Wednesday, April 20, 2016

It is the day before Charlotte Brontë's bicentenary and already many sites have something to say about her.

ITV News reports that celebrations have already started and shows a picture of some members of the Brontë Society on the Terrace of the House of Commons.
Members of the Brontë Society celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Bronte on the Terrace of the House of Commons. [...]
Celebrations to mark Charlotte’s birthday will take place around the world on April 21st. The primary focus will be on Haworth itself which will host a full day of community-led activities.
We at the Brontë Society have been planning these events for a number of years now. We are very excited to see the Brontë 200 launch on Thursday 21st April with a day of activities in Haworth, followed by a commemorative service in Westminster the following day. It was wonderful to come to the Houses of Parliament and help start the celebrations.
– John Thirwell, Chair of the Brontë Society Council
The Guardian tells the life of Charlotte Brontë in (beautiful) pictures thanks to Mick Manning and Brita Granström, authors of the book The Brontës. Children of the Moors.

The Conversation looks into why at 200 she still speaks to us.
What is it that makes generation after generation respond to Charlotte Brontë’s books, and in particular Jane Eyre?
Brontë’s novels are bildungsromane, but they differ markedly from, say, the coming of age novels of Jane Austen.
The education of the Austen heroine is a moral one, of a kind clearly mapped out for the reader. We know, through some very explicit signposting, that in order to move from the family home to marriage with “a single man in possession of a good fortune”, she must learn to temper sensibility with sense, or fight prejudice, or a tendency to meddle or be easily persuaded.
Brontë heroines, on the other hand, struggle with questions that are psychologically complex before they are ethical: how to refuse the temptation of a relationship where we are not truly loved; how to achieve respect without status; how to continue to care for the friend we envy.
The answers to such questions are not foreshadowed, and, scandalously for many of her first readers, they privilege principles of self-knowledge and self-expression over conventional Christian moralism.
Moreover, Brontë doesn’t give the impression that the eventual resolutions her heroines achieve are easily won, necessarily worth the sacrifice, or “universally acknowledged”.
As biographer and scholar Juliet Barker has noted,
All Charlotte’s heroines […] were orphans.They are not beautiful or rich (typically they must work to support themselves), yet they assert their right to a beautiful and rich interior life.
“Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!” Jane Eyre declares to Rochester.
Anyone, these books assure us, however little else they may have, can hold on to the integrity of their feelings. And they can seek to express them, with care and accuracy, in language. (Vanessa Smith) (Read more)
The Telegraph and Argus has an opinion column on why this 'country parson's daughter continues to fascinate us' despite her apparent lack of good looks. Thankfully we aren't as shallow as all that.
Charlotte Brontë's face adorns bookmarks, postcards, pencils, tea-towels and souvenir thimbles.
It is the face gazing out from the covers of paperbacks and biographies - the face of a country parson's daughter, a literary powerhouse and a feminist icon.
The image is from George Richmond's 1850 portrait, more flattering than her brother Branwell's 'gun group' painting, and so familiar that we feel we know her.
Less familiar are the rather grotesque self portraits, revealing Charlotte's insecurities about her looks. One, thought to have been sketched at school, reveals a large hook nose, prominent brow and shrewish eyes peering out beneath thick eyebrows. The other is a cartoon of a hunchback dwarf with witch-like features next to a pretty young lady, thought to be Charlotte's friend, Ellen Nussey.
"Poor, obscure, plain and little," is how Jane Eyre describes herself, and while there are strands of autobiography throughout the novel, that was a diluted version of how Charlotte saw her own appearance.
According to letters she wrote, and her self portraits, Charlotte believed she was ugly. She told her biographer Elizabeth Gaskell: "I notice that after a stranger has once looked at my face he is careful not to let his eyes wander to that part of the room again."
While her unrequited love for the Belgian schoolteacher can't have helped, Charlotte's insecurity is thought to stem largely from school, where mixing with pretty mill-owners' daughters made her self-conscious about her comparatively drab appearance. To the casual observer, there would be nothing remarkable about the three motherless sisters living at Haworth's draughty hilltop parsonage.
Marriage didn't raise Charlotte's self-esteem. "I took care to get it in cheap material," she wrote of her wedding dress in 1854, believing she wouldn't do justice to anything pretty. And even when she tasted success as a published author, while she was so confident of her writing talent to be considered unrefined by Victorian standards, she remained painfully aware that she was no beauty.
As we celebrate the bicentenary of Charlotte's birth this week, we could be forgiven for thinking that there can't be much left to say or write about her that hasn't already been covered. We know more about Charlotte than any of her siblings, largely thanks to countless biographies and the constantly shifting theories about her legacy.
We know her as strong, clever, ambitious, but she was complex too. A literary celebrity plagued with shyness, a feminist trailblazer steeped in insecurity, fiercely independent but scarred by unrequited love.
Two hundred years after her birth, and more than 160 years after her death, Charlotte continues to fascinate us, enough to look beyond the enigmatic gaze of Richmond's portrait. (Emma Clayton)
Io donna (Italy) bases an article celebrating her on the new Italian translation of Lyndall Gordon's biography.
Quel che conta è avere una ricca vita interiore. Potrebbe essere una battuta di Lucy, l’eroina di Charles Schultz, dispensatrice di saggezza dal suo banchetto di aiuto psichiatrico d’emergenza. Ma no: le grandi eroine della letteratura classica, quelle che l’hanno fatta e consegnata alla storia e alle biblioteche, non hanno certo avuto una vita avventurosa, eppure i loro romanzi danno conto di tumulti, scompigli, clamorosi ribaltamenti di prospettiva.
Charlotte Brontë, la prima delle tre celebri sorelle figlie di un pastore protestante, nate e vissute per quasi tutta la vita nello Yorkshire (salvo una breve esperienza in Belgio per studiare il francese), avrebbe avuto, secondo la sua biografa Lyndall Gordon, Una vita appassionata. Questo è infatti il titolo del volume che Fazi manda in libreria in occasione del bicentenario della nascita, il 21 aprile, dell’autrice di Jane Eyre. Partendo dall’epistolario e setacciando le opere più autobiografiche della Brontë (Shirley, Villette), Gordon «delinea il ritratto di una scrittrice talentuosa con un umorismo pungente, in collera con i limiti imposti alle donne dalla società, e al tempo stesso il ritratto di una donna che, dopo due passioni non corrisposte, intraprende un breve ma felice matrimonio». Con un reverendo. E se felicità fu, fu certo breve perché un anno dopo le nozze la scrittrice muore mentre è in attesa di un figlio. (Paola Piacenza) (Translation) (Read more)
Avvenire (Italy) joins in the early celebrations as well.
Due secoli dalla nascita e la voce di Charlotte Brontë (21 aprile 1816) ci raggiunge ancora con forza. Entrare nel suo mondo è facile: non solo rileggendo i suoi romanzi, ma pensando alla sua vita come a una storia da leggere, scoprendo che è stata, fin dall’infanzia, un modello per il suo tempo, tanto da poter incontrare oggi un pubblico nuovo. Nata nel pieno dell’età vittoriana, quando il ruolo femminile era in bilico fra forma e censura delle emozioni, rispetto delle convenzioni e sudditanza all’uomo, Charlotte, come le sue sorelle, mostra nella sua breve vita i danni provocati da queste pesanti costrizioni. (Bianca Garavelli) (Translation)
The Hindu's The Bookshelf celebrates 'the trailblazer' by summarising her novels.

