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Nearly 170 years after its publication, and 200 years since Charlotte Brontë's birth, why is Jane Eyre—a novel ostensibly preoccupied with the plight of a poor and plain orphan—still so enduringly popular?The Yorkshire Evening Post gives reasons why Yorkshire is braced for a bout of Brontë-mania
Jane is no ordinary heroine
Despite the passing of nearly 200 years, the character of Jane Eyre still represents society’s underdog. She’s poor, without connections, family, friends or beauty—but she’s full of determination.
When Charlotte Brontë was penning the novel, she promised to show us “a heroine as plain and little as I am” and indeed, Jane identifies as “poor, obscure, plain and little” throughout her plight.
Even today, Jane Eyre speaks to those who society has relegated to a space behind a curtain on a drizzly afternoon—as Jane is herself when we first meet her as a 10-year-old.
Undeterred by her lack of privilege, Jane finds her way through the power of ‘advertising’. When she finds herself trapped in Lowood, a tough school institution for 'difficult' girls, she advertises her skills as a governess, escaping her depressing situation. It's a thoroughly modern 19th-century act that demonstrated a timeless sensibility; Brontë bestowed Jane with self-belief.
Jane Eyre teaches its readers the importance of self-reliance in a time where it was not deemed proper for a woman to live independently.
In one unforgettable speech, Jane declares to her love Rochester; “I am no bird and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.” It's an incredibly powerful speech that still resonates today.
Importantly, Jane is far from a perfect heroine. Her feminism is complicated by some of her ultimate choices, and her desires often overtake her moral judgement but that’s exactly what makes her character so compelling and so vivid after all this time. (Read more) (Anna Walker)
On April 21, 1816 Charlotte Brontë made her first appearance in the world. Born to an ordinary family, from inside the unremarkable surroundings of Haworth parsonage, she would go on to achieve extraordinary things.The Telegraph publishes a list of places a real megaBrontë fan should visit:
Jane Eyre was a landmark of English literature, but one which Charlotte initially had to publish under the pseudonym of Currer Bell. The world of publishing wasn’t meant for women like her and while she often struggled with her later fame and didn’t fit easily into London’s polite society she was determined that her voice and those of her sisters were heard.
Without Charlotte, there would have been no Wuthering Heights or The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and while Emily, whose work is so tied to the landscape of Yorkshire, would have no doubt continued to write, her scores of poems would have likely died with her. (Read more) (Sarah Freeman)
Thursday April 21 marks the bicentenary of Charlotte Bronte’s birth. The eldest of the Bronte sisters, Charlotte authored four complete novels, the most famous of which is Jane Eyre, the story of a plain and obscure anti-heroine whose strong will and intelligence sees her defy the social customs and expectations of the period.The list is nicely complemented by Batley & Birstall News:
Bronte and her sisters were known for their frank and wild depictions of women’s lives, choices and romances. Today their works have a firm place in Britain's literary canon, and on the bookshelves of literature lovers across the globe.
If you are one such soul, we’ve scouted out a selection of Bronte-related locations to visit and celebrate the famous sisters. (Read more)
When most people think of the Brontë sisters, they immediately associate Yorkshire’s foremost literary family with the village of Haworth.The Independent looks on the trail of the Brontë sisters in Yorkshire:
Yet Kirklees can lay claim to be the ‘true’ Brontë country as the girls spent much of their childhoods in the area, particularly Charlotte, and their links to Birstall, Dewsbury and the Spen Valley continued after their move to their father’s new parish. Charlotte even used local landmarks which can still be seen today as locations in her novel Shirley. On the 200th anniversary of her birth, we list the the alternative Brontë Trail destinations on your doorstep. (Read more) (Grace Newton)
“Legend has it, if a woman passes through the hole of Ponden Kirk rock, they’ll marry within the year,” my guide, Stephen, said. I doubted any of the Brontë sisters scrambled down a steep crag and through a narrow crevice, so I wasn’t about to.The Independent also takes a look into the juvenilia worlds of the Brontës and compares them to Middle-Earth or Westeros:
Deep in the heart of Brontë country, this rock is said to have been the inspiration for Penistone Crags in Wuthering Heights. From here I could take in the striking panoramic views of the Yorkshire moors, and the village of Haworth in the distance.
This year, the cobblestone village begins “Brontë200”; a five-year celebration of the bicentennial births of the region’s (and perhaps Britain’s) most famed literary family, the Brontës - starting with Charlotte’s, today. The imposing and dramatic landscape of the moors inspired her, along with sisters Emily and Anne, to write some of literature’s most enigmatic and iconic fiction.
My tour began at Ponden Hall, the 17th-century building, now run as a B&B, that is believed to have inspired Emily’s Wuthering Heights. From here we marched up the moors, not seeing a soul, following signs with directions in English and Japanese – a hint at the nationality of many of the area’s literary pilgrims. (Read more) (Emma Henderson)
Long before George R.R. Martin created Westeros, before J.R.R. Tolkien created Middle Earth; the Brontë sisters were the creators of new worlds.International Business Times lists several of the books and novels published recently and somehow triggered by the Brontë bicentenary:
Alongside their brother Branwell, these siblings spent their youth entranced in a fantasy universe of their own making; dreaming together of the dual kingdoms of Angria and Gondal, collectively known as the Glass Town Federation.
