Saturday, March 26, 2016

Saturday, March 26, 2016 1:09 pm by M. in , , , , , ,    No comments
Lucy Mangan, who copresents the docudrama Being the Brontës (tonight on BBC Two) publishes a couple of articles in The Guardian and Radio Times:
If the Brontës hadn’t existed, we would have had to invent them. The story is too good not to have in our extra-literary canon. A family of isolated eccentrics, touched somehow by the hand of genius, burning with fire and fury in the middle of the Yorkshire moors!
Spinsters oppressed by the Victorian patriarchy, pouring all their frustrations out onto foolscap, transmuting silent suffering into art to echo down the ages!
A saint, a seer and a third, quieter one sitting somewhere in the shadows. And a brother getting spectacularly drunk in the village and trailing clouds of scandal behind him whenever he returned from further afield! (...)
The thing is, of course, we did invent that story – or at least large parts of it. Digging into the Brontës’ lives and roaming Haworth and the parsonage in which they lived and – very much – died in preparation for the making of the BBC documentary Being the Brontës, showing tonight, had me peeling onionskins of fiction away from fact away from fiction…sometimes it seemed like it was onion skin all the way down. (...)
Within the parsonage, the Brontë sisters were also not ruled with a rod of iron by their father, Patrick Brontë. Though his hopes – at least at first – rested decidedly with his son, all his children were given free rein over the household’s books, which included Shakespeare, Byron and Scott, and magazines.
They were all encouraged to talk about literature and politics at mealtimes with him. You can never explain the spark of genius – but I certainly saw how it was kindled in the Brontës.
They were encouraged and they encouraged each other. They were competitive but supportive. They had the moors behind them, just begging to be filled with wild, sweeping stories but they also had Haworth before them, the two extremes whetting their imaginative edges.
They knew enough of the world – from the village and from working elsewhere – to write about it but were protected enough from it to burst forth with voices and passions untainted by imitation and undimmed by fear.
That these different elements somehow combined in the perfect proportions to cradle the three sisters safely until they were ready to change literary history is magical enough. No need to print the legend.
 We do some filming in and around Haworth, the small village built in stone quarried from the moors themselves, where the Brontë sisters’ father held the position of perpetual curate at the local church.
I say how brave and brilliant Anne was, while Helen goes in to bat for Emily, even though in my highly informed opinion Emily was clearly insane and Wuthering Heights madder still. We would come to blows, but it’s too cold to take our hands out of our pockets.
Martha eventually arrives safely and we gather in the parsonage library, where the sisters wrote their masterpieces, to look at some of the famous tiny books the Brontës (including Branwell, their brother, in just about his first and last contribution to his family’s happiness) wrote about their imaginary lands of Gondal and Angria. In minuscule handwriting, the sagas play out across the years. It’s where, really, the sisters learnt the craft that would ally with their natural talent and eventually produce their famous works. (Read more)
The show is also highlighted in another section of The Guardian:
It is one of the most extraordinary backstories in all of literature – the concurrent authorship of three enduring novels by three sisters sharing the same Yorkshire home. This documentary sees Martha Kearney, Lucy Mangan and Helen Oyeyemi visiting Haworth and attempting to reimagine the period in the mid-1840s in which Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and Agnes Grey were written. See also The Brontës At The BBC, on BBC4 at 8pm on Sunday, a new series reflecting on decades of BBC adaptations of Brontë novels. (Andrew Mueller)
And in The National (Scotland):
Charlotte called her pupils fat-headed oafs and Anne tied hers to a table leg. Emily stayed at home to keep house and bake bread, occasionally breaking off to fire her dad’s gun in the garden and get involved in dog fights.
The latter is my favourite anecdote about Emily Brontë. Her bulldog was attacked by local mutts and she jumped in to break up the fight, getting bitten in the process. Fearing rabies – although did Emily “fear” anything? Let’s say she didn’t want to be inconvenienced by it – she went into the kitchen, put a poker into the fire then sizzled it against her arm to sear and cleanse the wound.
These were not your typical Victorian ladies and they wrote spectacular novels which scandalised and engrossed Victorian society and yet we still think of them as timid, shy, Victorian spinsters, wandering on the moors.
This documentary tries to tell the true story of the Brontë sisters who were fearless and bold in some ways and yet stricken by paralysing shyness. (Julie McDowall)
By the way, Helen Oyeyemi's (Brontë-inspired) short story 'Interesting about E and A' which was published in the Spring issue of The New Statesman is now digitally available.