The Guardian's Reading Group continues reading Jane Eyre this month and so Sam Jordison 'compares notes' on the novel with Virginia Woolf.
Last week, I wrote about the imaginative stretch required of readers tackling Jane Eyre two centuries on from its publication. Since then – last week, that is – I’ve been comparing notes with Virginia Woolf. It turns out that she – about a century nearer to Charlotte Brontë than we are – was not feeling readily intimate with this fictional world either. [...]
Happily, like most readers, Virginia Woolf found she could quickly bridge that chasm of time and connect with Jane: “The drawbacks of being Jane Eyre are not far to seek. Always to be a governess and always to be in love is a serious limitation in a world which is full, after all, of people who are neither one nor the other.”
It is well worth reading the whole of Woolf’s essay (which also considers Wuthering Heights.) She’s especially good on Charlotte – and Emily – Brontë’s striking use of pathetic fallacy, where the natural world reflects their characters’ swirling, turbulent interior lives: “They seized those aspects of the earth which were most akin to what they themselves felt or imputed to their characters, and so their storms, their moors, their lovely spaces of summer weather are not ornaments applied to decorate a dull page or display the writer’s powers of observation – they carry on the emotion and light up the meaning of the book …
“At the end,” she writes “we are steeped through and through with the genius, the vehemence, the indignation of Charlotte Brontë.” It’s hard to disagree with any of that. Yet by the end of Woolf’s essay I began to wonder if she wasn’t also talking down to her with some pretty mean-spirited snobbery. (Read more)
Also in The Guardian, Lena Coakley argues that 'Jane Eyre is most definitely a YA novel'.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë was the first book my grandmother read out loud to me when I went to live with her at the age of 12. I expect she thought that reading about a girl who had also lost her parents might give me comfort. Because of my age, it was the young Jane with whom I identified, the Jane trapped in the haunted “red room,” the Jane forced to go to the horrible Lowood School.
I didn’t read the book as a teen. I wish I had. If I’d read it then, I might have identified with the restless, not-quite-formed Jane – the 18-year-old young adult who is the main character for most of the book.
Countless young women have done so and found inspiration in the poor and plain governess who refuses to be overcome by a world that is constantly trying to subjugate and belittle her. Jane Eyre is a book about finding one’s identity in the face of such adversity; it is a book about coming of age; and for this reason I believe it fits perfectly into the category of a young adult novel. It is, after all, about the concerns of a young adult.
But is Jane a young adult? some might ask. Wasn’t an 18-year-old fully an adult by the standards of the day? Charlotte Brontë writes of a character balanced between childhood and maturity. In fact, she uses the tension of this balance again and again to give her story energy. (Read more)
Bustle has compiled a list of 15 gifts for Jane Eyre lovers.
If you have a gift-giving event on the horizon and a Brontë-obsessed friend to buy for, these gifts for Jane Eyre lovers are just what the Victorians ordered. Perfect for anyone with a Jane Eyre obsession of the highest degree, they are sure to delight and amaze. And if you're buying them for yourself? I won't tell a soul.
Over the years, Jane Eyre's lasting influence has given Brontë fans dozens of movies, stageplays, retellings, and sequels. Now, thanks to fandom-oriented commerce sites, such as Etsy and Cafe Press, every Jane Eyre lover can have a little piece of Brontë magic in her home or on her person, at all times! No matter what your budget or hobbies are, there is a gift on this list that's perfect for the Jane Eyre lover in your life.
A century-plus-old novel doesn't have to be boring, and neither do the books, clothing, and housewares it inspires. Jane Eyre lends a Gothic whimsy to our lives. You don't have to live like a Victorian to bring a bit of that era into your home. (Kristian Wilson)
Bustle also lists the possible causes of Charlotte Brontë's death, though the cause being hyperemesis gravidarum is generally accepted these days.
