The Bronte parsonage - Literary landmark - The Book Trail - Bronte Parsonage Museum: It's great to see Anne Bronte being talked about so much at the moment, largely due to Samantha Ellis' brilliant new book, 'Take ...
7 hours ago
Stands the church clock at five-and-twenty past five? Nay, lad, she’s going great guns – you could set your mobile phone by her. Thus we should like to imagine conversation in picturesque Haworth this morning, after the defeat of deranged health and safety diktats. Like a West Riding version of the Mad Hatter’s tea party, the clock had been stopped at 5.25 for a year, since Jens Hislop, 73, a retired policeman, was prohibited from climbing a stepladder to the winding-loft, as had been his way for 23 years. This, mind, is the church where Patrick Brontë was parson, and his habit (to dispel tension) was to fire a pistol from the parsonage window each morning. There was no health in those days, and precious little safety. Now that local benefactors have paid a joiner to spruce up Mr Hislop’s woodwork, the citizens of Haworth can once more give visitors a cheery time of day.Though he no doubt dispelled tension by it, the truth behind Patrick Brontë's gun-firing habit was acquired during the days of Luddism when he kept a loaded gun by his bed just in case. The habit stuck and he did that for the rest of his life, needing to fire the gun each morning in order to unload it. Yeah, fun to imagine what Health & Safety would have had to say about that! And even more fun to imagine what Patrick himself would have replied, of course.
But after I graduated, I went straight back to reading as I always had.The Daily Beast recommends her book How to Be a Heroine:
Then, a couple of summers ago, I started to wonder if this was wise. I was on the Yorkshire moors, arguing (over the wuthering) with my best friend about whether we'd rather be Jane Eyre or Cathy Earnshaw. I thought Cathy. Obviously Cathy. The point of this walk (this pilgrimage) was to see the ruins of the farmhouse that inspired Wuthering Heights, which loomed at us promisingly from the top. I was just about managing to stop myself yelling out to Heathcliff that it was me, Cathy, coming home. So stoic, virtuous, plain Jane was very much not on my mind. But my friend argued that Jane was independent, clever and principled, while Cathy was, scaldingly, "silly". As we got to the top of the hill, I realised that my whole life, I'd been trying to be Cathy, when I should have been trying to be Jane. I started wondering how far Cathy had led me astray. [...]
After my epiphany on the moors, I decided to go back and read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre again, to see how I'd feel about them now. And I didn't stop there. I met all my heroines again and thought about what they meant to me when I was growing up and what they mean to me now that I'm in my thirties, a playwright and writing heroines of my own. In my book, How to be a Heroine, I chart my journey to realising that Cathy got into my bloodstream somehow, in a way that wasn't always entirely healthy. I've come to hold her partly responsible for my somewhat quixotic love life, my attraction to dark, brooding, complicated men, and my conviction that tempestuous tornado love is the best kind. But did she change me biologically? I'm not sure.
When I returned to Wuthering Heights, I was still moved by the tenderness between nine-year-old orphan Heathcliff and eight-year-old hoyden Cathy, but, as I read on, I started to find Cathy petulant and solipsistic. I wish that after Heathcliff runs away, she had the courage to refuse Edgar's proposal. When Heathcliff returns and asks: "Why did you betray your own heart?" I'm wondering the same thing. Worse, the reason she gives is that Edgar is "rich and I shall like to be the greatest woman of the neighbourhood". She's a snob. She won't marry Heathcliff after he has been denied education and "brought low", but later, when her daughter Catherine falls for illiterate Hareton, she finds a way out of the dilemma; instead of rejecting Hareton, she teaches him to read.
As for Heathcliff, it pains me to admit that he's more villain than hero – a wife-beating, grave-disturbing, dog-hanging psychopath. By the end of the book, I feel weepy. Not pleasurable-weepy but very sad. Because Cathy feels remote and I feel like I'm saying goodbye to a book that meant so much to me. I wonder if Jane Eyre will make me feel better.
At first, she does. Jane is so present, addressing the reader directly, questioning authority; in her opening scene, she speaks her mind and gets a book thrown at her head for it. I used to think she was annoyingly placid, but now I think she's cool under pressure. She's never hysterical, whether dealing with a house fire, a stranger with blood pouring out of his arm, or the arguably greater crisis of realising she's in love with her foxy employer Rochester.
