Thursday, June 14, 2012

“An evil, twisted little woman” - was she?

Yesterday author Lynda La Plante joined Libby Purves on BBC Radio 4's Midweek (available here) and The Telegraph and Argus reports on some of the things she said:

Crimewriter Lynda La Plante is planning a project on the Brontës – and she has launched a character assasination of Charlotte Brontë. [...]
Asked if she was planning to kill anyone off, especially the sisters’ brother Branwell, she replied that she had fallen for him but had not fallen for Charlotte.
Miss La Plante called Charlotte “an evil, twisted little woman”.
Her on-air comments were made the same day that the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth got an e-mail from Lynda La Plante requesting a visit for her and her entourage. A date still has to be fixed, said Ann Dinsdale, the museum’s collection manager.
During the radio interview the writer was given a quarter of a minute to say what she thought was wrong with “poor Charlotte” and she said she thought she was a “compulsive liar”.
Although mentioning that she found her letters were “extraordinary” and that she was “very clever” she went on to say that she was “someone under 4ft five or six, had a very broad nose, bulbous eyes, was lacking teeth, had thinning hair. Everything we see of Charlotte is this wonderful portrait of her that was apparently fiction.”
Miss Dinsdale said although it was generally accepted that the best-known portrait of Charlotte, by George Richards [sic: Richmond], was an enhanced portrait commissioned by Charlotte’s publishers and only made public after her death, she would be interested to know why Miss La Plante thought Charlotte was a compulsive liar and was evil and vicious.
“Maybe I’ll find out how she came to that view when she visits us. I’d be interested to know,” said Miss Dinsdale.
In Charlotte’s defence, she added: “It’s very clear Charlotte was hugely ambitious and was quite pushy and bossy, the driving force of the sisters’ writing projects. When their novels were published they were really laid into by the critics of the day who described them as being un-Christian, unchaste and coarse – I think she tried to protect them. I think she was an incredibly courageous and brave woman.” (Kathie Griffiths)
EDIT: Researching previous articles, the reasons for Miss La Plante's opinions on Charlotte can be traced. Good, old, scholar investigation.... not really:
Holiday reading?
Half of my holiday reading is usually for work. Aside from that I like biographies. I recently read The Crimes of Charlotte Brontë by James Tully, which was fascinating. (Interview by Laura Holt in The Independent, 14 January 2012)
The Telegraph and Argus also reports the outcome of the recent Bonhams auction of a letter by Charlotte Brontë.

Stephanie Vanderslice writes in The Huffington Post about 'author crush'.
It seems to be all about the crush these days -- man crushes, chick crushes, book crushes. When readers talk about their literary crushes, most are referring to characters in fiction. Plenty of articles, especially around Valentine's Day, breathlessly extol the virtues of say Wuthering Heights' Heathcliff or War and Peace's Natasha. I shudder to think what it says about me that Jane Eyre's brash, arrogant Rochester has always set my heart aflutter.
That's not the last Brontë reference in the article, by the way.

Also in The Huffington Post, James Franco discusses Jeffrey Eugenides's The Marriage Plot:
Madeline is the first character to be introduced, and because of that she feels a little more like the main protagonist, at least for the Brown section. Her section starts, fittingly, with a list of books, because she is a book lover. The list is made up of the books that drew her to literature -- Edith Wharton, Dickens, Austen, George Eliot, the Brontë sisters -- which set the tone for the rest of the novel, albeit in a contemporary setting. The Marriage Plot is as much a bildungsroman as it is a book about relationships, very much like the books written by the authors above. Both Madeline and Mitchell are at stages in their lives when they are becoming adults -- interestingly, they come of age in their early twenties, while many of the protagonists in 19th-century novels do it at a much younger age. Youth has been stretched out in our modern times.
The Fifty Shades of Grey reviews keep on coming. From The Commercial Appeal:
Think Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester and a "Red Room of Pain" instead of mad wife in the attic. [...]
Not buying. Women's fantasies about being swept away, or worse, arrived long before the first bra was burned. Women in their pre-liberated state wanted Rhett Butler, not Ashley Wilkes. Elusive arrogance is oddly attractive; see Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy, or the aforementioned Mr. Rochester. (Ruth Marcus)
Gazette.net features Rosanne Cash, Johnny Cash's daughter:
For her 57th birthday in May, Rosanne Cash had a simple celebration: She spent the day in the studio, rewarding herself with the ability to continue a career spanning more than three decades.
“I was in the studio for most of day on my birthday,” she says. “Which is perfect.”
That night, Cash and her husband, longtime collaborator John Leventhal, watched the classic version of “Wuthering Heights.” Her next album, she says, will be an exploration of the South. (Topher Forhecz)
We may be a bit thick but we are not fully getting the connection.

And finally good news for Elizabeth Gaskell's house. From BBC News:
The former house of Cranford author Elizabeth Gaskell in Manchester is to be opened to the public after being awarded almost £2m for a restoration. [...]
Visitors will be able to see the house as it would have looked during her time there, restored with the £1.85m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. [...]
Gaskell was visited in the house by great literary figures including Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë, and the author lived there until her death in 1865.
Sara Hillton, head of Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said: "This building is hugely important to Manchester - both because of its association with Elizabeth Gaskell and as a rare remaining example of a Victorian suburban villa.
"Alongside the preservation of the house itself, the creation of displays and exhibitions will enhance people's understanding of the Gaskells within the context of the local area and Manchester at the time."
The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded the grant to Manchester Historic Buildings Trust, which owns the building.
Rooms on the ground floor, including her husband William's study, the morning room and the drawing and dining rooms, still have some original fittings and are expected to be opened to the public. There will also be education and community facilities.
Jane Eyre 2011 is reviewed by Catch You Wearing Wires Underneath Your HeartTranscribing Thought and Movie Reviews. Uncommon Content discusses 'plain Janes' in Charlotte Brontë's novels. Simply Manila is reading Wuthering Heights. The Sleepless Reader posts about Daphne du Maurier's The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë. Fly High! is giving away a copy of Wuthering Nights by Summer Day.

Comments :

1 Comment
Peter Donnelly said...
on  

I was most shocked to read that Lynda La Plante had referred to Charlotte Bronte as 'an evil, twisted little woman' and 'a compulsive liar' (Yorkshire Post, June 16th). Like Ann Dinsdale, I shall be very interested to know on what grounds Ms La Plante makes such statements about a genius who was, to my mind, one of the best authors that ever lived. I know that a lot of myth has worked its way into the story of her life and the lives of her sisters, and we mustn't confuse her life story with those of the heroines of her novels, although her fiction was undoubtedly greatly influenced by her experiences at Cowan Bridge School and in Brussels. Bronte may not have been a saint, but I don't believe she was a wicked person. Any study of English Literature is incomplete without doing justice to her work.

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