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

donderdag 31 januari 2013

So the highly successful 'Revisioning the Brontes' conference has now come to an end, and our soon-to-be new Director, Professor Ann Sumner, delivered the closing address.

This is what she said:

'We have had a fascinating cross-disciplin...ary conference today, reminding ourselves of the wide-ranging innovative artistic responses and interpretations of the Brontes' work and their enduring legacy within contemporary cultural society worldwide. We have been concentrating on revisioning, in other words refreshing and re-engaging with all aspects of the Brontes' lives, works, art and legacy.

Only yesterday we saw the media coverage surrounding the bicentenary of the publication of Jane Austen’s 'Pride and Prejudice', and as we move towards the bicentenary celebrations of Charlotte Bronte’s birth in 2016, a conference such as this inspires enthusiasts, fascinates scholars and academics and engages new and wide audiences breaking down fact from fiction.

Nick and Liz, the joint conference organisers must be praised for bringing together such a diverse and expert number of speakers today and for engaging with Leeds University students who have practically supported the conference. Partnership with the University of Leeds across disciplines and particularly with the Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage is vital for us at the Bronte Society as we support and encourage the revisioning process.

Our day began with the atmospheric original music inspired by the lives and works of the Brontes and the landscape surrounding Haworth with David Wilson and the ‘Air on Bronte Moor’ which set the scene for a rich and fulfilling day ahead. Situated here in the impressive Brotherton Library, we have been surrounded all day by relevant archive material, and Sarah Prescott highlighted for us key manuscripts on show as well as outlining the history of the Bronte archive at the University, and how it was acquired by Brotherton and then the University.

Jane Sellars’ opening remarks considered the progress of Bronte studies in the widest sense over the past 20 years, reflecting on her own period as Director of the Parsonage Museum in the 1990s and her enthusiasm to engage a non-specialist audience as well as her own study of the art of the Brontes. She described the Museum when she arrived as a shrine, and its gradual transformation into a place of genuine inspiration for all creative subjects while still remaining a place of pilgrimage today for visitors from all over the world. There followed a number of fascinating papers.

Carl Plasa decided to revise his own paper and retitle it before he had even started (!) and concentrated initially on the role of Bertha Mason in 'Jane Eyre', followed by an interesting discussion of Kate Chopin’s 'At Fault'. Amber Poulliot then considered in depth the inter-war fictional biographies which applied psychoanalysis to literary criticism to explain how such sisters could write such novels. Alslim Hunter gave a thought-provoking explanation of how our brains respond to a resonant experience, the power of the authentic object and the role of familiarity in informing our response to a genuine artefact (specifically she mentioned various locks from famous heads of hair!, as well as the secondary resonance of contemporary artists' interventions such as Cornelia Parker’s photograph of Anne Bronte’s handkerchief.

Sarah Wootton gave an excellent assessment of Paula Rego’s lithographs responding to 'Jane Eyre' while not ever glamorising the heroine, her discussion included an interesting assessment of ‘Loving Bewick’, and she emphasised the fact that there is no one image of Jane or no fixed viewpoint in the series. The contemporary artist Lisa Sheppy gave an account of what had inspired her piece 'Charlotte’s Dress', currently on display in the 'Wilderness Between the Lines' exhibition at the Leeds College of Art. It was an early childhood visit to the Parsonage and memories of her mother’s professional dressmaking days that had given her the initial idea for the piece. To hear directly from an artist about her creative process was inspiring, and seeing her sketches from her study visit to Haworth and learn about the makers who had added to that vision and enabled her to produce this striking work was illuminating, but also caused one to reflect on the strong influence of her mother on the piece, while Charlotte Bronte had lost her own mother young.

Then there was Jenny Bavidge’s excellent paper on the grandiose and epic musical film tracks from various productions of 'Wuthering Heights' films over the years: a novel, she pointed out to us, which actually contained little musical reference. This was followed by a paper which covered the history of the reception of 'Wuthering Heights' in Japan, where it was first translated in the late 1890s but which only became popular in the 1940s after the Hollywood film; and there was a contextualisation of the 1988 Arashi ga Oka film which was nominated for a Palm d’Or that year. One of the highlights of the day was Richard Brown’s sensitive and witty interviewing of Blake Morrison, where we sorted out fact from fiction in the play 'We are Three Sisters', and heard about the research and writing of the play.

A lively round-table debate focused on the timeless quality of the landscape around Haworth while acknowledging the many calls upon the landscape today, why Emily Bronte wrote 'Wuthering Heights' and how a new generation now came to the novel through Bella and Edward’s admiration for it in the 'Twilight' series.

