Thursday, March 03, 2016

Diane Fare from the Brontë Parsonage Museum writes about the latest goings-on at the Parsonage in Keighley News.
The response to the new exhibition, curated by Tracy Chevalier, has been overwhelmingly positive, and it’s not difficult to see why, as the exhibition showcases some beautiful and haunting objects from the collection.
Particularly moving are locks of hair, shoes lined with rabbit fur, where the indentation of Charlotte’s heel is still visible, and a letter written by a love-forsaken Charlotte to her Belgian tutor Monsieur Heger, torn up by Heger, but rescued and sewn back together again by his wife.
The letter is on loan from the British Library, and will be with us for the year before it returns to London.
The Parsonage hosted a private view of the new exhibition and we were overwhelmed (in a positive way!) by the number of Brontë Society members who attended.
Tracy Chevalier spoke eloquently about the new exhibition and the pleasure she derived from curating it. [...]
The following day I helped out at the exhibition talk held at Haworth Baptist Chapel. Despite atrocious weather, over 100 people attended, eager to hear Tracy describe the creative process of putting the exhibition together.
Audience members were eager to ask questions about Tracy’s relationship with the Brontë novels, particularly in light of her American background, and a great many of the audience went on to visit the Parsonage afterwards, making for a very busy Saturday afternoon.
One of the things that makes working as a museum assistant so interesting is the people that visit, and so February half-term holiday proved good fun. I enjoy eavesdropping on children’s response to the museum and answering their questions.
The sofa on which Emily most likely died is a constant source of morbid fascination, but children are also interested in the more mundane – such as what food did the Brontës eat, and did they really sit in those chairs?
An American family visiting with a number of children were intrigued by Aunt Branwell’s pattens!
A personal highlight of February has been a number of visits from the production team behind a new BBC drama about the Brontës, written by Sally Wainwright. The Parsonage staff are huge fans of Happy Valley, and as such we are all very excited about Sally’s new drama.
Much like Christopher Fry’s 1973 drama The Brontës Of Haworth, the Parsonage is being recreated in a studio in painstaking detail. It has been fascinating to observe a team of designers and producers measuring and sketching the rooms and their artefacts.
The attention to detail certainly bodes well, although we are all clueless as to who might be cast as the Brontë siblings. As such we’re compiling our own fantasy cast (James Norton is on the wish-list) – I’ll keep you posted on further developments.
Brontë 200 and its many events are the subject of an article in The Huddersfield Daily Examiner.
A new exhibition, Charlotte Great and Small, has just opened at the museum.
Curated by writer and Brontë enthusiast Tracy the exhibition explores the contrast between Charlotte’s constricted life and her huge ambition. 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 hosted by Thackeray.
Tracy has also edited a new collection of short stories influenced by the writing of Charlotte Brontë. Called ‘Reader, I Married Him’ it 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.
Tracy said: “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!”
Also working with the Brontë Parsonage Museum this year are award-winning novelist Grace McCleen who will respond to the collection as writer in residence and much-loved children’s author Jacqueline Wilson, who will be an ‘Ambassador for Charlotte’ during 2016.
Jacqueline said: “Jane Eyre is my all-time favourite novel. Jane continues to be an inspiration to us all, especially women. 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.”
Charlotte’s 200th birthday anniversary falls on Thursday, April 21 and will be celebrated throughout the day in Haworth and nearby Thornton where Charlotte was born.
Visitors to the Brontë Parsonage Museum will be invited to hear talks on different aspects of Charlotte’s life and offered the opportunity to view some of Charlotte’s letters, manuscripts and personal possessions in the library with the Brontë Society’s Collections Manager.
There will be a wreath-laying ceremony for invited guests on Friday, April 22 at Westminster Abbey.
Brontë biographers Juliet Barker and Claire Harman will give lectures in Haworth in May and June respectively and writers Maggie O’Farrell, Lucy Hughes-Hallett and Charlotte Mendelson will join Claire Harman and Tracy Chevalier for the Great Charlotte Brontë Debate. In August, Germaine Greer will be the keynote speaker at the Brontë Society’s Bicentenary Conference in Manchester.
The year will also see items from the museum’s collection on display as part of a National Portrait Gallery exhibition which opens in February. Celebrating Charlotte Brontë will run until April 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.
Back in Haworth, recent acquisitions by the Society, including watercolours by Charlotte Brontë and an inscribed book belonging to her mother, will be on display for the first time. The museum is also presenting monthly Charlotte-themed talks and exclusive ‘Parsonage Unwrapped’ evening events and the award-winning learning department will deliver a new series of workshops of Jane Eyre aimed at GCSE students.
Family events will run throughout the school holidays when visitors will be able to participate in craft activities, hands-on-history sessions and meet some of the characters well-known to Charlotte, from her friends Ellen Nussey and Mrs Gaskell to John Brown, Branwell’s drinking companion. (Andrew Hirst)
Keighley News also has an article in the Brontë biopic in the making.
Makers of a new film about the Brontë family say authenticity is at the heart of their production, which is now due to be released some time next year.
David Anthony Thomas, the director of 'The Brontës' which is currently being made by Yorkshire-based company Clothworkers Films, said he and his team will be shooting in as many of the original locations as possible.
Filming is due to take place between November this year and January 2017.
Mr Thomas said: "Authenticity is extremely important.
"The territory itself and the emotional resonance it has with the characters is such a key part of this story that we want Haworth and the surrounding area to feature in the film as much as possible.
"Wouldn’t it be great to have the family reunited in their study or in the kitchen?
"There is a great line a character says towards the end of the first act, and I really want them to be standing over the actual vault containing the remains of the Brontë family when they say it. That kind of thing gets me really excited and it gives such weight to the action and to the dialogue."
He said the key elements of the biopic had not evolved significantly since the film making began, though added a stronger and more individual style is beginning to emerge as the production progresses.
Mr Thomas said: "We’re making cinema, so it has to be layered up and refined and you have to be patient with it. Then you get on set and you respond to the environment and it evolves again.
"We’re trying to prepare the shoot to give us as many options as possible – we don’t want to be forced to commit to stylistic decisions until we have to."
He said the torrential rain in November and December has made his team aware of the potential for weather-related problems while filming on the moors.
Mr Thomas said: "We are doing all we can based on data from the past decade to have the best idea of what the weather will be like when we come to shoot. Hopefully, we can avoid the worst of it and prepare accordingly.
"We’re setting the shoot up to be as adaptable as possible so we can adjust, where necessary, in case of any surprises.
"Nothing ever goes as planned with these things, so it’s just about being as prepared as you can be, rolling with it and being ready to deal with anything that pops up."
The cost of the two-hour feature has been estimated at £10 million. The film has been billed as the world's first English-language project of its kind. (Miran Rahman)
The Daily Mail publishes the Associated Press review of the US edition of Claire Harman's biography of Charlotte Brontë.
In "Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart," Harman argues that Brontë was shaped as a writer by the tension she navigated between her father's parental neglect and her imaginary games with her siblings. Harman spends less time in this imaginary world than Brontë's previous biographers and critics — not dismissing its importance to the creative development of Brontë and her sisters, but giving equal weight to the real world around them.
Where the Brontë mystique traps the sisters in cold isolation on the moors, Harman rescues their energy and shows how busy they were as they sought to secure livings for themselves, while they also made time to write.
Their remote parsonage was a house full of life and people — eccentric, troubled, socially awkward people, to be sure, but not the ghosts and silence central to the Brontë myth.
In Harman's analysis, the Brontë sisters were living the stories they eventually published, through observations they made while working away from home and fearless emotional explorations. In Charlotte's case, these explorations were made both in the letters she sent and in the fictions she wrote in response to the replies she did not receive.
Re-examining the symptoms of Brontë's death, Harman also casts new light on the end of her short life. Harman's Brontë is a fighter, with so much still to say. (Jennifer Kay)
Flavorwire reviews Rebecca Traister's All the Single Ladies.
In All the Single Ladies, Traister writes about Charlotte Brontë’s own marriage, which lacked the stormy passion of her characters Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester — and demonstrated the fate that many women had to accept. “Charlotte Brontë is a terribly sad example. I quote her letters in the book,” Traister says. “She ends up marrying a curate, someone she didn’t love, for economic security for herself and her father. In doing this, she’s very clear-eyed and realistic, and loses some liberty of expression with friends, makes her friends burn letters because her husband doesn’t want her saying all these things. She tells other women, ‘Wait before you marry,’ and then she dies, probably pregnant.” (Sarah Seltzer)
We know Ms Traister has a book to fill and probably an agenda to keep but this comes really close to twisting reality. Without having browsed the actual book and not knowing exactly the letters she quotes, things like the following easily disprove her theory.
'I find in my husband the tenderest nurse, the kindest support, the best earthly comfort that ever woman had. His patience never fails, and it is tried by sad days and broken nights.'
'No kinder, better husband than mine, it seems to me, there can be in the world. I do not want now for kind companionship in health and the tenderest nursing in sickness.
'As to my husband—my heart is knit to him—he is so tender, so good, helpful, patient.'
And while a controversial step, it should be borne in mind that Arthur's interest in asking Ellen to burn her correspondence was to preserve Charlotte's freely-spoken letters from falling into the wrong hands. He had nothing to gain from it.

