Review - Villette at the West Yorkshire Playhouse - *Review by Richard Wilcocks* Charlotte Brontë’s *Villette*, which was recognised by knowledgeable readers in nineteenth century Brussels as a close parallel...
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Right from its dedication – “For Charlotte, of course” – affection and intimacy pervade this collection of 21 short stories, all by women, inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s most famous line. (All apart from Susan Hill, who contrarily reveals in her contributor’s note that she has not read Jane Eyre.) For the editor, Tracy Chevalier, Jane’s declaration is the defiant cry of the underdog, thrilling because it is so far from the more passive constructions we might expect; it is not “Reader, he married me”, or even “Reader, we married”. In Chevalier’s own story, “Dorset Gap”, Jenn spurns Ed by pointedly summarising Jane Eyre as a novel about “a governess full of inner strength who marries a completely inappropriate man”. Ed proves his inappropriateness by confusing the novel with Wuthering Heights, and loses more ground by admitting that he always thought the Kate Bush song was called “Waterproof Eyes”. But he finally breaks the ice by misquoting the crucial line as “Reader, she married me” – and she laughs so hard that we wonder if one day she will. (...)
These stories will enrich and complicate future readings of Jane Eyre, as the best fan fiction should. It’s a testament to Brontë’s novel that we still can’t stop talking about it, fighting about it and writing around it; that so many writers want to imagine their way into it. If Brontë was going to drop in on any of the celebrations for her bicentenary, I can’t help but think she would get a kick out of this collection. After all, Jane Eyre arose from just such a liberated way of thinking about storytelling, from long nights at the parsonage with the three sisters walking round and round the table, writing and rewriting each other’s stories, in the best writers’ workshop that ever was.
Our trail begins as we walk along Main Street, heading for St Mary’s Church. Then left through the churchyard, which contains a railed obelisk in memory of Dr John Crosby, a good friend of Branwell’s.HistoryExtra carries an article about the Brontës and contemporary wars (the subject of last year's exhibition at the Parsonage):
Following country lanes and a short stretch of road we turn onto Mill Lane. In 1842, at Long Plantation, Anne Brontë wrote her three-verse poem “Lines Composed in a Wood on a Windy Day”, which was published in 1846 under her pen-name of Acton Bell.
Kirby Hall was demolished in the 1920s but in the distance some of the service buildings can still be seen. It was still a fine Palladian-style mansion when Anne used it as an influence for Ashby Hall in her novel Agnes Grey, published in 1847. (To shorten the walk, take the bridleway from Low Farm up to Thorpe Green Lane and turn right towards Great Ouseburn.)
Beyond Low Farm we use a footpath, known in Anne’s day as Bowsers Lane which emerges at Thorp Head, close to the River Ouse. Branwell Brontë’s poem Lydia Gisborne begins “On Ouse’s grassy banks – last Whitsuntide, I sat, with fears and pleasures, in my soul commingled, as it ‘roamed without control’…”.
Moss Hill Lane was Moss Lane in Agnes Grey and at its junction with Thorpe Green Lane we can just glimpse Monks’ Lodge above a tall wall, where Branwell stayed.
A sketch he did of the building still survives. (Read more)
The Brontës at war: how Charlotte and Branwell brought Waterloo into their drawing room
One of the most celebrated literary families of the 19th century, the Brontës were part of a post-war generation, with Charlotte Brontë, the eldest child, born in 1816, a year after the decisive battle of Waterloo. What impact, then, did the Napoleonic Wars have on the Brontës’ early literature? (...)
he defeat of Napoleon in 1815 marked the end of a seemingly relentless war and left a stunned Europe reflecting not only on the sensational elements of conflict, but also the horrors.
The Brontë family’s local Yorkshire landscape saw multitudes of soldiers return from battle overseas, suffering physical and psychological damage and confined to the economic limitations of half-pay – an allowance soldiers received when in retirement or not in service. Within its family home, Haworth parsonage, the family’s father, the Reverend Patrick Brontë, remained a military fanatic. Although trained in the church he held a lifelong obsession with the Napoleonic Wars, passing onto Charlotte his hero worship of the Duke of Wellington.
The British writers of the day thought the early 19th century to be dull and uneventful. The future prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, famously stated in his 1826 novel Vivian Grey, “if it wasn’t for the general election, we really must have a war for variety’s sake. Peace gets quite a bore”.
The newspapers and periodicals of the day were saturated with war commentary. They ignored the monotony of the present and lingered on the shadows of Britain’s military past. Wellington and Napoleon especially dominated the media. Their rivalry was sensationalised and very quickly engrained into cultural mythology: Wellington as a hero; Napoleon as a tortured, evil genius.
The Brontë family’s favourite periodical, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, especially dramatised the relationship between Wellington and Napoleon. One commentator stated that Wellington had conquered Napoleon by “simple manly heroism”; another said that “they struggled like two giants for ascendency”. In short, throughout the 1820s and 1830s the air was still abuzz with war. This buzz filtered right through the core of Britain’s social fabric and straight into the Brontës’ imaginations. (Read more) (Emma Butcher)
Six riders took flowers from Thornton, where the writer was born on April 21, 1816, to Haworth, where she and her gifted family lived for most of their lives.The Wharfedale Observer has an update on the rehearsals of the upcoming Northern Ballet Jane Eyre production:
The symbolic ride over the moors to Haworth Parsonage was part of a hectic day of celebrations to mark the anniversary last Thursday.
