Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Brontës' samplers and other news

The Bangor Daily News has an article on the Brontës' samplers:

What would the Brontë sisters sew? They stitched samplers long before Charlotte grew up to write “Jane Eyre,” before Emily wrote “Wuthering Heights” and before Anne wrote “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.” [...]
Charlotte completed her sampler at age 13 in April 1829. Emily was done with hers at age 11 on March 1, 1829. Anne finished hers at age 10 on Jan. 23, 1830. They stitched their samplers at their home, Haworth Parsonage in Yorkshire, after the girls had returned from school where their older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, had died from privation and illness suffered at the boarding school.
It is easy to imagine the sisters sitting together, hoops and needles in hand, making row after row of cross-stitches to fashion each word. Perhaps the sewing was an occasion to sit together and talk about life in the village or to remember their sisters. Or perhaps the sewing was drudgery, an onerous task to be got through until they could go out to the moors where they let their imaginations run wild.
As might be expected of the daughters of Patrick Brontë, a clergyman, the Brontë sisters’ samplers consist of lengthy passages from the Bible, from Proverbs and Psalms.
Photographs of the Brontës’ samplers are included in “Samplers and Tapestry Embroideries” by Marcus Huish, first published in 1900 in London. Huish describes the samplers: “They show a strange lack of ornament, and a monotony of colour (they are worked in black silk on rough canvas) which deprive them of all attractiveness in themselves.” Judging from the photographs, it’s easy to see how Huish might arrive at that conclusion, but the samplers, to my eye, have an almost architectural beauty of composition.
Huish says in his book that the owner of the samplers at that time was Clement Shorter, a journalist who collected manuscripts, books and materials related to his favorite authors, including the Brontë sisters.
Each sampler differs somewhat from the others. The top verse in Charlotte’s sampler reads: “A house divided against itself can’t stand.” But horizontal bars of stitching separate the seven verses in the sampler. Did she intend that as a bit of drollery? It can be argued that “Jane Eyre” has the “house divided” idea as one of its themes. Rochester was certainly a “house divided against itself,” given the fact that he had a madwoman, his wife, living in the attic, while falling in love and persuading Jane, the governess, who didn’t know about the wife, to marry him.
A line in Emily’s sampler says: “Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.” Was this line from a verse from Proverbs a foreshadowing of her character Heathcliff, whose callous behavior transgressed social and moral codes, in “Wuthering Heights”?
Anne’s sampler, also with verses from Proverbs, bears this line: “She is more precious than rubies and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.” It was Anne who created the character Helen, the wife of Arthur, the unfaithful, drunken husband who did not value his wife. Helen fled from him in “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
The three samplers are stitched with the same zigzag border, similar to a Greek key pattern.
I searched a long time on the Internet for images of the samplers so I could direct readers to them, but I was not successful. The only images I found are in Huish’s book.
I came across references stating that the samplers are housed at Haworth Parsonage, now a museum, but at websites pertaining to Haworth I did not find information to confirm that the samplers are, indeed, housed at the museum. I e-mailed a query but have not yet received a reply. (Ardeana Hamlin)
Well, we are not the Brontë Parsonage Museum but we can confirm that the samplers do indeed belong to their collection. And while it is true that pictures of the actual samplers are hard to come by, there is a website selling stitch kits to make replicas at home.

There are still echoes of Valentine's Day. Physorg has a Q&A on romance novels and society with University of Toronto anthropologist Ivan Kalmar:
So these narratives influence our lives but also at the same time, we influence the themes of romance novels and romantic movies?
Yes. Consider that there is a social class element in romance. We can see that in Jane Eyre, even in Beauty and the Beast. (Jenny Hall)
Business World explore romance books:
My daughter Tanya Cruz Duldulao chose Wuthering Heights, the only novel written by Emily Brontë. The novel centers on the doomed love between Heathcliff, a tormented orphan, and Catherine Earnshaw, his benefactor’s vain and willful daughter. Their childhood romance turns into a passionate love when they meet again in their adult life. But class differences keep them apart and Catherine’s deathbed scene is a telling depiction of why love hurts. (Elfren Sicangco Cruz)
And My High School Journalism similarly mentions Wuthering Heights:
By middle school, though, we wanted to be adults. We played at relationships like we played house as pre-schoolers, though here, the stakes were much higher than giving Mom a headache from all the rattling pans. We were sure that we felt passions akin to those of the great romantic heroes; we didn’t yet know Heathcliff, but we certainly had stronger feelings for our crush of the week than he did for Catherine. For those of you who still don’t know Heathcliff (and I suggest you get to know him; Wuthering Heights is an amazing book), consider Jack and Rose. (Julia Shumway)
The Jack and Rose parallel we find quite arguable, though.

Living Lake Country features a volunteer and book lover at the local library.
The family moved to Kenmore, N.Y., and by age 12, Lynn was putting herself into the world of Emily Brontë's "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering Heights" at the public library. "I'd stop there on my way from school. I thought it was a really nice place to spend time," she said. (Bonnie Bishell)
The Cavalier Daily writes about college education:
Still, part of the beauty of college is the social experience. While parties and drunken stupors are not unique to college, some experiences are. Gaining culture through Shakespearean plays or putting on Sunday’s best for Saturday gamedays prepares us for future Jeopardy game nights and cocktail parties. Is knowing who Jane Eyre is and how to dress for a dinner event worth the price of admission? (Hung Vu)
The Brontë Sisters posts about the Brontës' Valentines. Jessica Guthrie and Sylvia-Louise post about Wuthering Heights and Ni de niña jugué a las comiditas (in Spanish) includes the novel on a top ten love stories. The Reading Room, Uncreated Conscience and So many books, so little time (in Spanish) include Jane Eyre on a similar top ten while White Noise briefly posts about the novel on audiobook format. Finally, Floor to Ceiling Books writes about Louise Rennison's Withering Tights.

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