Review - Villette at the West Yorkshire Playhouse - *Review by Richard Wilcocks* Charlotte Brontë’s *Villette*, which was recognised by knowledgeable readers in nineteenth century Brussels as a close parallel...
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It begins this week at the sisters’ former Haworth home, the Brontë Parsonage Museum, where an exhibition opened yesterday, entitled Charlotte Great and Small, exploring the contrast between her constricted life and her huge ambition.Coincidentally, the Brontë Parsonage Museum shared on Facebook a picture of the knitted scene from Jane Eyre which 'had some admirers' on the reopening day at the museum.
Highlights include her child-size clothes, tiny books and paintings she made and a scrap from a dress she wore to an important London dinner party.
This is the first in a long line of events planned for 2016.
Some of the Brontë Parsonage Museum’s collection goes on display as part of a National Portrait Gallery exhibition which opens this month. Celebrating Charlotte Brontë will run until April [no, actually August] before transferring to the Morgan Library in New York. Northern Ballet are presenting the world premiere of a new version of Jane Eyre in May and Sally Wainwright’s Brontë drama To Walk Invisible will air on BBC1 in the autumn.
And two award-winning authors will also help with the celebrations. Novelist Grace McCleen will respond to the Brontë Parsonage’s collection as a writer in residence while much-loved children’s author Jacqueline Wilson will be an ‘Ambassador for Charlotte’ during 2016. Wilson said: “I’m delighted to be a special ambassador for the bicentenary celebrations in 2016. Jane Eyre is my all-time favourite novel. Jane continues to be an inspiration to us all, especially women - I admire Paula Rego’s powerful artistic interpretation and Sally Cookson’s imaginative stage version at the National Theatre. I first read the book when I was ten and have reread it many times since with increasing enjoyment. I’ve devoured more Brontë novels and many biographies, visited the Parsonage Museum half a dozen times, and I’ve walked across the moors breathing in the bracing air. Perhaps there’s a hint of Jane in several of the child characters in my own books.” Both authors will visit the museum during the year.
The Charlotte Great and Small exhibition at the Brontë Parsonage has been curated by writer and Brontë enthusiast Tracy Chevalier, who is working with the Brontë Parsonage Museum as a Creative Partner throughout 2016.
She said: “I have long loved Charlotte Brontë and am thrilled to be involved in the celebration of her bicentenary. The Parsonage is a unique house; it’s incredible to see the place where so much creativity arose. I’m hoping to sprinkle some surprises in amongst the dresses and writing desks – including a Twitter tour of the house and exhibition, and even a knitted Jane Eyre.”
Tracy will talk about the exhibition and the inspiration behind it at an event in Haworth in early February. She has also edited a new collection of short stories influenced by the writing of Charlotte Brontë. ‘Reader, I Married Him’ is published by Borough Press and comprises stories by international women writers including Helen Dunmore, Susan Hill, Emma Donoghue, Audrey Niffenegger and Jane Gardam. The collection will be launched in Haworth in April.
Charlotte’s 200th birthday falls on Thursday April 21 and will be celebrated throughout the day in Haworth and nearby Thornton, where she was born. Visitors to the Brontë Parsonage Museum will be invited to hear talks on Charlotte’s life and offered the opportunity to view some of Charlotte’s letters, manuscripts and personal possessions in the library. At the Old School Room, where Charlotte once taught, the Society is hosting a birthday party . A wreath-laying ceremony for invited guests will follow on Friday April 22 at Westminster Abbey. Brontë biographers Juliet Barker and Claire Harman will give lectures in Haworth in May and June respectively.
The arrival of 2016 also marks the launch of Brontë200, the society’s programme of events celebrating the bicentenaries of the Brontë siblings: Charlotte in 2016, Branwell in 2017, Emily in 2018 and Anne in 2020. The Society also plans to commemorate Patrick Brontë in 2019, 200 years after he was invited to take up the parson’s role in Haworth. (John Roberts)
It seemed an act of abominable cruelty when, in 1996, an otherwise reputable school in the West of Hertfordshire forced a class of 15 year old boys not only to read, but repeatedly feign enthusiasm for Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel, Jane Eyre. I should know. I write as a survivor.The New Zealand Listener is giving away 10 double passes for a screening of the production recorded at the National Theatre.
