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Letters to Charlotte: The Letters from Ellen Nussey to Charlotte Brontë
* Paperback: 290 pages
* Publisher: Pink Press; First edition (14 Oct 2010)
* ISBN-10: 1907499431
* ISBN-13: 978-1907499432
Ellen I wish I could live with you always, I begin to cling to you more fondly than ever I did. If we had but a cottage and a competency of our own I do think we might live and love on till Death without being dependent on any third person for happiness. (Charlotte Brontë to Ellen Nussey, 26 September 1836)Certain fragments from Charlotte Brontë's private correspondence have sparkled endless debates, but few - if any - have been as thoroughly discussed and examined as the above(1).
I like to recite poetry to my family in private soiréesbut then she continues
but no longer attempt so with Charlotte, who considers me un-aware of metre and meaning, which is untrue. Charlotte and her sisters have adopted a superior disdain but I am by now accustomed to such attitudes.All of which not only does away with any possible shock on the part of the reader but makes him/her rejoice in the new perspective and the richness of the layers at play here. Caeia March makes the reader reconsider how he/she has taken Charlotte's version of things for granted. There are two sides to every coin and Caeia March has managed wonderfully to combine the known facts with the room for speculation and new perspectives. All this done with utter respect for the Brontë family, of whom Caeia March is clearly very fond.
I have some shocking news, simultaneously exhilarating. The burning of the J. Horsfall Turner pages has begun. Thoughts, words feelings, all rising in smoke. Through the Air, the Ether. Smoke like angels, ascending. Whilst I witness this activity, all I can think of is, 'The Air, the very Air is filled with her, her words, her joys, her sorrows, her laughter, her voice'. I am listening--I can hear her, her words being read aloud. Smoke, words, flames: Air, Air, Air, Air. Eyre. I see the burning of the attic in Rochester's mansion. Eyre & Air. C.B.'s letters, printed, typeset, floating away in fragments, in little charcoal scraps, upon the air.With the exception of one noticeably made-up letter all of Charlotte's replies to Ellen's fictional letters are real and it is to Ms March's credit that they can be read along Ellen's, telling about both their lives, their trials and tribulations, all pertaining to the life of middle-class 19th-century women. The main problem with this concept is that nothing much happens really and nothing is really building up, which is fine and to be expected when one is reading actual letters, but which makes the read a bit 'insipid' when reading fictional letters. We know Caeia March couldn't - and surely wouldn't - change the story to make it more thrilling or engaging but for this reason we think perhaps the original concept of the story narrated in the first person by Ellen could have sped things along a bit.
Often the letters show a warmth of affection which sounds odd to modern ears, but was probably common enough among young people of the time, denied any easy outlet for strong feelings toward the opposite sex.(3) Funnily enough, the actual Charlotte Brontë seems to have felt the exact opposite. On January 3, 1850 she admitted to William Smith Williams that,
When I first saw Ellen I did not care for her--we were schoolfellows--in the course of time we learnt each others [sic] faults and good points--we were contrasts--still we suited--affection was first a germ, then a sapling--then a strong tree.(4) Other stories touching on love (George Smith, James Taylor) are understandably left aside, as this book's focus is on the relationship between Ellen and Charlotte.