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 16 juni 2018

Brontë sisters’ childhood home.

The young Brontë sisters lived at 72-74 Market Street in the U.K. village of Thornton from 1815 to 1820. 


Emily Bronte as an oddball?

The Guardian reviews the book Emily Brontë Reappraised by Claire O’Callaghan. 

"Two hundred years after her birth Emily Brontë is still remembered as an oddball, a people-hater and the weirdest of three weird sisters"

I myself never thought of Emily Bronte as an oddball and the weirdest of three weird sisters. So I don't really need a book that rehabilitates the reputation of Emily Bronte. I am
curieus what the #metoo movement is going to make of Heathcliff. I think this book about Emily Bronte fits into the spirit of the times. Read The Bronte Myth- Lucasta Miller/.theguardian and you understand what I mean. 

Two hundred years after her birth Emily Brontë is still remembered as an oddball, a people-hater and the weirdest of three weird sisters. But a book published this week aims to rehabilitate the reputation of the author of Wuthering Heights, one of the greatest novels ever written: she may have been shy and reserved but she was not strange and should be seen as a woman ahead of her time, the academic Claire O’Callaghan argues. O’Callaghan said Brontë’s reputation was entirely carved out by others, a lot of it based on the writings of Charlotte, who was responding to criticism of her sisters Emily and Anne. “She adopted the strategy of appealing for pity by presenting her sisters as a bit weird and a bit strange, people who did not really know what they were doing,” said O’Callaghan. Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography of Charlotte embellished the stories even further. “Those founding images have been extended and reworked and dramatised and amplified, they have become mythic up until the present really.” O’Callaghan said Emily had been portrayed in many ways, usually negative. Sometimes she was “a staid, old-fashioned, people-hating spinster who roamed about the Yorkshire moors alone with her dog” or “a painfully shy and socially awkward girl-woman who was sick whenever she left home” or “she’s a stubborn and defiant woman who willingly withheld assorted physical and mental ailments, or an ethereal soul too fragile to endure the real world”.
She said the myths were damaging. “They perpetuate this idea she was weird and different and strange and other in a way that is quite hostile.” O’Callaghan said it was true Emily was shy, or reserved, and craved solitude and enjoyed getting out the house walking on the moors with her dog Keeper, a large mastiff. But this did not make her odd.
“Today when we think about character traits and personality traits we take a different approach to things, we try to accommodate and understand differences or social awkwardness or anxieties or just different ways of being. We try not to stigmatise people.”

O’Callaghan’s book also explores how Emily might fit in today, arguing she would be more at home in a more accepting, tolerant, feminist society.
Brontë’s only novel was Wuthering Heights, the violent and passionate story of the relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff.
O’Callaghan said the novel was still seen as a love story and that too needs re-examining. “I think it is about a lot more and I think that love story is quite a damaging one … I think it can be read as a cautionary tale against damaging romance and violent romance.”
Heathcliff is clearly a horrible man “yet he is often read as the archetypal anti-hero. I really question that word hero. He is just vile from the outset.”
In the era of Time’s Up and #MeToo, O’Callaghan, a lecturer in English at Loughborough University, said it was a good time to re-evaluate. “Maybe the time’s up on Heathcliff … we need to take off the romantic blinkers and we need to look at him more critically.” (Mark Brown)

Aspects of the Brussels of the Brontës: The Passage de la Bibliothèque, the Panoramic View of the City and the Pensionnat.

Interesting article of Eric Ruijssenaars about the history of rue d’Isabelle in Brussels. Read all: brusselsbronteaspects-of-brussels-of-brontes-passage

“In the rue d’Isabelle several buildings will be demolished, and part of the terrain will be used to enlargen the steps in a straight line. It will also be made less steep.” On either side of the steps two new buildings would be erected, as high as the steps. On either side of the steps, from the statue down to the Isabella Street, there would come gas lights.

It is of course important to remember here that this is the place where, in Villette, Lucy Snowe on the night of her arrival in the city, first came close to the Pensionnat. But she didn’t see the steps, and got frightened by two scary men. It is an indication that in 1842 it still may not have been a very safe place, when darkness had fallen.

This plan shows what Charlotte had in mind when she wrote about Lucy Snowe’s walk, to get her to the Pensionnat. It’s a great little piece of writing about the Quarter, full of suspense too.

August, September 1842
On 27 August 1842 l’Indépendant wrote that workers had begun to “demolish the upper part of the two buildings.” The Journal de Bruxelles  wrote on 11 September that they were actually demolishing the entire buildings. By the time the sisters left it was an empty space again. The old pictures of the Belliard Steps which we know are therefore clearly not the way Charlotte and Emily saw them in 1842. 

The Pensionnat
The 11 September article also mentioned that “one assures us that the roof of a building situated on the other side of the rue d’Isabelle, will be transformed into a platform; the public can’t but approve of such a work, which opens up a much better view of the landscape, of the city below.” That building must have been the Héger Pensionnat. It will have been part of the works that took place more or less while Charlotte wasn’t there. When she came back at the end of January 1843 she found the building had been enlarged (according to Mrs. Gaskell).

Elizabeth Brontë – More Than A Footnote

Read all: annebronte/elizabeth-bronte-more-than-a-footnote

I was once asked in a pub quiz: ‘Who is the least famous Brontë sister?’ Of course I had to swallow my anger at the injustice of it all and write down Anne Brontë, as I knew that was the answer they were looking for – but it isn’t correct. Less well known is Maria Brontë, the tragic genius of the family, but the least known of all the Brontë sisters is the second sister: Elizabeth Brontë. Isn’t it time that we recognised her as a flesh and blood human, and not just a footnote?

  • This is one clue that Elizabeth had different priorities to her siblings. While they loved to play and read and invent stories, Elizabeth liked order and tidiness, and the more practical things in life. This is also confirmed by her admission entry in the records of the Clergy Daughter’s School at Cowan Bridge.
  • Elizabeth went to the school in the company of her eldest sister Maria on the 1st July, 1823 and in the following months she would also be joined there by Charlotte and Emily (thankfully for Anne Brontë in the light of what we now know about the school, she was too young to attend). They were all assessed as to their academic abilities upon arrival, and it is also noted what they were to be schooled for, i.e. what occupation they were expected to attain in later life. Maria, Charlotte and Emily Brontë are all listed as future governesses, but Elizabeth is recorded as being schooled to be a housekeeper. We know that she was not given French, music or drawing lessons, as her sisters at the school were. Her accomplishments are summed up as: ‘Reads little. Writes pretty well. Ciphers none. Works very badly. Knows nothing of grammar, history, geography or accomplishments.’
  • Nancy Garrs, family servant, recalls how the young Elizabeth would lead her younger sisters by the hand on their walks across the moors, and that she was ‘very thoughtful’ in her treatment of them

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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