Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Starry-eyed Charlotte's problems with punctuation

Publishers Weekly talks with Laura Joh Rowland, author of the forthcoming (next March 2008) book The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Brontë:

Why did you decide to write your next novel about Charlotte Brontë?
The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Brontë
[due in March 2008] is a historical suspense novel that gives the real-life author the adventure that she always craved but never really had, even though she did lead an interesting life. This is my tribute to her and my love of Victorian literature. It may be the start of a new series; I’m waiting to see how well this one does. I have two more Sano books to finish before I can do anything else, and the Brontë book was extremely long in the making. I love the character and the period, and have a lot of ideas about where I’d like to go with this. (Interview by Leonard Picker)
CNN.com devotes its Mental Floss section to "Real life plot twists of famous authors". An improbable starry-eyed Charlotte Brontë makes an appearance:

Charlotte Brontë may have been the author of the romantic classic Jane Eyre, but she was not well served by love herself. In fact, it more or less killed her.
In June of 1854, a starry-eyed Bronte married her father's curate and soon became pregnant. During her pregnancy, she fell ill, and according to her earliest biographer, Elizabeth Gaskell, she was attacked by "sensations of perpetual nausea and ever-recurring faintness."

The elder Bronte sister's nausea was so overwhelming, in fact, that the author couldn't eat or even smell food without becoming violently ill. On March 31, 1855, a dehydrated, malnourished and severely exhausted Charlotte Bronte died at the age of 38. (Diane Mapes)

Starry-eyed? Is the journalist suffering from an overdose of Flanders talk?

Education Week publishes an article about punctuation and grammatical errors in the last installment of the Harry Potter series and Charlotte Brontë gets a mention:
Writing is communication, and as readers we look for certain indicators to help us construct meaning. If we read, “John took Jane Eyre to bed,” we may infer from the italics that the name refers to the title of a work rather than someone he met at a nightclub—even if we have never heard of Charlotte Brontë. (Alan Warhaftig)
Not a particularly good choice for an article complaining of bad punctuation. The punctuation of the Brontës in general was, at best, erratic. Charlotte, in fact, was quite happy that Smith, Elder & Co. corrected her manuscripts:
I have to thank you for punctuating the sheets before sending them to me as I found the task very puzzling - and besides I consider your mode of punctuation a great deal more correct and rational than my own. (CB to Messrs Smith, Elder & Co., 24 September 1847)
Some days ago we already posted about the presumptive Brontë influences of the latest PJ Harvey's work: White Chalk. The Manchester Evening News follows this trend but goes further and mentions even Wuthering Heights. The question is: the reviewer quotes Wuthering Heights because he thinks that PJ Harvey's music is really influenced by Emily Brontë's novel or just because it's the only thing that remotely sounds like Gothic and Brontë?
In shifting direction with vocal, Harvey has replaced the rock-and-roll harlot personae once heard circa Stories From The City and Uh Hur Her with an angelic and at times haunting Chanteuse - a storytelling vocal that creates the album’s ethereal charm: part Victorian séance and part Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. (Steve Baker)
Wuthering Heights also appears in a review of the film Blind (2007) published by Variety:
True love really is blind in Tamar van den Dop's Victorian era fairy tale about the relationship of a fierce sightless youth and his equally strong willed albino companion. Combining the unhinged romanticism of "Wuthering Heights" with leitmotifs from Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," overwrought "Blind" frequently over-reaches, but nevertheless reps a confidant calling card for the debuting Dutch feature helmer. (Alissa Simon)
A pity that Wuthering Heights is settled mainly in the 18th Century, nothing to do with Victorian times. But who cares?

In Releaseddata.be you can win a copy of the Dutch edition of 2006 Jane Eyre that we presented some days ago.

Nihil humanum a me alienum puto talks about the Wuthering Heights dance performances in Paris. Here you can see pictures and a description of the piece.

Books to the Ceiling reviews Jenny Uglow's biography of Thomas Bewick, Nature's Engraver with some beautiful images of Bewick's artwork. 19th Century British Lit on Film reviews 1939 Wuthering Heights. A death a day writes about Branwell's life and death. Particularly death, a legendary take on it thanks to Mrs Gaskell: the died-on-his-feet version. Do we have to say, once again, that this is not true?

Finally a really nice post from Eve's Alexandria describing a visit to Haworth and the Brontë Parsonage with lots of details and pictures. Enjoy it.

Categories: , , , , , , , ,

Comments :

2 comments to “ Starry-eyed Charlotte's problems with punctuation ”
franca said...
on  

Hello:

I'm the person who wrote the "Death a Day" blog about Branwell's end. I am interested to see your comment that Mrs. Gaskell's account of him dying standing up is not true. It smelled pretty false to me, too, which is why I said simply that she had written about it, rather than presenting it as fact. But thanks for the correction.

By the way, how do you know it's not true? I have little doubt you are right, it's just the amateur historian in me would love a proper source to refute Mrs. Gaskell.

Cristina said...
on  

Hi Franca,

Thanks for your comment. You see, there are quite a few sources that deny what Mrs Gaskell wrote. Besides, as valuable as her biography is, Mrs Gaskell tended to go - right from the beginning of her acquaintance with Charlotte - for the legendary versions of things, and she placed too much trust on people who would share stories with her, without double-checking them.

Here is what Winifred Gérin - a well-known Brontë biographer - writes in her biography of Branwell Brontë (pp. 297-298):

Branwell's death, following on so wild and romantic a life, inevitably gave rise to many exaggerated accounts which, for their Gothic and macabre details, would have appealed to Branwell himself. Mrs Gaskell, hearing them years later (certainly not from Charlotte) gave them credence and inserted them in her biography. Francis Leyland, who had the truth direct from the Brown family, emphatically denied Branwell's reported defiance of death; he did not meet it standing, but in his father's arms, to which, in a last gesture of filial love, he resigned himself.
Martha Brown, who was in the room, could also deny the story that Branwell had died with his pockets full of Mrs Robinson's letters.


I hope that helps.

Post a Comment