This conference comes at a crucial moment with two key exhibitions mounted here in Leeds at the very same time that the Bronte Society is undertaking a refurbishment of the Parsonage Museum - the first in 25 years - based on scientific and historical analysis carried out by the University of Lincoln, and advised by historical interior designer Allyson McDermott, so that the interiors will be transformed and areas will reflect the ‘facelift’ Charlotte gave the home in the 1850s when she spent some of her income from the publication of her novels.

The redecoration scheme has inspired our exhibition this year and is at the heart of our Contemporary Arts Programme. We hope the ‘new look’ Parsonage will inspire not only more visitors but the continued interest of writers, musicians , artists and creative thinkers who will respond anew to the Bronte legacy.

I take up my new post officially at the end of next week and will begin working with the team on the bicentenary programme for 2016. I have myself been fascinated by the many paintings which have adorned the covers of paperback editions of the Bronte novels, and am showing you this famous image of the Augustus Egg painting 'Travelling Companions' at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, which I used to walk past each day. This is the cover illustration of the Everyman edition of 'Jane Eyre', and seems to me a rather odd choice, painted some 15 years after the novel was published. To me it will always be Francis Grant’s more restrained 'Portrait of Mary Isabella Grant' of c 1850 in Leicester which epitomises the heroine, because it was on my 1975 paperback as a girl studying for O-levels. I feel a paper coming on... And as Nick said earlier, this could well have been a two-day conference.

I do so hope that the Bronte Society will work again with the University of Leeds and that Nick will ask us back. We would like to follow this up with study days and a major conference in 2016. The Bronte Society is committed to this process, and if you are not already a member or your membership has lapsed, do please pick up a form to renew as you leave! Or sign up for our enewsletter and please follow us on Facebook! facebook/Bronte-Parsonage-Museum

On this day in 1953

Patrick Bronte wrote a reference on behalf of A.B. Nicholls to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. He said that Nichols had been his curate for seven years and had ‘behaved himself wisely, soberly and piously.’
Nicholls had applied to the SPG for a missionary post in Australia after Charlotte turned down his proposal of marriage.

maandag 28 januari 2013

Wedding bonnet and veil

Credit: Charlotte Bronte's wedding bonnet and veil (textile and lace) / © Bronte Parsonage Museum, Haworth, Yorkshire, U.K. / The Bridgeman Art Library
BPM 156671
Image number:
Charlotte Bronte's wedding bonnet and veil (textile and lace)
textile and lace
Charlotte Bronte (1816-55);
19th (C19th)

She looked 'like a snow-drop,' as they say. Her dress was white embroidered muslin, with a lace mantle, and white bonnet trimmed with green leaves.

When Charlotte was married on 29 June 1854 to Arthur Bell Nicholls, she wore a very simple, delicate white muslin gown and a green silk and lace bonnet. The bonnet has survived, but the gown was destroyed at the request of Nichols after his death in 1906 (Charlotte, of course, had died in 1855, only 9 months after their marriage). A replica was made reportedly by memory (by whose hands and from whose memory I have not been able to discover), however, and it is currently in the collection of the BPM, as is the wedding bonnet. fashioning-charlotte-bronte
my conscience is satisfied - a/sort of fawn-coloured silk
penultimate page of an autograph signed letter by Charlotte Bronte to an unknown correspondent giving details of the purchase of her wedding dress

Replica of Charlotte Bronte's wedding dress
Description replica made from memory of Charlotte Bronte's wedding dress

zondag 27 januari 2013

Visions of Angria

Rarely seen original manuscripts by the black sheep of the Brontë family, held in Leeds University’s Brotherton Library special collections, can be seen 
in an exhibition called 
Visions of Angria: The Creativity of the Brontës, 
this month.

As a project for his students, Nick Cass, a lecturer in museum studies at Leeds University who also teaches visual communication at Leeds College of Art, asked them to consider these Brontë manuscripts and create a response using any illustrative medium.

“The exhibition is a complementary show to Wildness Between Lines, currently running at LCA, which features practising contemporary artists’ interpretations of the Brontës,” says Cass. “With the eight students, I found that a few had read the Brontës’ work and knew something about Branwell, and the others had no idea about how big the Brontës were, but the project opened up a new area to them. “I was completely thrilled by the work the students came up with, and the way they have articulated the rationale behind their work.” yorkshirepost/students-illustrate-youthful-imagination-of-the-brontes

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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