Friday, December 06, 2013

Carverd Out of the Landscape

The New Statesman lists the A-Z of northern fiction:
From the bonny beck to the kitchen sink and Heathcliff to the angry young men, Frances Wilson explores the personality of writing from the north of England, while Philip Maughan asks how the land lies today. (...)
I identify the north of my childhood reading with the heritage north catered for by the refurbished Brontë Parsonage Museum at Haworth and the dinky reconstruction of Wordsworth’s cottage in Grasmere. (...)
“We had the temerity to think we could write,” said Barstow, “but [with] no teachers and no models.” Heathcliff and Rochester had morphed into the daydreaming William Fisher in Waterhouse’s Billy Liar (1959), the upwardly mobile Joe Lampton in Braine’s Room at the Top (1957), Vic Brown in Barstow’s A Kind of Loving (1960) and the angry young Frank Machin, who leaves the pit to play league rugby in David Storey’s This Sporting Life(1960). (...)
Both Gaskell and Dickens set their stories in Manchester, which Dickens called Coketown and Gaskell called Milton. While Dickens wrote from the position of a Londoner, Mrs Gaskell, who now lived in the great Cottonopolis, understood, as Charlotte Brontë said, “the genius of the north”. (...)
Elizabeth Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857), written as a homage to her friend after her death, fuelled the myth of the elemental northern writer. The book begins in wailing wind, with a description of the Leeds and Bradford railway running through “a deep valley of the Aire”; Gaskell arrives in Haworth on a “dull, drizzly, Indian-inky day”.
The Brontë family is described as carved out of the landscape – as Ted Hughes, raised on the Pennine moorland would also seem – and Charlotte’s story is told as though she were a character from one of her novels. Yet the Brontës had already constructed their own mythology.
In a letter to Wordsworth, Branwell Brontë had said that he, like the poet, lived in “wild seclusion”, with only rocks and stones and trees for company. Haworth Parsonage was on the edge of the moor but it was not secluded; there was a village attached. Four miles away was Keighley, which, as Gaskell points out, with its “great worsted factories” and “rows of workmen’s houses”, could “hardly be called ‘country’”.
The Brontës’ model of the Romantic life came from the biographical sketches of Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy by Thomas De Quincey, a Mancunian – a scandalous series of articles written for Blackwood’s Magazine in 1837. Today, Wordsworth is largely presented as the asexual spokesman of leech-gatherers and idiot boys but De Quincey described the poet, who was bourgeois to his marrow, as barely civilised and semi-incestuous. With his teeth bared and his eyes flashing, Wordsworth was fuelled by “animal appetites”. Dorothy, who her brother would kiss on the mouth, was also “beyond any person I have known in this world . . . the creature of impulse”.
Emily Brontë, who read Blackwood’s Magazine, surely based her tale of barely civilised and semi-incestuous siblings on this account of the Wordsworths. When I read Wuthering Heights, I am reminded of Dorothy Wordsworth’s Grasmere journals, in which she describes the two and half years that she lived alone with her brother in Dove Cottage, before he married and was transformed from a wild, Heathcliff- like figure to a gentleman resembling the priggish Edgar Linton. The nature of Dorothy’s love for William, which is hard for us to understand, is replicated in Cathy’s well-known des cription of her love for Heathcliff. Less a pleasure than a necessity, it is like “the eternal rocks beneath”. (Frances Wilson)
The Weekly Standard reviews The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins: Volumes I and II: Correspondence:
England produced some superb letter-writers in the 19th century: Lord Byron, Emily Eden, John Keats, Charlotte Brontë, and Sydney Smith gave an altogether new charm and expressiveness to the epistolary art. (Edward Short)
Female First interviews the writer Hannah Fielding:
I’m a romantic, a passionate dreamer by nature, and an avid reader. Since my early teens I’ve been reading – among other genres – romantic novels. As a child I was fascinated by fairytales where Prince Charming whisked the princess or pauper away on his white horse or his magic carpet. Later I fantasised about the romantic heroes that populated classic books like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and the more modern books with their alpha males that were handsome, powerful and charismatic. (Lucy Walton)
The Chicago Tribune gives examples of literary autobiography:
"Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë (1847)
Most readers remember that she married him; fewer that the subtitle of this novel is "An Autobiography." Its brilliance hasn't dimmed. (Charles Finch)
This Brontë Parsonage Museum will not be happy to be found in the news today as its name gets mixed in a case of possession of child pornography by a former employee as reported by the Telegraph & Argus.
A judge heard a man lost his job at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth after confessing to his employers downloading indecent images of children on one occasion three years ago.
A theatre reviews on the German newspaper Osnabrücker Zeitung mentions Wuthering Heights:
Wie wild bewegt eine „Sturmhöhe“ sein kann, hat Emily Brontë 1847 in ihrem so betitelten Roman anschaulich werden lassen. Die Autorin erzählt packend und düster zugleich von den Gefühlsirrungen einer jungen Frau. (Stefan Lüddenman) (Translation)
Wholly Books! interviews the author Beth Bauman:
Some of my favorite novels:
Jane Eyre
Lolita
The Member of the Wedding
Novelicious visits Brontë country; Libri, Consigli e Pensieri (in Italian) posts about Villette; Davies in the Dark reviews Wuthering Heights 2011; Speed Up my Brain reviews briefly Jane Eyre.

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