Along the same lines, Bustle lists '11 Badass Women Who Never Married' and mentions Emily Brontë in passing:
Throughout history, plenty of successful, noteworthy, and groundbreaking women have opted not to get married — it's a club that includes everyone from writers like Jane Austen, Emily Brontë and Emily Dickinson, to DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin and Nobel Prize winner Barbara McClintock. (Gabrielle Moss)
Truth be told and despite the odd theory, the fact remains that it may well have been a decision on Emily's part, but historically there is no evidence that she ever got the chance to put her decision to the test. It's more the way things worked out rather than a conscious decision not to get married.

Female First has writer Leigh Russell list her favourite books and among them is
3. Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë). Heathcliff is a character towards whom I am ambivalent. Like many other teenage girls, I fell in love with the strength of his passion for Cathy. Yet he is actually a powerful precursor of a pathetic but hugely popular character in contemporary fiction who glamourises the abuse of women. Heathcliff contrives to be a romantic hero despite him being a violent and abusive sadist.
PopSugar recommends '10 Books to Read If You Love the Brontë Sisters', mostly made up of recent and forthcoming releases. For Allocine (France), Jane Eyre 2011 is one of the best love stories on film in recent years. ActuaLitté (France) shares an excerpt from the book Le domaine by Jo Witek which includes a brief Brontë mention. About Education discusses 'Dreams as Narrative Structure in Wide Sargasso Sea'. RHVS Reports posts about Social class issues withing Wuthering Heights.


  1. These folks who think there was no passion in the Charlotte/ Arthur story are missing the mark. ABN's emotional temperature was at the Bronte level, no one else Charlotte met comes close. Putting Haworth on its ear with his gloom, breaking down at the rail at Witsum, sobbing at the gate...not from a novel, but history!

    If CB sounded cool about Arthur to Ellen, I maintain she was worried Ellen's jealousy would over boil again, as it did in the summer of ' 53 , causing their friendship to break down. CB's letters written to Ellen afterwards, when Miss Wooler helped to patch things up ,must be read with that in mind imo

  2. Thanks for the comment and for bringing up such a great point!