Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Star has published an interview with Charlotte Brontë biographer Claire Harman.
Jennifer: Tell me how you learned about Charlotte’s life.Claire: Her friend Ellen Nussey received 500 letters from Charlotte and without them we’d hardly know anything about the family.
Jennifer: What about the Elizabeth Gaskell biography? Claire: The Gaskell biography covered much but it relied heavily on Ellen’s letters. There is nothing from Charlotte’s husband that survived. There is no Charlotte Brontë diary or materials of that time.
Gaskell went to the places where Brontë had been. She went to Brussels to find out about Charlotte’s years there, and when she got there she began to understand there was a lot more about Charlotte’s life there than had been imagined.
Jennifer: I do think Gaskell was spot on about Patrick Brontë, Charlotte’s father. Claire: Gaskell’s portrait of the father is pretty rude considering this man was still alive and functioning in the parish. It was true Patrick Brontë was a massive egotist. He couldn’t empathize with anybody. He meant well but he had tunnel vision, focused only on his concerns and narrow in his ideas. There wasn’t a lot of affection or praise.
Jennifer: What about her marriage, in her late 30s? Claire: It was a strategic decision. She had been proposed to by Arthur Bell Nicholls and refused him, at first, because her papa didn’t agree. He almost had a stroke at Charlotte marrying Nicholls, or anyone. After some months she came round to the thought that this might be a good idea. It is very coolly appraised.
In Jane Eyre, the heroine and the hero have turbulent, passionate feelings for one another. In real life Charlotte Brontë cautiously edged her way towards someone who she didn’t expect to be very contented with. She was no beauty and his devotion to her was comforting. (Jennifer Hunter)
The Guardian echoes the news about the recent appointment of Judi Dench as honorary president of the Brontë Society and tells about some of the celebrations taking place this week.
Actor Dame Judi Dench, who played the role of Mr Rochester’s housekeeper, Mrs Fairfax, in the 2011 film adaptation of Jane Eyre, has been appointed the honorary president of the Brontë Society.
Dench was appointed to the role as the organisation prepares to celebrate the 200th birthday of Charlotte Brontë on 21 April. The actor said she was “delighted” to have been offered the position, and that she would be “helping the organisation celebrate this significant and iconic literary family”.
“The Brontës are respected and adored the world over and it will be an honour to work with the society to promote their legacy during this important bicentenary period,” said Dench, who was born in Yorkshire.
The anniversary on 21 April will be marked with the laying of a floral tribute at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, where Charlotte Brontë spent much of her life, along with talks at the Yorkshire museum, a birthday party for the local community, and performances of scenes from Jane Eyre by local primary school pupils.
Along with exhibitions at London’s National Portrait Gallery and the Sir John Soane’s Museum to mark Charlotte Brontë’s contribution to literature, and the publication of a short story collection, Reader, I Married Him, edited by Tracy Chevalier and inspired by Jane Eyre, the Brontë Society will also hold a service in honour of the author on 22 April at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.
Dench’s appointment follows the resignation of former president Bonnie Greer from the role last June, following disagreements over how the society was being run.
Chair John Thirlwell said he was “thrilled” that Dench was taking up the role. “The Brontë Society is embarking on an exciting new chapter in its history and I can think of no better person to accompany us on that journey,” he said. (Alison Flood)
Although Thursday 21st April marks the actual bicentenary of Charlotte Brontë's birth, Keighley News reminds readers that 'Brontë talks and tours continue through spring and summer in Haworth'.
Bicentenary celebrations continue throughout the spring and summer with talks and tours at the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
The Haworth museum will host its latest Parsonage Unwrapped tour, entitled Celebrating Charlotte, on April 29 at 7.30pm.
To Be Forever Known, on May 3 at 2pm, will be a talk focusing on Charlotte Brontë and her sometimes contradictory attitude to fame.
Doing the Haworth 1940s Weekend on May 14 and 15 there will be a display memorabilia and film stills from Brontë adaptations of the Golden Age of Hollywood, free with admission to the museum.
Brontë biographer Juliet Barker is the keynote speaker when the annual conference of the Alliance of Literary Societies is held in Haworth on May 21.
Juliet will speak at 10.30am about rewriting writers’ lives, focusing on Mrs Gaskell and her book The Life Of Charlotte Brontë. (David Knights)
Halifax is another pilgrimage point if you'd like to see the fragile quilt said to have been made by the Brontë sisters. From Keighley News:
The Brontë quilt is making a rare public appearance as part of a new exhibition in Halifax.
