Sunday, August 09, 2009

The stature of the Brontës

We are afraid this comment on The Sunday Herald, even though flattering to the Brontës, would not have been to the sisters' taste at all:

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote cracking adventure yarns and Grassic Gibbon did a good job thinking himself into a woman's shoes, but are they of the stature of Victor Hugo and the Brontes? Hardly. Why condemn kids to reading Walter Scott when they might dip into Balzac, Zola or Dostoevsky? Must our children study what is inferior, just because it's Scottish? (Joanna Blythman)
The Brontës were particularly fond of Walter Scott novels. We can quote a couple of letters of Charlotte Brontë to Ellen Nussey:
CB to Ellen Nussey, January 1833:
[Scott] exhibits a wonderful knowledge of human nature as well as surprising skill in embodying his perceptions so as to enable others to become participators in that knowledge.
CB to Ellen Nussey, July 4th of 1834
For Fiction -read Scott alone all novels after his are worthless.
EDIT (16 August): The article has its proper counterargument in the same newspaper:
Scottish literature has always had a stronger and wider influence than might be suggested by mere population. Herman Melville, Fenimore Cooper, the Brontës, George Eliot - indeed, Balzac, Zola and Dostoevsky, despite Joanna Blythman's move to co-opt them to her cause - well knew the value of Walter Scott. And today, Jackie Kay, Irvine Welsh and Liz Lochhead resonate far beyond Scotland.
The Orlando Books Examiner makes a list of books about books. Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair is on it:
The Eyre Affair is the first in Jasper Fforde’s series about literary detective Thursday Next. Set in an alternate 1985 in England, where literature plays a huge part of daily life, Thursday works for SpecOps, investigating the theft of her uncle’s Prose Portal. If marketed, the portal would allow readers to enter a text and interact with the book’s characters. Villain Acheron Hades has stolen the device and entered Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, kidnapping Jane out of the book. Because he takes Jane out of the original manuscript, all copies of the text are now different. With Jane’s disappearance in the middle of the book, the story is forever changed for readers all over the world, and Thursday is charged with finding both Jane and Hades. Fans of Bronte’s work will love the interaction with Jane Eyre’s characters, as well as the other famous literary names that make appearances. The third novel of the series, The Well of Lost Plots, even features a counseling session with the characters from Wuthering Heights. Book 6 of this series is due out summer 2010. (Allison Fuhrman)
The tenor Jonas Kaufmann is compared to Heathcliff in this article in the Times:
It’s hard to recognise in this the tousle-haired, Heathcliff-like figure who glowers from the cover of Kaufmann’s new Decca album of German arias, where, dressed in 19th-century period garb, he is super­imposed onto misty landscapes by Caspar David Friedrich, the quintessential Romantic German landscape painter. (Hugh Canning)
The Baltimore Sun talks about the exhibition Shrunken Treasures at the Walters Arts Museum.
[Judith Pascoe, an English professor at the University of Iowa] elaborates on the paradox in an article that appeared in 2006 in The American Scholar magazine, noting that in many small books, the text clearly is secondary to the gorgeously decorated covers. "You will not find a miniature 'Ulysses' or even a miniature 'Jane Eyre,' " she writes, "unless it has been so severely abridged as to go from being a novel to an anecdote." (Mary Carole McCauley)
Readable or not, Jane Eyre miniatures exist, but more importantly, we rather miss a reference to the little books by the Brontë children.

The Joyful Molly has found an explanation for the recent wuthering weather, Melissa in a Market Town posts about the Brontës and Jane Eyre in particular, Charlotte Brontë's novel is the subject of this post on From the Heart.

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2 comments to “ The stature of the Brontës ”
tattycoram said...
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that is a strange one! Balzac mentioned and referenced Scott quite a bit in his work, and the Frenchman's quest for a historical yarn(Les Chouans) was inspired by the Scotsman; indeed, Flaubert had day-dreamer Emma Bovary reading Scott. and in L' Education Sentimentale, characters attend plays based on Scott's work!

This is just another case of thinking the grass is greener on the other side. It happens with dimwits decrying Dickens - you know, the types who tell us to read the far superior Russians; what they don't seem to realise is that those Russians were heavily influenced by the Englishman.

Cristina said...
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Great comment, Tattycoram! And very well said.

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