Branwell and Charlotte conjured the kingdom of Angria, whilst Emily and Anne concocted Gondal; together writing hundreds of poems and prose based on their creations, lengthy sagas contained in hand-written books and magazines.
Their first creation, however, was Glass Town; whose inhabitants consisted of a mixture of both fictional, and real-life, figures. The Duke of Wellington, for example, featured in Charlotte and Branwell's The Young Men's Magazine, whose titular characters were inspired by twelve wooden soldiers gifted to Branwell by their father.
Penned in a micro-script intended to be the creations of the toy soldiers, these miniature novels featured work by Charlotte under the guise of Wellington's two sons, 'the sentimental Marquis of Douro and the sardonic Lord Charles Wellesley'.
Real-world events seemed often to seep into the siblings' accounts of their fantasy lands; Emily Brontë's diary entry dated 26 June 1837 speaks of a convoy preparing to depart from Gondal to Gaaldine for a coronation, casually adding, "Queen Victoria ascended the throne this month."
The Victorians regarded Charlotte Brontë as coarse and immoral- and deplored Jane Eyre Author Charlotte Brontë was an uncompromising feminist trailblazer
Emily and Anne, however, rebelled against their older siblings; likely tired of forever receiving inferior roles in the creation of Glass Town, the two girls came together to create a new imaginary world in Gondal. Charlotte and Branwell, meanwhile, concentrated on Angria. (Clarisse Loughrey)
The Brontë sisters are by far Britain's most celebrated literary siblings. The image of Emily, Anne and Charlotte writing away in the draughty Haworth parsonage beside the Yorkshire Moors is deeply embedded in our cultural consciousness. Today celebrates the bicentenary of Charlotte's birth and it has prompted the publication of many new books celebrating her life as well as a revisit of her best work. (Read more) (Peter Carty)Sarah Berry describes her visit to Haworth and the Parsonage in The Millions:
The Brontë Parsonage Museum lies in the remote Yorkshire village of Haworth, perched above vast, unpopulated moors. Arriving on a drizzly evening in late November, having changed trains several times and debarked in Keighley (pronounced KEITH-ley), I jounced over the narrow country streets in a bus, bleary with jet lag, until a grandmotherly woman nudged me to get off. The bus left me at the bottom of a high street so steep that its original pavers had installed the bricks short-end-up to give horses more traction. I lugged my suitcase up between the iron-grey stone and lath cottages lining the street. The Black Bull tavern appeared on my left, and an old-fashioned pharmacy with chickens scratching around its front door on my right. Once installed in my room at Weaver’s, a bed and breakfast over a low-ceilinged, hearth-warmed pub, I looked out the window. There before me was the parsonage, facing the famous graveyard and Rev. Brontë’s church. My breath caught in my chest. I was about 100 feet from the place where Charlotte Brontë — born 200 years ago today — lived, worked, and died. (Read more)Claire Fallon in The Huffington Post discusses the feminism (or not) of Jane Eyre:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the only line from an English novel more lavishly overused and adapted than the opening sentence to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice must be Charlotte Brontë’s triumphant climax to Jane Eyre: “Reader, I married him.”We wonder how Tracy Chevalier has survived to so many interviews. Another one is published in the Washington Post:
Well, “universally acknowledged” might be a bit strong, but I think we can all agree that it’s more likely to show up not only in modern adaptations of the original classic and in cheeky essays, but in less traditionally literary places: Instagram captions! Facebook engagement announcements! Adorable stationery! Endless wedding blogs!
This spring, in time for Brontë’s 200th birthday, there’s even a new collection of short stories, edited by Tracy Chevalier, entitled: Reader, I Married Him. The stories, penned by celebrated women writers such as Lionel Shriver, Nadifa Mohamed, and Chevalier herself, all claim Jane Eyre as inspiration, though some display that inspiration more clearly than others. “Reader, I married him” doesn’t appear in every story, but some variant appears in many.
If you’re into Brontë reboots (at least of the Charlotte varietal), you’ll get used to encountering that phrase more frequently than you might think necessary, like a literary bay leaf that could have been removed from the final dish altogether, but instead seems to be hidden in every other spoonful, so pointy it threatens to slice your tongue open. (Read more)
Q: For this book, your contribution is a story about a hapless college kid who follows a feisty young woman on a hike after a music festival. How did you come up with that? A: I wasn’t planning to write a story, and then some of the other writers said, “You’re not writing a story? C’mon, you’re making us do this!” By that time, most of the stories were in, and while some of them are funny, I thought we needed something a little lighter. Another way you can go about responding to “Reader, I married him” is to write about “Jane Eyre” as a touchstone in our society. I thought I’d like to do that. The girl in my story is a serious reader — she’s a Jane Eyre persona — but the guy is so hapless that he mixes up “Jane Eyre” with “Wuthering Heights” in an attempt to impress her. He recognizes that she’s kind of out of his league.The Daily Mail recommends Claire Harman's Charlotte Brontë biography:
A welcome dash of humour enlivens the account of her spiky attitude to literary celebrity after Jane Eyre became a bestseller.WAMC also reviews the biography.