The patchwork quilt was worked on by the Brontë sisters and their Aunt Branwell at the parsonage in Haworth during the 1800s.
Rarely displayed due to its size and fragile nature, the quilt was hand-sewn from patches of silk, taffeta, velvet and cotton, but is unfinished.
The quilt forms the centrepiece of the exhibition at the Bankfield Museum, Splendid Shreds Of Silk And Satin, which celebrates Charlotte Brontë’s 200th anniversary.
Also on display is a new version of the Brontë Quilt created by three members of the Totley Brook Quilters from Sheffield.
There are also many quilts created by Yorkshire people in response to a challenge from novelist and keen quilter Tracy Chevalier, the Brontë Parsonage Museum’s creative partner for 2016.
The museum is open from Tuesdays to Saturdays, as well as bank holidays, from 10am to 4pm. Admission is free. (David Knights)
The Northern Echo reports that a local bookshop is marking this week's three anniversaries.
An independent bookshop is celebrating a week of birthdays and deaths in its promotion of Charlotte Brontë, William Shakespeare – and the Queen.
Castle Hill Bookshop, in Richmond, is remembering literary masters Charlotte Brontë on her 200th birthday, and Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of his death.
The store is also playing a part in celebrating the Queen’s 90th birthday this week.
Carol Watson from the bookshop, who also celebrated her birthday last week, said: “We always have a good collection of classics including the works of Shakespeare and the Bronte sisters, but we are really giving them a push this week and creating a new window display to invite people to give them a read.
“We also have lots of works on the Queen.”
The shop has also been decked out with bunting fit for a royal garden party – but with the addition of favourite quotes from Charlotte Brontë and Shakespeare.
Ms Watson said: “My favourite Charlotte Brontë novel is Jane Eyre – it is my desert island book.
“I love her quiet determination and her feistiness, and it’s just wonderful to read.” (Ashley Barnard)
Perhaps she would enjoy this list compiled by Bustle of '17 Books For Jane Eyre Lovers'. The Conversation also mentions Jane Eyre in an article on first sentences.
One of the opening lines I regularly set my students is the simple ten-word sentence that opens a novel that was sent unsolicited and under a pseudonym to a London publisher late in August, 1847. It reads,
There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.The simplicity of the sentence is deceptive. Why do they walk, we ask, and where do they walk? Why was there “no possibility”? In just a few words the reader knows a lot. We know that the characters have a routine; that the routine occurs daily. It is therefore perhaps more than a routine but a custom or indeed an obligation tied to a set of social norms or a way of life.
We know this – innocuously enough – from the use of the relative pronoun “that”, which restricts the meaning or application of the action to “that day”, as opposed to all the other days. But it is perhaps the words “no possibility” that stay with us.
These words tell us that had there been the remotest chance then the characters would certainly have gone. In searching among the possible reasons – the inference of windy weather or wild woodlands – the reader might even presume that there is something a little harsh in it. In which case they would be right. It is the opening sentence of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847). (Camilla Nelson)
And more related books as The Telegraph and Argus has the story of local writer Sophie Franklin and her book Charlotte Brontë Revisited.
A writer in her 20s has promised a fresh, original and entertaining look at Charlotte Brontë in a new book.
Sophie Franklin’s Charlotte Brontë Revisited is said to be an indispensable guide for students and lovers of literature
Sophie this month spent several days in Haworth looking at manuscripts at the Brontë Parsonage Museum and seeing the new exhibitions commemorating the 200th anniversary of Charlotte’s birth.
She is currently at university working on a PhD on the Brontë family.
Charlotte Brontë Revisited is said to show emphatically why the classic English novelist is still as relevant today as she’s ever been.
A spokesman said: “Far from the typical stuffy writing of textbooks, the book is a celebration of all things Charlotte.
“Sophie has a passion for her subject and wanted to write a fun and accessible book about her favourite author, one that would encourage today’s readers – especially young people – to love Charlotte’s books.”
Sophie looked at the heroine through 21st-century eyes, comparing Charlotte’s writing with modern trends in reading.
Readers can discover Charlotte’s private world of convention, rebellion and imagination, and how they shaped her life, writing and obsessions, which included the paranormal, nature, feminism and politics.
