Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Special guest: Patrick Brontë

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! And of course a very happy 233rd birthday to Patrick Brontë. If he could barely believe it when Charlotte showed him the just-printed three-decker edition of Jane Eyre in 1847, we wonder just what he would make of our newsrounds and posts each day, when his daughters and their output are commonly referred to in all sorts of publications by all sorts of people from all over the world. He would be proud, if a little overwhelmed, don't you think?

This mention on Jacket Copy - a Los Angeles Times blog - he would understand pretty well:

The worst off was Charlotte Brontë. Her written work, like Kafka's, was influenced by her work-for-pay. Unlucky for her, Brontë's job as a governess paid terribly -- her adjusted annual salary would be less than $2,000 today -- and while meals were free, her employers deducted petty fees such as clothes washing. Lucky for us, her resentments surfaced in "Villette" and "Jane Eyre." (Carolyn Kellogg)
We believe, though, that he would comment on how in his day the work and cost generated by washing amounted to no 'petty fee' and how usually even guests well acquainted with their hosts offered to pay for any required washing. EDIT: The post's mention comes from an article in the Lapham's Quarterly (see picture on the left).

He'd be more confused by another review of Michael Thomas Ford's Jane Bites Back in the Lincoln Journal Star:
And oh yes, the author Charlotte Bronte is stalking her [vampire Jane Austen]. (Barbara Rixstine)
His own daughter? Oh, how terribly unseemly of her!

We would have even more explaining to do with this mention seen in The Telegraph:
In an age where politicians’ statements are analysed as if they were “Wuthering Heights” during a GCSE exam, it’s a brave MP who condenses their thoughts to 140 characters [on Twitter]. (Martin Salter)
And speaking of Wuthering Heights, how would he like a ballet based on it, currently on stage in Sheffield, and reviewed by The Public Reviews?
Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is famous for its raging passions amidst the bleak backdrop of the moors. The wild winds of the soul and of the changing seasons on the hills within the narrative of one of my most beloved books made me wonder how the Northern Ballet Theatre would translate such wildness into the most graceful of forms that make up the dance of ballet.
Opening with a terrifically evocative overture from the orchestra, rolling and pouring from the pit across the audience like the mists of the hills they convey, the curtain rises to show a creatively presented scene of the moor that is reminiscent of the beauty and luminescence of a Turner masterpiece. And suddenly in comes Heathcliff. A raging, brooding figure encapsulating all that makes up the highs and lows of love, loss, passion and despair. Yes, both the young and older Heathcliff were incredibly graceful and beautiful in their eternal pursuit for the elusive Cathy. Tobias Bately as the older Heathcliff conveyed the tremendously dark and overpowering emotions of Heathcliff in dance that was pure, heartbreaking poetry. The moments of his stillness, of his looks of longing and of his uncontrollable waves of emotion meant that it was the heart of the audience that was actively involved with the scene and not the head, heart ache often coming from places we cannot control. We too felt our personal heart ache along with the wild man of the moors.
The pivot of the whole of the narrative comes when Cathy, so long the faithful companion of the small and dark boy her father brought home from one of his visits to the port of Liverpool when she was small, makes a conscious choice to marry Edgar Linton. This choice is one which would assure her of security and wealth all her days. But, as so often happens, what her head tells her is right is not what she truly desires. As a consequence, life for many of the characters unravels and she herself dies after a flight of passion out on the hills with her beloved Heathcliff. If only she had chosen the wild one! Poor Heathcliff eventually goes to meet her at the end of the performance in a beautifully choreographed death scene. The lights of the moor godown, the haunting melodies of the orchestra strain and stress the wounded journey of his heart, a light streams down on him from above along with a fluttering of glittering, hopeful stars. As the young Cathy and Heathcliff dance about him he is finally released from his life of longing and reunited with his Cathy in renewed innocence and the most essential of true loves.
Wuthering Heights is a graceful, passionate and beautiful piece presented by the Northern Ballet. It presents the now timeless tale in a mesmerising whirl and melody of dance, form and colour. A feast for the eyes, the ears and, above all, the heart. Wonderful! (Sarah Lyth)
He would certainly be saddened by the obituary of Earl A. Knies in The Standard Speaker.
Earl is the author of two books - The Art of Charlotte Bronte and Tennyson at Aldworth: The Diary of James Henry Mangles; and several articles and reviews.
He had his daughter's art very handy at the Parsonage, but he would have loved to peruse a book on it.

This passing comment in an article on Hounslow library stats published by The Hounslow Chronicle he would frown upon:
A Freedom of Information request has revealed the most used books in the area's libraries relate to practical skills rather than the discovery of literary classics.
It seems residents have shunned the tales of Bronte and Dickens for useful day-to day advice. (Jessica Thompson)
And then he'd be quite confused - a bit shocked too - to hear two of his daughters' works being read by children, as author Julia Green says in an interview by I Want to Read That.
What authors/books did you love when you were growing up? Did any of these inspire you to become a writer yourself?
Yes, I loved reading so much when I was younger I wanted to write my own stories. Everything has influenced me, I think, right from the very beginning (Peter Rabbit, The Borrowers, Tom's Midnight Garden, The Children of Green Knowe .. then I Capture the Castle, the Flambards series .. Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights ; more recently, Skellig and Heaven Eyes by David Almond... and I've just read a book called 'Tender Morsels' which I thought was brilliant.
But then he would be rapidly amused to read in The Telegraph and Argus that his former home, the church he's buried in and the village where he spent so many years - an area called Brontë country after his own daughters - are always at the heart of the tourism debate in the Bradford area.

He'd have to pick up the notebook he took to Brussels in order to read Français à Saint-Jo where his daughters' childhood is discussed in French. And on In Search of Love he would read about a Brontëite who particularly likes Agnes Grey.

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