Thursday, August 30, 2007

At the Brontë Parsonage Museum Library

BrontëBlog was recently in Haworth. That is always a celebrated event per se but this time around there was even more to it: BrontëBlog had an appointment with Collections' Manager Ann Dinsdale to go into the sanctum sanctorum that is the Brontë Parsonage Museum Library.

Prior to that, however, we managed to sneak into an introduction to the Brontës given by Sue Newman down in the cellar. Not to sound pretentious but we knew the subject of the talk pretty well - what really interested us was to take a look at the cellar, which is rarely open to the public.

After that, we took the usual - but always different - tour around the house. This year's exhibition, as you know, celebrates the 150th anniversary of the publication of Elizabeth Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Brontë. By the time we got there the manuscript, which was on loan from the Manchester University Library, should have gone back to its home but thanks to a delay we were lucky enough to see it and to be surprised at the fact that most of the sheets were light blue (and the writing quite messy).

Downstairs and towards the end of the tour we were delighted to see the hair samples of all the siblings, including Maria and Elizabeth, and not so happy - though morbidly interested - to see Anne's blood-stained handkerchief.

And then it was time to go out into the museum shop and refrain from buying something else yet once again while waiting to meet Ann Dinsdale.

Our time at the library flew by. We conversed animatedly with Ann while she showed us round a room crowded with Brontë books: all sorts of approaches, all sorts of theories, all sorts of topics ever written on, or pertaining to, the Brontës were to be found there. Naturally, we were in awe of it all.

Ann showed us item after curious item: a well-thumbed facsimile of Patrick's medicine book, stills from Brontë movies, scripts, bodice-ripper sequels to Wuthering Heights, taking our conversation in all sorts of directions and barely allowing us time to catch our breath.

When we finally sat down it was to a table which had a covered tray on top. Ann put on her gloves and took our breath away by showing us - with no glass in between, the most recent acquisitions. We were reading a letter by Charlotte nearly as the the original recipient would have done. Amazing. We then discussed the restoration process the letters would have to undergo and Ann confessed to not wanting to even think about it as the letters are apparently plunged into liquids, etc.

After what seemed like a few minutes but were in fact a few hours we finally left (although we have gladly stayed there forever, and wouldn't have lacked reading matter). We said goodbye to Ann at the shop but before we walked out of the door we, er, yes, bought something else yet again.

We would like to thank Ann Dinsdale and Sarah Barrett for their time and kindness.

(Picture source)

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