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To her contemporaries, Charlotte Brontë came across as a “little, plain, provincial, sickly-looking old maid”. They were misguided; a retiring disposition and thick spectacles disguised the novelist’s passionate inner life. Brontë, born 200 years ago this month, endowed her heroines, particularly Jane Eyre and Lucy Snowe, with similar disguises—their simple gowns cloaking an ardour for love and sex. But while Brontë is known for writing impassioned, even angry, moral romances, what has passed by largely unnoticed is her facility to write erotica. That it was inspired by true occurrences makes the fiction all the more arresting.The Sydney Morning Herald writes 'In praise of Charlotte Bronte and the greatness of her work'.
In February 1842 Charlotte and Emily Brontë, seeking to improve their French and broaden their vistas, sailed for Belgium. The sisters were headed for the Pensionnat Héger, a boarding school located in a sunken, cobbled street in Brussels, run by Madame Zoe Héger and her husband Constantin. Emily was gone in less than a year. But for Charlotte, these gothic environs were life changing. She made prodigious strides as a writer and learned to temper her overwrought outpourings. It was also where her heart was broken.
The dark-haired, blue-eyed, cigar-smoking Constantin Héger was the cause. Seven years older than the 26-year-old Charlotte, he dressed in black and had a temper to match. But he was a gifted teacher who quickly recognised the extraordinary talent of his English pupils. Flinty Emily rejected his impress, but emollient Charlotte fell under his spell. As “his anger fiercely flamed,” she blossomed under his glower. Teacher and student began to exchange long pedagogic letters discussing Charlotte’s French exercises. Soon, Héger was leaving books in her desk. (N.M.) (Read more)
They gave Charlotte Brontë a lovely 200th birthday party last week in the Yorkshire village of Haworth, her old stamping ground. There were church services and floral tributes delivered on a bicycle by the Otley Ladies Cycling Club. They baked cakes for her, and pupils from the primary school performed scenes from Jane Eyre.This was announced coinciding with Charlotte's birthday, but it's worth reporting it again. From Keighley News:
The novelist, Tracy Chevalier, a huge fan of Charlotte, gave a talk at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, which is staging an exhibition, Charlotte Great and Small. Chevalier, a creative partner in the exhibition, says she chose to display tiny things in Charlotte's life – shoes, a scrap of dress, the miniature books made by the Brontë children – alongside quotes voicing her big desires.
It sounds charming, and I'm sure Charlotte would have enjoyed it. As fine a way to pay tribute as any. But how do you capture the essence of Charlotte and her astonishing books – in particular, Jane Eyre – in any birthday celebration? (Jane Sullivan) (Read more)
Historic England has relisted seven buildings that witnessed the life of Charlotte Brontë.While they are at it, something could be done about Wycoller Hall, also of importance in the Brontë story, where - remember - Lancashire County Council is planning on stopping 'the management, maintenance and ranger service'.
The organisation has updated the buildings – including the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth – to mark the 200th anniversary of Charlotte’s birth.
They include the properties that inspired Charlotte’s most famous novel, Jane Eyre, and the house where she contracted a fatal illness.
The buildings were already on the National Heritage List for England, but now their entries fully acknowledge the important history of the novelist.
Historic England spokesman, Eric Branse-Instone, said: “We are glad to be able to celebrate and mark the history of this important novelist on the National Heritage List for England.
“These buildings help to tell the story of Charlotte Brontë’s life and the inspiration of her work."
The Haworth Parsonage, where Charlotte and her sisters Emily and Anne grew up and wrote her novels, is a Grade I listed building.
Stone Gappe, in Lothersdale, which is listed Grade II, is thought to be the inspiration for Gateshead Hall – the unhappy childhood home of Jane Eyre. Charlotte was a governess there for a short time in 1839.
The Rev Patrick Brontë was curate of the Chapel of St James, also known as Old Bell Chapel, in Thornton, and his three literary daughters were baptised there.