International Business Times highlights The Brontës at the BBC, tomorrow on BBC4 Four:
We could think of worse families to spend our Easter Sunday with. (Ahem, the Kardashians). The Brontës at the BBC is a fascinating look into how the books have been interpreted – which so happens to be very widely, in dramas and documentaries over the past 60 years. The documentary marks the 200th anniversary of Charlotte's birth, and doesn't she deserve it after writing Jane Eyre? The novel gave the world a kick up the backside in terms of fierce literary feminism – while her sister Emily blessed us with the one and only Wuthering Heights, which is basically the 19th Century's version of Sex and the City. [wtf?] Well, almost. A fascinating recap of a family that reshaped literature forever. (Lucia Binding)
Herts & Essex Observer looks into Jane Eyre 2011 tonight also on BBC Two:
Elegantly adapted for the screen by Moira Buffini, Cary Joji Fukunaga's colour-bleached film condenses the source novel into two hours of yearning and regret.
The Irish Times looks back to the Irish origins of Patrick Brontë:
Certain events in Dublin aside, Easter 1916 was also an extraordinarily busy time for major literary anniversaries. There was of course the tercentenary of Shakespeare’s death on April 23rd – the day before the Rising – and a similar milestone for Miguel de Cervantes, on the 22nd. But there was also the centenary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë, on Good Friday 1916, April 21st.
It was not as big an event, I’m sure, as next month’s bicentenary will be. Even so, I notice that 100 years ago this weekend, she featured in this paper’s “coming events” column (no, there was no mention of anything in the GPO), which advertised a National Literary Society talk on the Brontës, chaired by Dr George Sigerson.
The sisters are now and forever synonymous with the Yorkshire moors, but Ireland can claim a share in their fame too, via their father, Patrick, born the son of a farm labourer in Co Down on the 17th of March (no less), 1777.
If nothing else, he was responsible for the rebranding exercise that gave his children their exotic surname, without which they might have gone down in history by the somehow much less glamorous moniker of “Brunty”. (...)
Still, he brought a bit of Ulster with him, in speech at least, and it may have leaked into his daughter’s work. I’m told by those who know that some of the linguistic idiosyncrasies of Jane Eyre are pure Down – for example, the bit where she tells Mr Rochester “I must mind not to rise on your hearth with only a glass of water”; or “There, sir, you are redd up and made decent.”
To modern ears, “redd up” sounds like the past participle of “read up”. But in this context, apparently, it means “tidied” or (of hair) “combed”. It’s an old English term, and so I suppose might have survived independently in Yorkshire, although I’m assured you’re more likely to hear it now in the north of Ireland, or Scotland.
The spelling of Brunty, by the way, was and remains interchangeable with “Prunty”, their common ancestor being Ó Pronntaigh – said, interestingly, to have originated with a well-known bardic family from Fermanagh. So maybe the Brontës’ literary fame was inevitable, under any spelling. (Frank McNally)
Keighley News talks about an upcoming exhibition in Halifax (opening next April 16):
Charlotte Brontë’s 200th anniversary is being celebrated by the Bankfield Museum in Halifax.
The free-entry museum has joined the year-long festival, which is being masterminded by the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth.
The Halifax contribution is entitled Splendid Shreds Of Silk And Satin: A Celebration Of Charlotte Brontë In Quilts.
Yorkshire quilters have responded to a Brontë Quilt Challenge, devised by novelist Tracy Chevalier, herself a quilter, and sponsored by the Quilters’ Guild Of The British Isles and the Brontë Society.
The submitted quilts will be displayed at Bankfield Museum as part of the Splendid Shreds exhibition, along with the patchwork quilt worked on by the Brontë sisters and their Aunt Branwell.
Rarely displayed due to its size and fragile nature, the quilt is unfinished and was hand-sewn by the Brontë sisters from patches of silk, taffeta, velvet and cotton, and has a calico backing.
The exhibition will also be complemented by a new version of the Brontë quilt, which has been lovingly created by three members of the Totley Brook Quilters from Sheffield. (David Knights)
BBC York & North Yorkshire and Jezebel also mention Norton Conyers reopening:
A medieval manor house said to be the inspiration for Jane Eyre is to reopen after 10 years of restoration.
Norton Conyers, in North Yorkshire, inspired the classic novel after Charlotte Brontë visited and heard the legend of a mad woman confined in the attic.
It is said it is where she came up with the idea for Jane Eyre's Mrs Rochester.
A collection of documents and items from the attic have been given to the North Yorkshire County Records Office.
The house is due to reopen to visitors from 14:00 GMT on Friday [March 25].
Items from the attic, where a woman is said to have been incarcerated, have been donated to archivists
Norton Conyers has belonged to the Graham family since 1624.
Lady Graham said: "When the public come they will see all the main public rooms and some areas which have not been seen before.
"This includes the staircase which Charlotte Brontë described so well in Jane Eyre."
Archivists are working to establish who the woman in the attic might have been from the documents found during the renovation.
Publishers Weekly informs of another Jane Eyre retelling in the works:
Sarah Shoemaker's Mr. Rochester, pitched as a reimagining of Brontë's classic Jane Eyre through the eyes of its mysterious and mercurial romantic hero, beginning with Edward Rochester's lonely childhood at Thornfield Hall, through his tumultuous years in Jamaica and ill-fated marriage to Bertha, to his fateful encounter with the young governess who would change his life forever, to Millicent Bennett in her first acquisition at Grand Central, on exclusive submission, by Jennifer Weltz at Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency (World English).
Also in Publishers Weekly, a review of We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge:
The book’s opening finds the Freemans diving that new Volvo from Boston to the imposing and unnerving Toneybee campus. It’s as expertly mysterious an opening chapter as any you’d find in a great gothic novel or a thriller (Jane Eyre and The Haunting of Hill House come to mind), but the mysteries and horrors to be found at Toneybee aren’t supernatural; they’re social and—you guessed it—historical. (Nate Brown)
NPR reviews Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye:
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye is that book. While the story's eponymous heroine lives in Victorian England, is orphaned and sent to a boarding school and then winds up as a governess on a grand estate, her similarities to, say, Jane Eyre stop at the name. Faye hasn't embarked on a retelling of Brontë's masterwork, or anyone else's, for that matter. Her novel pays homage to the greats, yet offers a heroine whose murky past and murderous present remind us that some female behavior in other eras never made it into print. (Bethanne Patrick)
Penfield Post on a novel by a local writer:
Lynn Rosen, 84, of Rochester, will make her literary debut with “A Man of Genius” in April.
The gothic suspense novel is being compared by book critics to Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca” and Emily Brontë's “Wuthering Heights.”
Bustle lists terrible literary couples which would not survive IRL:
Cathy and Heathcliff in Wuthering HeightsOk, to be fair Cathy and Heathcliff don't exactly "stay together" in Wuthering Heights. But there's no denying that they both spend their whole lives being in love with each other... and there's no way that would last in real life. They're a mess. Sure, some childhood friends might end up together in the real world, but these two are just plain mean to each other and everyone else around them. Cathy claims to love Heathcliff, but she won't marry him because it would hurt her social station. In actuality, Heathcliff would probably take the hint and move on, instead of dedicating the rest of his life to revenge.

