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 10 maart 2012

Charlotte Bronte at Gawthorpe Hall

In March 1850 Charlotte went to stay with Sir James and Lady Kay-Shuttleworth at Gawthorpe Hall.


The magnificent hall lies near Padiham in Lancashire, just off the present A671. The visit was a surrender to a sort of war of attrition waged by Sir James in an effort to get to know ‘Currer Bell’. He was a remarkable man, a great social reformer; in his younger days, as a doctor in Manchester, he had battled against problems of hygiene among the poor and was instrumental in opening schools in workhouses. He lobbied tirelessly for free libraries and free education, and suffered a series of nervous breakdowns throughout his life due to overwork He also had an artistic streak, which drew him to the company of writers. His interest had been aroused by the radical nature of Charlotte’s novel Shirley.

The publicity-shy Charlotte found Sir James uncomfortably overpowering, but the romantic in her was captivated by the monumental Jacobean hall with its reminiscences of her beloved Walter Scott, ‘gray, antique, castellated and stately’. She failed to warm to his wife, whom she found graceless and without dignity. Whether or not she felt that lady Kay-Shuttleworth’s 200-year-old ancestry and her family’s stately home (Sir James had taken her name, Shuttleworth, as the price of the inheritance) should have lent her aristocratic aloofness and condescension is not clear, but Charlotte found her hostess’s kind attempts to be friendly ‘painful and trying’. Their pressing invitation to stay with them in London over the season she described as a ‘menace hanging over my head’. The truth was that, apart from her appalling nervousness in strange company, Charlotte had a deep dread of being patronized. Though never completely at ease, she was to thaw somewhat in her attitude to the Kay-Shuttleworths in later years. grimshaw origin Gawt

The Kay-Shuttleworths also came to hear about Charlotte Brontë who was becoming a well known author by this time and lived only 12 miles away in Haworth.  They invited her to come and stay, which she eventually did in 1850 and then again in 1855.  She also stayed with the Kay-Shuttleworths at their home in Windermere where she met Mrs Gaskell who became her great friend and wrote the first biography of Charlotte after her death.  During Charlotte’s second visit to Gawthorpe in January 1855 it is said that she insisted walking out in the grounds and caught a chill from which she never managed to recover, she died two months later on 31st March the same year. 

bbc/lancashire/history gawthorpe

wiki/Gawthorpe_Hall     wiki/Sir_James_Kay-Shuttleworth

vrijdag 9 maart 2012

What did the Bronte Sisters see in March while walking the Moors?

March - an overview

March brings with it the anticipation of Spring; 21st March is the Vernal or Spring Equinox when there is equal periods of night and day and officially marks the start of Spring. March can have warm days, but can still be a reminder that winter still has a grip with snow, heavy rain and cold north winds.

What to see

Lambs will be out on pasture and moorland.
Lapwings which arrived late February will be establishing their territory over pasture and moorland. They are so called because of their undulating flight, and also known as "peewit" due to its characteristic calling sound. You can see their aerobatic tumbling which is part of their courtship ritual and territory display.

Natural food for birds is easier for them to find as the insect population increases and buds appear. Birds such as the BlackbirdBlue TitChaffinch and Robin will be singing more frequently, establishing territories in preparation for nest building and rearing young. Putting out food for them will still help at this time of year as the all too often sudden cold snap can make it difficult.

Frogs will continue to move to breeding ponds to spawn, replacing the frogspawn that may have died from frosts. 

woensdag 7 maart 2012

The Brontës' piano

In 2010, for the first time in over 160 years the Brontë family’s cabinet piano was heard again at their former home in Haworth. This historic occasion took place at the Parsonage in June of that year following months of complex conservation work, made possible through the generosity of Florida member Virginia Esson. The piano was originally made by John Green of Soho Square.

 It is not known for certain when the Brontës acquired their piano. Branwell Brontë developed a talent for both piano and church organ and it was possibly at his instigation that the instrument was acquired. Emily was described as playing ‘with precision and brilliancy’, and during her time as a student in Brussels, her ability warranted the services of the best available professor of music. Anne preferred to sing, though she was able to accompany herself on the piano. The family exception was Charlotte, whose poor eyesight proved an impediment to sight reading.

The piano has an interesting history: it was lent to Mr Grant, the curate of Oxenhope by Patrick Brontë after his children’s deaths, and then sold at an auction of Brontë items in 1861. It then passed through numerous hands before being put up for sale at Sothebys in 1916 as part of the collection of J.H. Dixon. Dixon’s wife was not satisfied with the price offered and withdrew the piano from the sale, presenting it instead to the Parsonage in memory of her husband.

The piano was valued by many of these former owners as a relic of the remarkable Brontë family. Over the years little interest has been taken in it as a musical instrument and it was no longer in playable condition. The piano has undergone a lengthy and complex restoration process carried out byKen Forrest, a specialist conservator.  Many of the internal workings were either damaged or missing and the restoration was further complicated by the piano’s rarity and the lack of similar instruments available for comparison.

Cabinet pianos were popular in the 1830s and 1840s but today are rather unusual when compared to the more valuable pianos such as the Grand.

maandag 5 maart 2012

Top Withens

Photographer Simon Warner. Photo: Steve Morgan

A professional photographer will chart the decay of a ruined farmhouse high on the Yorkshire hills, which is passed by thousands of walkers on the Pennine Way. Top Withens is also visited by countless tourists who make the walk to the ruins, almost 1,400ft (423m) up on the moors above Stanbury in West Yorkshire. Local photographer and videographer Simon Warner will showcase the progressive ruination of the building, said to be the location in which Emily Brontë set Wuthering Heights in her novel.“It’s a special place to so many people: ashes have been scattered there and I know of at least one person who has proposed to his girlfriend at Top Withens. “But why is it so important? Obviously it has the Brontës link; Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath both wrote poems about the site and many photographers have captured the scene over the years. But is there more to it than that? photographer--pennine-way-farm-building

zondag 4 maart 2012


‘L’Ingratitude’ turned up in the course of my research for a biography of Constantin Heger, who taught Emily and Charlotte Brontë French during their time in Brussels and with whom Charlotte fell in love. I’d been trying to find out about his brother Vital, a sales representative for the royal carpet factory in Tournai and decided to look through the catalogue of the Musée royal de Mariemont for any mention of him – its eclectic holdings include carpets – and found a reference to a manuscript by Charlotte Brontë about a rat. It turned out to be the first piece of French homework Charlotte had written for Heger, lost since the First World War.
Early in February 1842, Charlotte and Emily Brontë, then aged 25 and 23, went to Brussels to board at the pensionnat run by Claire Zoë Parent on the long since demolished rue Isabelle. The sisters went to Belgium to complete their education, in the hope that they might one day open their own school back in Yorkshire. Parent’s husband, Constantin Heger, who taught at the nearby Athénée Royal, also taught French literature at the pensionnat. By all accounts a gifted and dedicated teacher, he gave Emily and Charlotte homework – devoirs – based on texts by the authors they had studied in class. They were to compose essays in French that echoed these models, and could choose their own subject matter: ‘I cannot tell on what subject your heart and mind have been excited. I must leave that to you,’ Heger told them, as he told Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte’s first biographer, after Charlotte’s death. Heger encouraged the Brontës’ writing, but demanded that they pay attention to their craft. ‘Poet or not … study form,’ he once admonished Charlotte. He often returned their essays drastically revised – sadly, there are no comments on this copy of ‘L’Ingratitude’.

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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