There is no shortage of Bronte biographies, but this scrupulously researched and affectionate account should prove a classic. (Jane Shilling)
Da capo: TonspurenOn the Brontë200 celebrations:
21. April 2016, 16:00
Currer Bell. Das Leben und Schreiben der Charlotte Brontë (listen)
Feature von Julia Reuter.
Queues of literary lovers were waiting at the doors of the Brontë Parsonage Museum today to help celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë.The Telegraph & Argus interviews several visitors to the Parsonage in such a singular day as today. Including a Korean Brontë fan in a Jane Eyre costume:
Among the highlights of the party-like celebrations at the Haworth museum and school rooms were live music, the laying of floral tributes and a special cake baked by Great British Bake Off contestant Sandy Docherty. (Lyndsay Patry)
Charlotte Brontë fans from as far as Canada and South Korea descended on Haworth and Thornton to celebrate the bicentenary of her birth today.ITV News has a nice video about today's celebrations,
Standing quietly in the corner of the famous Parsonage's garden where the Bronte children played, Seongyi Yi from Seoul paid her own tribute by wearing a home-made dress copied from a portrait of her literary heroine.
She and husband Sun Park spent their honeymoon in Haworth two years ago and had returned purely to pay homage.
"Villette is my favourite novel, I read it as a young girl and identified very much with the main character," said musical composer Seongyi Yi. (Chris Tate)
On Thursday morning Bradford Council tweeted: “Happy 200th birthday Charlotte Brontë, born in Thornton on 21 April 1816!”And in this very Charlotte day, a brief Anne thing. Nick Holland, author of In Search of Anne Brontë writes in Culture24 about, of course, Anne:
But the authority is planning to close a number of libraries across the district to save costs and Thornton is one of them, just down the road from the Brontë Birthplace, which bears a plaque commemorating the sisters’ birth and which is now a tearoom. (...)
Richard Wilcocks, a former chairman of the Brontë Society, said: "The young Brontës were privileged to have access to a great range of books when they were growing up, thanks to their father Patrick, and it is because of their reading as well as their genius that we have classics such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.
“It is shameful that public libraries are under serious threat in many places because they should be crucial centres for everybody to use, well-supplied with books and computers.
"It especially shameful that Thornton, with its strong Brontë connections, should be planning to close its library – and volunteers are not a real substitute for professional librarians who are capable of giving expert advice.
“We should be listening to the protests of writers today on library closures – writers like Alan Bennett.” (David Barnett)
While researching my biography of Anne Brontë I learned a lot about Charlotte as well, and the complex relationship between the two sisters is at the heart of my book.You can win a copy of the biography here.
We generally have an image of the Brontë sisters as one harmonious unit, sharing poems and laughter around their dining room table. The truth, as I found, could be very different. For a start, Charlotte was jealous of Anne's looks. (...)
Her publisher, George Smith, famously opined that 'she would have given all her genius and fame to be beautiful.' More surprisingly to a modern audience is that Charlotte may well have been jealous of Anne's writing too.
The three sisters had worked together on a novel each that they hoped to have published together. The problem was that while the publisher Thomas Newby accepted Agnes Grey from Anne and 'Wuthering Heights' from Emily, Charlotte's 'The Professor' languished unloved and unpublished.
When bounding along the Brontë Way, by the ruined farmhouse that inspired Wuthering Heights and the Brontë parsonage home where Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre, the last thing you want is a muddy pint in a pub full of ramblers. Fortunately, you can break up this long walk with a stay at Holdsworth House, a Jacobean Mansion with beautiful gardens and truly attentive staff. It’s the perfect place to clean and dress yourself up to contemplate the powerful, dramatic literature produced by the Brontë sisters. Just like the Beatles did when they came here on John’s 24th birthday. (Samantha Maskell)The Independent publishes the results of a survey on the nation's favourite books from school.
Wuthering Heights 17.96%
How does she define "single"? Some people still consider themselves "single" even if they're "sort of seeing someone," and no one wants to put themselves in the middle of a love triangle, unless you secretly enjoy Brontë novels. (Frank Kobola)St Louis Beacon and the symbolism of windows:
Shakespeare’s Romeo finds hope in the candle-lit glow of Juliet at her window: “What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” Carl Sandburg used the window to symbolize hopeful waiting, while Emile (sic) Brontë used windows to suggest a limited vision, a separation between viewer and viewed. (Sarah Hermes Griesbach)WAMC reviews Lyndsay Faye's Jane Steele. Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are listed as books to give to your grandchildren in New Haven Register.