Rochester and Bertha in Jane EyreJane Eyre gives us another controlling Edward. I'm all for Jane and Rochester, but it's a little hard to forgive Rochester for hiding his insane first wife in the attic and not telling Jane about it. There's no way that would have worked out well in reality. Rochester married Bertha in Jamaica, but soon after their marriage he discovered that she was mentally ill and prone to violent outbursts. Rather than deal with it, Rochester chose to lock her in an attic... and do nothing else. Divorce might have been a more realistic option. (Charlotte Ahlin)
Le Soir (Belgium) talks about foreign writers living or exiled in Brussels:
Des femmes célèbres qui font le voyage de Bruxelles? Il y en a deux et elles sont sœurs. Charlotte et Emily Brontë séjournent dans notre capitale en 1842 et 1843 pour être prises en charge par le célèbre pensionnat créé par Zoé et Constantin Héger. Elles y apprennent le français tout en dispensant des cours d’anglais et de musique. Les deux filles, suite au décès de leur tante, regagnent l’Angleterre mais Charlotte, l’auteure de Jane Eyre reviendra aussitôt à Bruxelles en proie à un amour sans doute platonique pour son professeur Constantin Héger qui le lui rend bien dans un courrier abondant arrivé jusqu’à nous. Son roman Le professeur, édité après sa mort, s’en serait inspiré. (Hervé Gérard) (Translation)
La Voix du Nord (France) interviews the actress Adelaïde Leroux:
Si j’étais un roman ? (Virginie Dubois)
« Difficile de choisir ! Mais, je suis une romantique, j’aime beaucoup les romans de la fin du XIXe siècle. Hugo, Flaubert, Dumas, Sand… mais puisqu’il faut n’en choisir qu’un, ce sera Jane Eyre de Charlotte Brontë. Le portrait d’une jeune femme fragile et forte à la fois, que la vie a malmenée et qui trouvera son salut dans l’amour. Sa douceur et son entièreté ne sont pas sans me rappeler Aurélie, le personnage que j’incarne dans Le Chant du merle de Frédéric Pelle. » (Translation)
Badische Zeitung (Germany) sees Brontë landscapes even in Antigua (in the Caribbean):
Eigentlich eine raue nordenglische Kulisse wie im Roman "Sturmhöhe" von Emily Brontë. Eigentlich. Wäre da nicht dieses wohlige Gefühl auf der Haut, erzeugt von der warmen karibischen Brise. (Martin Cyris) (Translation)
International Business Times thinks that if you like Wuthering Heights, you'll probably like the film Chocolat. Eesti Päevaleht (Estonia) has an article about the Brontës, beginning with Jane Austen (not sure if Charlotte Brontë would agree with that). La Stampa (Italy) mentions the National Portrait Gallery's Charlotte Brontë exhibition. A short story by Kristien Hemmerechts (written in 2006) with a brief Brontë reference is published in Vrej Nederland (in Dutch). Popcorn TV (Italy) lists the best films of William Hurt, including Jane Eyre 1996. De Standaard (Belgium) has an article on the Brontës in its weekly magazine.

AnneBronte.org reproduces a Mail on Sunday very positive review of Nick Holland's new Anne Brontë biography:
Holland has enormous affection for Anne Bronte, and his excellent book is filled with passion and pathos. Its triumph is that Anne is given voice and is no longer swamped by her siblings — the angry and jealous Charlotte, the highly strung Emily, the frankly honkers Branwell. Steeped in his subject, Holland is knowledgeable about 19th-century social history as well as the literature and culture. And what an alarming world it was: the religious fervour, the diseases, the emotional claustrophobia (and sexual frustration) in the Haworth parsonage. 

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