The club was asked to get involved by the Brontë Parsonage Museum, and was delighted to accept.
Press secretary, Jill Birch, said: "One wreath was laid at St James's Church in Thornton and we carried the other one to be laid at the Parsonage, so we travelled from where she was born to where she lived.
"It was quite a tough ride up and around the moors, but I'm so glad we took part. It was lovely and the Parsonage was so busy when we arrived – just full of people and cameras – so it was pretty exciting.
"It was a great experience. We've done so many different things in the past couple of years we'd never have got involved with if we weren't members of the cycling club."
Brontë Parsonage Museum marketing officer, Rebecca Yorke, added: "We wanted to have some way of bringing flowers from Thornton to Haworth for Charlotte's birthday, and by bicycle seemed a nice way to do it. (Jim Jack)
[Cathy Marston says] “When I think of Jane I feel inspired by images of her passionate but 'impossible' relationship with Mr Rochester; the fire and emotional destruction symbolised by Bertha Mason, the infamous 'woman in the attic'; the contrasting icy moorland through which she seems to run from one chapter of her life to another; and of course her final reunion with Rochester. (David Knights)The Books and Arts programme of Radio National ABC (Australia) interviews Claire Harman.
In the archive of the Brontë parsonage in Haworth I recently saw an extraordinary letter. The sisters wrote constantly, and because paper and postage was expensive, they eked out every bit of space. In 1849 Anne, just diagnosed with TB and eager to go to Scarborough for the air wrote to a friend of the family's there - a fine and precise script leaving an equal gap between every word, so that when the page was full she could turn it at right angles and insert new lines inside the space left. This "crossed letter" as it's known, is the last she wrote. She and Charlotte went to Scarborough soon after but she died a few weeks later. So much unlived life in those cramped lines. (Source)KCUR interviews the leading actors (who are also a couple in real life: Alisha and Matt Richardson) in a current production of Jane Eyre. The Musical in Mission, Kansas:
"Our comfort level with each other has allowed the chemistry on stage and the story to really grow, I think, at a more rapid pace than it would had we been strangers," says Alisha. "You get to the kissing, and it's like, no big deal, we can just kiss and move on."Do you need reasons to visit Yorkshire. In the Daily Express they have some:
"Rochester is a little bit more of a jerk than I am, at least, maybe," jokes Matt. "But I kind of come around at the end of the show: The softer side of Rochester comes out, and he really shows his love for her. And I think that's something that I can really relate to. Being on stage with my wife, and being able to look at her, while I'm saying these things." (Laura Spencer)
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)Oliver Kamm quotes Villette's use of 'fulsome' in today's Pedant column in The Times.
I grew up reading—at the school library, on the bookmobile, at the comic book store, at home next to the heater under the piano. As a girl, I found pieces of myself in the characters of Ramona, Anne of Green Gables, Laura Ingalls, Jo March, Harriet the Spy, Jane Eyre. (Megan McDonald)Onirik (France) presents the book Les Soeurs Brontë à 20 ans by Stéphane Labbé:
La collection A 20 ans impose un format court et concis, qui s’attarde sur la jeunesse d’un auteur. C’est donc tout naturellement que l’on retrouve, dans le premier chapitre, une toute jeune Charlotte Brontë, sur le point de rejoindre l’école où elle va prendre son premier poste d’enseignante. Elle n’a aucune envie de partir, mais n’a d’autre choix, car les finances de la famille sont très faibles. (...)It's hard for us to take the rigor of the biography seriously judging by the rigor of its cover.
Dans cette biographie vivante, Stéphane Labbé retrace pour nous ces destinées exceptionnelles, qui restent cependant encore bien mystérieuses. Mais il lève assurément un pan du voile, grâce à ses recherches rigoureuses et son analyse fine des oeuvres des soeurs Brontë. (Claire Saim) (Translation)
El año pasado se cumplieron veinte años de su primera novela, Bajar es lo peor. ¿Qué sucedió en estas dos décadas en su escritura? (Matías Méndez)Cultura e Culture (Italy) reviews the Italian translation of Lyndall Gordon's Charlotte Brontë. A Passionate Life; Bustle lists bookish baby names, including Jane; L'ivre des rêves (in French) reviews Wuthering Heights. Sheferijm - Ajatuksia kirjoista! (in Finnish) posts bout Jane Eyre. ZSR's rare book of the month is
—Como publiqué muy chica la primera vez, tenía veinte años, lo que ocurre es que esa primera novela era una novela realista y de realismo sucio juvenil, con drogas, noche y toda esa historia, peTranslation)
ro también tenía elementos de novela romántica tipo Cumbres borrascosas y alguna cosa de vampiros. (
ZSR Special Collections’ copy of the first edition of Jane Eyre was part of Charles H. Babcock’s collection and is currently on view in the Special Collections & Archives Reading Room (ZSR625) as part of the exhibit Books and Bibliophiles at Wake Forest.