The wounds that were inflicted that cold autumn led to scars that remain today. This was not just a missed opportunity to engender a love of reading that would enrich our minds and beautify our language. The ordeal in fact fomented a sense of resentment towards literature that for some among my cohort will last for life. Still today, whisper the word 'Thornfield' to one of my former classmates and he will proceed to weep like a baby; although given what he was put through almost twenty years ago, we should perhaps be grateful for this sign of life, and not take it as a sign of weakness. [...]
As a result of my visit, despite the pain I endured when forced to read the novel all those years ago, I can now recognise for the first time the wonderful qualities that my teacher had worked so hard to enable us to see. Drama. Character. Wit. And a message. At the time, I had mistaken our lesson as one of conformity with the doddery Victorian ethos that still lingered at my school, but Brontë instead advocates rebellion and common sense. She advocates independence of both reason and conscience. She promotes moral consistently. And she lands some of the nineteenth century's most elegant blows in the fight against patriarchy and the puritanical dogma of that age. If only I had been able to pay attention at the time. [...]
Perhaps most impressively, the production manages to make a book from an era where a year's worth of information corresponds to approximately a second's of our own time feel relevant without the need for any crude literary devices. There are no contrived analogies here. Jane is not a punkish hacker, fighting cyberbullying under the pseudonym Govern-X; Rochester is not a drugs baron; St John not a Mullah. It maintained the attention of the diverse audience through a basic but not unsophisticated means: by exposing us to a succession of utterly compelling attractions, whether dramatic or musical, at a relentless pace. Most were inventive; a few were humorous. Many were true to the book; others were not. But cumulatively they fostered a greater affinity for Brontë; for reading; perhaps even for love itself. And despite this pace, it was not hurried. We arrived at our destination not following an agonising and jolting journey by carriage, but by a comfortable train ride, kept company, it turned out, by a very good novel. (Joe Williams)
Konnikova seems so effortlessly au fait with the science behind the scam, it is a pity not to see more about the aesthetics. She cites Poe’s lovely essay “Diddling”, where he categorises the qualities of a swindler as “minuteness, interest, perseverance, ingenuity, audacity, nonchalance, originality, impertinence and a grin”, and Melville’s The Confidence-Man and Highsmith’s Tom Ripley get a glancing nod. But literature is full of this – Thomas Mann’s Felix Krull, Sir Quentin Oliver in Muriel Spark’s Loitering With Intent, Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat, let alone all those gamblers turned surreptitious thieves in Tolstoy, Dickens, Dostoyevsky and Anne Brontë. It is always interesting when a scientist turns her attention to the arts. Do they reveal unexpected truths or exemplify common, but erroneous, beliefs? (Stuart Kelly)Bustle has selected The 10 Cutest Literary Couples For Valentine's Day Inspiration, one of which is
8. Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre by Charlotte BronteStuttgarter Zeitung (Germany) reports that writer Elisabeth Kabatek has launched a series of literary breakfasts, the first of which will focus on Jane Eyre. Tidningen Kulturen (Sweden) follows the Brontës' footsteps in Brussels. Liminal Scratch Pad and The Bright Bookshelf post about Wuthering Heights.
Can you really call Jane and Rochester a functional or cute couple? ....ish? Yeah, OK, I know that they're not perfect. She walks out on him. He has a secret wife in his attic. But what couple is perfect? (I mean, not to pit the Bronte sisters against each other, but at least they're better than Heathcliff and Cathy.) When Jane and Rochester do end up together, Rochester seems to have learned his lesson about hiding extra wives in his attic, and Jane goes back to him as a self-reliant young woman who doesn't need to be taken care of. Jane and Rochester are there for any dramatic couples out there who like their Valentine's Days to be full of brooding, secret revelations, and possibly fire. (Charlotte Ahlin)