When he asks if she finds him handsome, she bluntly says no; she's more interested in his mind. And when she thinks he's going to marry someone else, she refuses to stay and watch, demanding: "Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless?" Her anger is dazzling. No wonder Rochester proposes. She does leave him when she finds out he already has a wife. I used to find this cowardly and prudish. But now it feels unbelievably bold. In the horror of discovering her dreams are dust, Jane finds compassion for Rochester's mad wife, finds both pity and forgiveness for Rochester, fights him off as he threatens to crush and tear her, fights her own feelings (she frankly admits it would be "rapture" to stay) and refuses to become his mistress. No one would care if she lost her reputation, but her heart sings out: "I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself." It's pretty fearless, and what's even better is that Jane isn't smug – she knows she's hurting Rochester and she hates herself for it. Compared with this strong decision, Cathy's decision to marry Edgar feels ignoble.
So I'm relieved when Jane gets her happy ending – a marriage that Jane sums up by saying: "We talk, I believe, all day long." It's a charming picture of companionship. And it's a million miles from Cathy and Heathcliff's love, which may be transcendent and operatic, but also obliterates them – as Cathy says, "I am Heathcliff." Their love is also impossible. Even if miscommunication and heinousness and bad luck hadn't kept them apart, the idea of Heathcliff and Cathy getting married, settling down and growing old together, does not compute. Their love is too raw and rarefied to exist in the real world, and they know it; they can only be together as restless ghosts. When I tried to use their love as a template for my own romantic life, like Cathy, I lost myself.
But I don't know if Jane Eyre would have given me the answers, either. The more I think about Jane and Rochester's love, the less I like it. Rochester's twice Jane's age, he's domineering, he's lied and he's flirted with another woman. And there's something very troubling about equality coming because he's lost a hand and one of his eyes. Can a woman not be equal to her husband unless he's wounded? And while Wuthering Heights doesn't shrink from the horrible truth that Cathy is dead and Heathcliff has to struggle on alone (until he dies and their ghosts can wander the moors together), Charlotte Brontë has to bring on the gothic in a big way to give Jane her happy ending – with all the fire, madness and supernatural voices, is the ending of Jane Eyre really more realistic than the ending of Wuthering Heights?
Even Jane, lovely Jane, can't entirely hold my affections. She's a heroine who does everything right – but what's interesting about a heroine who never makes mistakes? There's a perverse pleasure in loving Cathy. The more holes I pick in Wuthering Heights, the more my stubborn heart clings to it. And of course this struggle is a pleasure in itself.
English playwright and journalist Samantha Ellis’s How to Be a Heroine: Or, what I learned from reading too much has just been published in the UK—a nostalgic trip through Ellis’s childhood and adolescent literary heroines, and all she’s learnt from them about love, life, and how to pursue a fulfilling career. I’d heartily recommend Ellis’s book to anyone who read and loved the likes of Anne of Green Gables, Little Women or Wuthering Heights, it’s a romp of a read, but it’s a different beast to [Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch] nuanced and thought provoking study, or indeed, The Threepenny Review editor Wendy Lesser’s meditation of a life lived in and through literature, Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books, which is also being published this month. (Lucy Scholes)The Hickory Record lists several 'Books [that] should please fans of 'Downton Abbey''.
“The Governess of Highland Hall,” by Carrie Turansky, is described as “Downton Abbey” meets “Jane Eyre” meets “The Sound of Music .” This one is bound to be a favorite of “Downton” fans.Coincidentally, that book is also described as 'Downton Abbey era meets Jane Eyre governess' by A Library of My Own.
Aria's reaction is the most amazing part. She's like, "Whatever, it's just Mike. I haven't seen him for, like, two years. We keep him up in the attic now, like Jane Eyre." Mike has the most exciting off-screen life. Also, apparently at least one of the Montgomerys can keep a secret. (Morgan Glennon)Call us nitpicking, but shouldn't it be, 'like IN Jane Eyre'? as Jane Eyre herself was never kept in any attic.
Similarly strong are the passages from his heinous youthful attempts at novels, and the cod-Brontë-esque fervour of his account of a supposed sexual encounter (the latter complete with the best line of the evening). (Mark Monahan)All Africa wonders whether African culture oppresses woman. One of the conclusions is that
The idea of viewing a woman as a second class citizen is more of a Western creation rather than African. A perusal of the Jacobean, Victorian and Elizabethean periods will show the degraded status of women and how they were viewed as mere sexual objects.Examiner highlights six of Joan Fontaine's movies, one of which is Jane Eyre. Adelinearenas discusses in French the character of John Eshton in Jane Eyre 2006. A couple of articles on The Toast: How To Tell If You Are In A Brontë Novel and Wuthers: The Book That Saved a Life. Finally, remember the Jane Eyre Thug Notes? Well, The Thug Notes is back with a Brontë Novel, Wuthering Heights:
Classic literature works like Charlotte's Brontë's Jane Eyre and Jane Austin's [sic] Emma, are all typical examples of how women were raised to be "docile, soft, gentle, agreeable and well-mannered" in preparation for matrimony. (Lovemore Ranga Mataire)