Number 74 Market Street in Thornton was the birthplace of the Brontë sisters. North Lees Hall in Derbyshire was the ancestral home of the real-life Eyre family, and boasts the real-life story of a mad woman who was kept in an upstairs room, giving her the inspiration for the novel.
The Grade II listed vicarage in the village of Hathersage was immortalised in Jane Eyre as Morton village.
Charlotte caught a chill whilst walking in the grounds of Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire, and it is thought this led to her death in 1855. (David Knights)
FRIDAYExpress gives the 'top 10 reasons to visit Yorkshire', which include
The Brontë Parsonage Museum is celebrating the life of Charlotte Brontë with a special tour as part of the 'Parsonage Unwrapped' series, at 7.30pm. Tickets £15 / £12 concessions and Brontë Society members (proof of membership required) - includes a glass of wine. (David Jagger)
6. Explore Haworth, the Yorkshire village on the edge of the Pennine Moors where the Brontë sisters grew up and were inspired by the countryside around them. Charlotte Brontë is most famous for penning Jane Eyre while Emily wrote Wuthering Heights. The home where they grew up, The Parsonage, is open to the public and shows how it would have looked when they lived there. (Anne Gorringe)The Daily Mail asks writer Freya North about books.
. . . would you take to a desert island?Writer Amanda Jennings tells The Irish Times her trick for coping with bad reviews:
Jane Eyre is just so devastatingly romantic — they literally go through fire for love. I read that you won’t understand true love until you’ve read it.
What weight do you give reviews? I would be lying if I said I didn’t read them. I do. The harsh ones undoubtedly hurt. But if I do get one that isn’t great – a one- or two-star – I look up a book I love, perhaps The Book Thief or The Kite Runner or Jane Eyre, and read the one- and two-stars for that. It helps put things into perspective. If the very best books in the world can attract poor reviews, then why am I worrying about mine? Reading is highly subjective and differing opinions go with the territory. If a book is going to move some readers then it is just as likely to grate with others.Broadway World reviews the production of Jane Eyre the Musical at Hale Center Theater Orem.
Kenna Lynn Smith as Jane Eyre (double cast with Elizabeth Dabczynski-Bean) splendidly depicts the inner turmoil of her character and sings the impactful score with beauty.The Orion recommends Lyndsay Faye's Jane Steele and GraphoMania (Italy) recommends Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair among other books about books. Sandy Docherty on Baking Down Barriers posts about the cake she made for the Brontë200 birthday celebration at the Parsonage. Kevd'r (in Slovenian) posts about Charlotte Brontë. Rapsodia Literaria (in Spanish) reviews Wuthering Heights.
Her husband, David Matthew Smith, is the understudy for Edward Rochester (played at most performances by Equity performer Dallyn Vail Bayles). He gamely attacks the role and succeeds in winning over the audience.
Rachel Bigler deserves special recognition for her delicious portrayal of Rochester's fiancé, Blanche Ingram (double cast with Alicia Pann).
Also making a wonderful impression are Lynne Bronson as Mrs. Fairfax (double cast with Melany Wilkins), Alex DeBirk as St. John Rivers (double cast with David Matthew Smith), and Malia Mackay as Grace Poole (single cast).
Some of the dialect pronunciation is spot on, but unfortunately many of the actors' accents were hit-or-miss throughout the reviewed performance.
The music direction by Justin Bills and sound design by Cody Hale keep the music and dialogue sounding their best and add a thrilling aural ambiance to the proceedings.
The costume design by MaryAnn Hill (assisted by Patti Glad), along with the hair and makeup design by Janna Larsen (assisted by Heather Jones), are striking and appropriate.
The scenic design by Bobby Swenson and Cole McClure and companion lighting design (by Swenson) and projection design (by McClure) are artistic and captivating. The visuals of the production are sometimes haunting, sometimes glowing--encapsulating the wide range and depth of emotion in the piece.
Interesting stage pictures from director Christopher Clark and choreographer Cory Stephens heighten and intensify this emotion, resulting in a very satisfying production. (Tyler Hinton)