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Down the Belliard Steps: Discovering the Brontës in Brussels
Brussels Bronte Editions (3 Sep 2012)
Whenever I stand in such a place in the Brussels of today, there is always a feeling of incongruity and surprise at the thought that the Brontës were here.So writes Helen MacEwan and such will be the experience of anyone who has followed on the footsteps of the Brontës anywhere, even in Haworth, where it is a given. But it is true that the Brontës are so closely associated with Haworth, Yorkshire and England that we often forget that Charlotte and Emily lived abroad for a while. It is easier to remember in Charlotte's case, with her many letters from there, her unforgettable infatuation with M. Heger and the influence on her prose, both in the style, partly due to M. Heger's own lessons, and her plots, particularly The Professor and Villette. It is easier to forget, however, in Emily's case. As far as we modern readers can tell, not a trace of influence is left in her one novel or in her poetry. Brussels, then, serves as a good metaphor for what we know of each sister and how they approached and how we approach their respective works.
part of the appeal of the Pensionnat is precisely that it has vanished yet lives on so vividly in the pages of The Professor and Villette. If it had been preserved as a museum like the Parsonage, today it would probably be sandwiched between a Carrefour Express and an EXKI self-service restaurant in a Rue d'Isabelle changed beyond recognition.And while it sounds a little like cold comfort to us, we still see what she means.