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

zondag 31 augustus 2014

The Brontes in Brussels.

Sunday, one week ago, I celebrated my birthday
Here you see some of the presents I received
The book of Helen MacEwan is great
 Itg gives so much information about Charlotte and Emily in Brussels
It makes me understand better geografic situation of the  Pensionnat Heger
Helen MacEwan has worked as a teacher of English as a foreign language and as a translator, and has lived in Brussels since 2004. She is highly active in the Brussels Brontë Group, which she founded in 2006 to bring together a group of enthusiasts, researchers, writers, and artists united by their interest in the Brontës in Brussels.
The photographe under shows a map about the place
  where later Rue d' Isabella would arise
This is a map of c 1750
Extrait d'un plan manuscrit du XVIIIe siècle - Archives de la Ville de BXL
On peut y découvrir, le Petit Béguinage, l'Hôtel Salazar, les Hospices Terarken 
et des Douze Apôtres, et puis surtout le Jardin des Arbalétriers et la Domus Isabellae 
le long de la rue d'Isabelle

Rue Isabelle is nestled behind Place Royale and can be reached through BELvue museum. The street was built in 1625 on the demand of the Infanta Isabelle to connect St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral with her palace, the Aula Magna. Rue Isabelle and the ruins of the old palace are now visible after renovation.

Cadastral plan of the early 1800's
This photo under  is from 1850 (Charlotte is leaving Brussels in 1844)
So this is pretty much as the sisters experienced it.

The Pensionnat and the Rue d'Isabelle, late 19th century. The façade had been rebuilt in a more uniform style. In the Brontes time most of the school buildings were hidden out of sight from the street behind a row of small houses. These were subsequently  aquired by the Hegers and incorperated into the school building and the façade was remodelled.
-------The Brontes never saw the school in this style-----------

 This photo was taken after the Brontes time. The galerie with arched windows was added in 1857

-----The Bronte sisters didn't see the Pensionnat like this------

This photo I never saw before, what a great photo

A Brussels view, with on the far right, the Pensionnat

Rue d'Isabelle, 1894. Watercolour by J. Carabain. Is this the entrance to the garden?
The Brussels street in which the Pensionnat Heger was situated, named after the popular Infanta Isabella, daughter of Philip II of Spain, and governor of the Spanish Low Counties. An imposing staircase led up from the street to the statue of General Belliard in the splendid Rue Royale, and from the top of this staircase one looked down on the chimneys of the Rue d’Isabelle houses.

Even though the school building itself was no more extraordinary than the other schools in the neighbourhood, there was an unexpected treasure, tucked away behind the house; a delightful big garden with a line of ancient fruit trees.
This photograph shows you the three remaining 17th century houses of the then important guild of crossbowmen, who laid the foundation of the Pensionnat‘s large garden.
This photograph shows us the corner of Rue Terarken and Rue d’Isabelle. If you go just around the corner you will be in the Rue d’Isabelle. Unfortunately this will never happen. This picture I have always found fascinating. Perhaps most for what is not in it, i.e. what is just around the corner. In what remains of the Rue Terarken you are not far away from that corner.
The Pensionnat was demolished in 1910, one year after the historic Isabella quarter was torn down. Thanks to new findings in the Brussels City Archives (for instance an 1857 plan) a faithful reconstruction of the building in 1843 could be made, with thanks also to Selina Busch. Her drawings are an important contribution to that reconstruction, and could if you should wish so also be a part of the answer to your questions?dutcharchives
 'In the garden there was a large berceau,' wrote Charlotte Bronte the author of Villette, 'above which spread the shade of an acacia; there was a smaller, more sequestered bower, nestled in the vines which ran along a high and grey wall and gathered their tendrils in a knot of beauty; and hung their clusters in loving profusion about the favoured spot, where jasmine and ivy met and married them ... this alley, which ran parallel with the very high wall on that side of the garden, was forbidden to be entered by the pupils; it was called indeed l'Allée défendue.'

Le grand berceaux in the Pensionnat garden, where lessons were held
Hotel Ravenstein, beside the Pensionnat Heger 
The Former de Cleves-Ravenstein Mansion also commonly known as Hotel Ravenstein is the last standing example of the aristocratic mansions built between the end of the XV century and the beginning of the XVI century. This brick and sandstone building of late Brabant Gothic style was originally part of a vast building complex, divided and partially demolished over the centuries. This mansion, restored and transformed several times, is articulated around a main courtyard. The interior still holds pieces of furniture from the XVI and the XVIII century.

In a letter to Emily (2 Sep 1843) Charlotte depicts herself in the long vacation taking walks beyond the city walls of Brussels, but also “threading the streets in the neighbourhood of the Rue D’Isabelle,” reluctant to return to the loneliness of the Pensionnat. These streets were destroyed by the manic rebuilding fever of Leopold II in the early years of the twentieth century.

This is what remains of the Rue Terarken nowadays

From Google Earth

Look between the two blue doors......

Between those two delivery doors is the blue and white plaque dedicated to the Brontë sisters

St. Gudule
Confessional in St. Gudule, Brussels
Louis Haghe

Did it look like this when Charlotte made her confession in the St. Gudule?

See more photo''s secret mission


3 opmerkingen:

  1. First off, happy Birthday Geri !

    And thank you for a marvelous post with all the wonderful illustrations. How different the streets and buildings were from Haworth!

    The size of the garden seems imposable in a city setting , but it must of been a great consolation

    I'm looking forward to seeing Helen MacEwan'a book ! Thank goodness she has devoted herself to this topic!

    I found The Secret of Charlotte Brontë, by Frederika Macdonald very insightful because she knew the Hegers and attended their school herself. I felt I understood them more after reading it

    Brussels is a fascinating anomaly in the Bronte's lives and study of those years is necessary to understanding what happened afterwards .

    When Charlotte left Brussels for good , years before her great success, and returned to Haworth,as far as CB knew, she had left , by far, the most educated mind she had ever known and could ever hope to know. No wonder she clung to it so strongly. She was fighting for her life, but so too was Madame Heger .

    I feel " Villette " , as we know it, never would have been written if CB's sisters were still alive. She simply wouldn't dare to weigh the scales of justice so heavily in her own favor if they were watching. Madame Beck's model was a wife, not a relative of the love object .

  2. Look Anne, I found some more photo's. Now I know where the blue and white plaque dedicated to the Brontë sisters is hanging. I found the photo's before and they are on this weblog allready. But, now I realise where they really are hanging. Can you look on Google Earth? It is such a narrow and unimportant street, just for delivery's. But for us Bronte lovers it is going back in the time.

    I don't think that Charlotte when she left Btrussels ever would have imagined that so many years later people will visit this place trying to find a glimpse of the old days. Trying to find them back, the sisters, the school.

  3. Marvelous link! That plaque looks so like an official one, I bet it's still there . An advantage to having in the a delivery area, official scrutiny would be less . And btw the back alley is more charming than the front!

    Did it look like this when Charlotte made her confession in the St. Gudule?

    In her Sept 2 1843 letter to Emily where CB recorded that event, she writes

    " They do not go into the sort of pew or cloister which the priest occupies, but kneel down on the steps and confess though a grating ...."

    I do think the family's endless fame would shock them, indeed ...it did from the very beginning !

    5 weeks until I'm in Haworth Geri!

    Already I'm in a whirl !


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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