Charlotte Brontë revisited costs £9.99 from the publisher Saraband. (David Knights)
Broadway World reviews Barn Players' Jane Eyre the Musical.
The show's music, with the exception of a single tune which repeats, is in the style of Steven Sondheim; mostly musical narrative (recitativo). Jane is ably brought to life by Alisha Richardson. Alisha is a very strong musical theater performer. Much is asked of her and much is delivered to the audience. Jane's impossible and forbidden lover is Edward Rochester master of Thornhill Hall played by her real life husband Matt Richardson. Alisha and Matt are a fortunate musical duo.
While Alisha is a musical theater soprano who could easily sing "Christine" in "Phantom of the Opera" at some point in the future. Matt is a strong operatic baritone who it is easy to picture as Javert in "Les Misérables." The third distinctive voice in this production belongs to Joanna Geffert as Blanche Ingram. Ms. Geffert is a wonderful mezzo-soprano who easily overpowers many of the other voices around her. [...]
"Jane Eyre" is directed by Jeannette Bonjour. She has created a remarkable rendering of a most difficult piece of period theater. Ms. Bonjour is blessed with fine lead actors and an excellent ensemble.
The set is a series of platforms constructed to resemble a natural oak floor. The platforms have been built as a suggestion of multiple locations. Location is left to the audience's suspension of disbelief. (Alan Portner)
The Hollywood Reporter tells about Andrea Arnold's disappointment with her own take on Wuthering Heights.
Andrea Arnold was not pleased with her last film, Wuthering Heights.
“People keep saying one day I will come to like it,” she told Ira Sachs in a Monday afternoon discussion at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. “It was a difficult experience making it, for various reasons. I find it hard to look at it.”
The filmmaker said she is always initially inspired to make a film after envisioning a specific image. For her adaptation of the Emily Brontë classic, it was “a misty moor on a day when the earth and sky are merging, and there’s a big animal climbing inside of the moor. But you went in and saw that it was a man, carrying rabbits on his back. It was pure and beautiful.” However, “when we got to film it, we had half an hour to get it before the day was over. It was bright sunshine and blue sky, and we had about three rabbits.”
“I felt so unhappy, [but] I did use the shot,” Arnold lamented. “What can you do at that point? You can’t because you’re working with a whole team of people and there’s money.”
Additionally, “It was a very difficult time for me, that film. I was in a dark place," she said. "When I think about how it was, it’s associated with some personal stuff.” (Ashley Lee)
Much as we may like some of them, we do believe that this statement from TES is taking things a bit too far:
In Year 11, it all got a bit lost in a haze of exam stress and coming of age. In sixth form, the real fun started, with Jane Eyre, more Shakespeare, Byron and Shelley, A Streetcar Named Desire…God, it was brilliant. I still have dreams where I’m back in my English class in sixth form and, in contrast to most people’s school-based anxiety dreams, mine are wish-fulfilment. [...]
I should note here that there are authors who have bridged the gap between frothy and intellectual, between entertaining and thought-provoking – brilliant people like Helen Fielding, Marian Keyes, Caitlin Moran and Matt Haig: the Jane Austens and Charlotte Brontës of our time – who make the world of books a better place for everyone and the contents of my skull a nicer place for me. But, pre-internet, my knowledge of the landscape of literature was more limited and therefore my choices seemed starker. (Natasha Devon)
New Zealand Listener reviews Mick Jackson's Yuki Chan in Brontë Country:
In a book set largely in Brontë country, it’s only fitting for the environment to dominate, and the story is suffused with Yorkshire brooding: “… the body is given over to the elements, which know no better and so are merciless”. The landscape, meteorology and the ghosts recur and Jackson masterfully brings even their reflections to life. (Chris Bell)
SoloLibri (Italy) has an article on Charlotte Brontë and Beatrix Potter's 200 and 150 anniversaries respectively. Vogue (Spain) has actress Miriam Giovanelli recommend some books out of her latest reads, though she mentions the fact that she would also list novels by the Brontës if she could. True Book Addict reviews Rita Maria Martinez's The Jane and Bertha in Me. On the Brussels Brontë Blog, there's a post by Helen MacEwan on Juliet Barker's recent talk to the Brussels Brontë Group. La Biblioteca di Babele (in Italian) reviews The Professor. Thoughts in Progress posts about Patricia Park's Re Jane.


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