One of the most iconic literary figures in history has a big day coming up. Charlotte Brontë's 200th birthday falls on April 21, 2016. The author of Jane Eyre is celebrated nearly every day by new and lifelong fans, and yet there's still controversy over how her incredible life came to an end.
Her life is full of fascinating tidbits. Life during the early 1800s, especially as a woman, didn't allow for much creative freedom, yet the Brontë sisters — Charlotte, Emily, and Anne — wrote some of the most beloved stories of all time.
Charlotte Brontë's life was definitely remarkable, but her mysterious death on March 31, 1855 was simply heartbreaking. Soon after her questionable marriage to Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father's curate, she fell ill and passed away just weeks before her 39th birthday. She was the last of her siblings to die; Emily and Anne died years before at the ages of 30 and 29, respectively. Another sister, Elizabeth, died in childhood, and her only brother, Branwell, died years before her at age 31.
While Charlotte Brontë's death certificate lists tuberculosis as the cause of death, some researchers believe that may be false. So what could've possibly killed the exceptionally gifted writer? Here are six different possibilities: (Alex Weiss)
Not everyone knows the basics of literature as the Mirror proves by showing a video of two contestants of the quiz show Pointless who
When the presenter asked them which author wrote the novels Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, those tuning in at home assumed they would shout out Jane Austen .
However, David answered "Jane Eyre" - the title character of Charlotte Bronte's 1847's literary masterpiece.
After hearing her partner's response, Sarah was visibly red-faced, perhaps knowing he had given a ridiculous answer. (Nicola Agius)
Wide Sargasso Sea is one of 7 books to take a trip to the Caribbean as selected by Actualidad Literatura (Spain).
Ancho mar de los Sargazos, de Jean Rhys
Aunque tras la publicación de su obra Buenos días, medianoche muchos la creyeron muerta, esta autora inglesa nacida en la isla de Dominica resurgió años después con la que se convertiría en su novela más conocida, a modo de precuela de la novela Jane Eyre, de Charlotte Brontë. Publicada en 1966, Ancho mar de los Sargazos tiene como protagonista a Antoniette Cosway, una joven criolla obligada a casarse con un caballero inglés al que la autora nunca nombra. Novela no exenta de un feminismo camuflado con esa desigualdad racial que continuó latente tras la abolición de la esclavitud  en 1883 por parte del Imperio Británico. (Alberto Piernas) (Translation)
The Fortnightly Review discusses rejection.
We need a patron saint of rebuffed writers, to lead us through the following history, and a case could be made for Chatterton, but a more likely candidate comes to mind. My suggestion is Gilbert, first described by Stephen Pile in his Ultimate Book of Heroic Failures.   Pile notes that a certain Gilbert Young wrote a book called World Government Crusade. This was rejected ‘by more publishers than any other single manuscript.’
Saint Gilbert be with us, we writers in search of fame, glory and most of all our name on the spine of a book. Saint Gilbert, perhaps assisted by Saint Charlotte Brontë because she ignored the patronising claptrap of Southey and pressed on, writing in between the ironing, the cooking and looking after her dad when he was going blind. (Stephen Wade)
Thüringische Landeszeitung (Germany) has an article on Jane Eyre as a Victorian classic. Ideal (Spain) tells about a reading initiative that will focus on women writers' books, such as those by the Brontë sisters. The State Press features Wuthering Heights in its Books & Booze section. The Brontë Society Facebook page shares a picture of the replica of the Parsonage being built on the moors for Sally Wainwright's To Walk Invisible. Jactionary reviews Catherine Lowell's The Madwoman Upstairs. Antonella Iuliano (in Italian) reviews The Professor.  Sogno tra I libri (in Italian) posts about Lyndall Gordon's Charlotte Brontë biography. Helen MacEwan reports on the Brontë Parsonage Blog the recent Juliet Barker talk in Brussels. A poem written and performed by Lorna Faye Dunsire to celebrate the Brontë200.


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