost in The professor andJane Eyre
Author(s): Crouse, Brent.
Year: 2010
Dissertation: Honours Thesis--University of New Brunswick in Saint John, Faculty of English

The Non-Specificity of Location in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights
Voroselo, Brian P.
Master of Arts in English, Cleveland State University, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, 2010.

Confidant and critic : the conflicting roles of the reader in Charlotte Brontë's Villette
Author: Holahan, Alisa 1987- Publication: 2010
Dissertation: Senior honors thesis (B.A.)--University of Texas
at Austin, 2010.

maandag 8 augustus 2011

On this day in 1861

Sutcliffe Sowden clergyman and friend of the Brontes tragically died, he had fallen into the canal at Hebden Bridge and drowned. He was only 44.
Nicholls travelled to Hebden Bridge from Haworth in order to conduct his friend's funeral service.
The report in the Halifax Guardian indicated just how well thought of Sowden had been: "The funeral took place on Tuesday afternoon. Many of the principal shops were closed, the procession numbered upwards of 300 persons."


st james hebden bridge the-bronte-connection

zondag 7 augustus 2011


By J. Hambley Rowe, M.B., F.S.G.,
Chairman of the Council, Brontë Society.

While much has been written and more conjectured regarding the ancestry of the Brontës on the paternal side, their maternal forbears have been uniformly neglected. This seems the more inexplicable as it is generally considered that the distaff influences are the more important in the moulding of capabilities and temperament. In point of intrinsic interest, also, the history of the mother's family is quite as attractive as that of the father's.
Maria Branwell, who, at Guiseley, on December 29th, 1812, became the wife of the Reverend Patrick Brontë, was the daughter of Thomas Branwell and Ann Carne, his wife, both natives of Penance. The Branwells resided in that neighbourhood for two centuries before Thomas Branwell's day, and their name, under the various guises of Bramwell, Bramble and Bromwell, is to be found in the registers of the parishes adjoining Penzance.
The earliest mention of this name that I can trace in Cornwall occurs in the Parish of Sancreed in 1605. A former incumbent of the adjoining parish of Paul, John Trernearne, saw his church in the hands of the Spaniards in 1595, when four of their warships made a raid on the Cornish coast. From him was descended Jane Tremearne, who, on July 2nd, 1705, married Martyn Bremble, presumably the son of John Bromwell, whose marriage to Constance is recorded on March 13th, 1657-8, at Madron.
 Read moregenealogy.rootsweb.ancestry Branwell

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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