Who Were The Real Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell? - When the Bell brothers published their book of poetry ‘Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell‘ in 1846 it seemed to be an act of little significance, report...
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Emily Brontë died at the age of 30, having published one book, Wuthering Heights. Her doomed love story of Cathy and Heathcliff has become a by-word for passion, yet the original text remains darkly enigmatic. Unlike the sentimental Hollywood version starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon (or indeed Heathcliff: the Musical, an unlikely Nineties Cliff Richard vehicle), the novel is an intellectual puzzle, oddly detached and lacking the sensual eroticism which pervades her sister Charlotte’s works.
So who was Emily? Born in 1818 to a cash-strapped Irish émigré Yorkshire parson, Emily was the middle Brontë sister, younger than Charlotte (author of Jane Eyre, Shirley, Villette and The Professor) and older than Anne (who wrote Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall). Given how much we know about her family, Emily remains oddly mysterious. Charlotte left hundreds of letters for biographers to pore over but Emily left almost none.
Anti-social to a near pathological degree, she was described by Charlotte as someone “on the recesses of whose mind and feelings, even those nearest and dearest to her could not, with impunity, intrude unlicensed”. [...]
BBC One’s To Walk Invisible is not the first time that the Brontës’ life-stories have been scrutinised on film. Sally Wainwright’s new piece has a gritty realism which is absent from, say, the prettified 1946 Hollywood version, Devotion, in which Emily is portrayed as a wide-eyed mystic, her bulldog Keeper transformed into a cutesy, blow-dried old English sheepdog. [...]
When Charlotte rootled among Emily’s papers, she was astonished by the quality of the poems she found. On telling Emily that they were works of genius, she got only a tongue-lashing. Luckily for posterity, Emily finally gave in to Charlotte’s campaign to get all three sisters into print.
It is good to see Emily looking grungy and slapping Charlotte in the face in the new film. However, no biographer has yet succeeded in getting inside the historical Emily’s head – which is perhaps not surprising, since even her own sister Charlotte never could.
Bitter, drunk, a failed artist and an aspiring poet. One can hardly blame Branwell Brontë for painting himself out of a family portrait with his famous literary sisters.
Yet, as the bicentenary of his birth approaches, the siblings’ former home in Haworth, West Yorkshire, aims to shed new light on the often overlooked member of the family.
Whereas Anne, Emily and Charlotte are known for their masterpieces such as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and Agnes Grey, Branwell is often remembered as a frustrated artist, more famous for his abuse of alcohol and opium.
In an attempt to “get to know Branwell”, Simon Armitage, the Huddersfield-born poet and playwright, has been appointed as a creative partner to the Brontë Parsonage Museum and will help to spend a £97,702 Arts Council grant to celebrate the 200th birthday of Branwell next year, and that of Emily the year after.
“Most people know Branwell either as the ne’er-do-well brother of the Brontë family or as the shadowy absence in his famous portrait of his three sisters,” the poet said.
“We’ll never really know Branwell properly, but in putting together events for his bicentenary I feel as if I’ve been privy to some of his hopes and dreams.
“Branwell’s early promise and swaggering enthusiasm was ultimately overshadowed by the talents of his siblings, but even before then he appears to have lost his boyish optimism.” [...]
The Parsonage Museum’s exhibition, curated by Armitage, is called Mansions in the Sky. It opens in February and will feature Branwell’s writings, drawings and possessions.
Armitage will also write new poems in response to Branwell and give talks and readings throughout next year. (Gabriella Swerling)
If that weren’t dour enough, the tortured saga of the Brontë sisters is brought to admirably unseasonal life in Sally Wainwright’s To Walk Invisible (Thursday 29, BBC1, 9pm, see cover interview pp4-7). Creator of the justly lauded Happy Valley, Wainwright caps another winning year (for her, at least) with this drama about three 19th century Yorkshire women struggling to assert their literary genius in an oppressively patriarchal society. Should you be sick of festive cheer by this point, then put your trust in Wainwright to provide the ideal antidote. (Paul Whitelaw)Yorkshire Post makes a similar point:
Ah yes, Wainwright. If it’s a large dollop of festive cheer you’re looking for, the Huddersfield-born writer is probably not your woman. This Christmas, the Happy Valley creator will see the premiere of her new Brontë drama, which (spoiler alert) ends badly for all concerned and before that there’s Last Tango in Halifax there’s not an awful lot of traditional merriment. (Sarah Freeman)This columnist from Inquirer is not a fan of Christmas cheer either:
I was 25 and alone in an empty boarding house. Music pulsed through the walls of the room where I rented bed space. My landlady’s family was having a Christmas party in the garden outside. I closed the jalousie windows then went back to my bed, where I continued reading “Jane Eyre.” (April S)Female First has writer Christina Clarry share '10 Things I'd like my readers to know about me'. Such as
My earliest years were spent in Kenya. This wild and happy childhood was turned upside down when I was sent to a convent school in England run by Sisters of Mercy who would be better described as 'Merciless Sisters'. I empathised completely with Jane Eyre's school experiences.This writer from Entropy Magazine tells about how she learned to write:
The hymns sung in childhood, the opera roles and lieder, the girl saints, Dickinson, Marie de France, and my dear Brontës—they had woven the fabric of my own time-bound consciousness. (Sophia Starmack)This columnist from Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden) gives credit to women writers of the 19th century for what they did for feminism.
Vill jag vrida tillbaka klockan till 1800-talet? Inte direkt – trots att det var ett århundrade där mängder av starka kvinnor gjorde sina röster hörda på sätt som inte plågade medmänniskornas öron. De gjorde skillnad genom att skriva böcker: George Eliot, Charlotte Brontë och hennes systrar, Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson – för att bara nämna några. Levde dessa kvinnor enligt samhällets konventioner, respekterade de gängse uppförandekoder? Det tror jag. Hyllas de i dag som feministiska förebilder? Ja. De gjorde mer för sina medsystrar än hundratals tjejer som bestämt sig för att vara högljudda i feminismens namn. (Josefin Holmström) (Translation)According to World Travel Guide, the Haworth moors are one of the 'Ten Most Romantic Spots To Kiss in England'.
5. The West Yorkshire MoorsInternational Business Times has included Emily Brontë's Spellbound in a selection of 'Famous Poetic Verses For December Cold Weather'. In the New York Times, writer Maxine Hong Kingston mention Claire Harman's biography of Charlotte Brontë as one of the books she has read this year. AnneBrontë.org had a post on Emily yesterday.
Love isn’t always roses and grand settings though. If you are after a dramatic kiss in an atmospheric setting, head to the West Yorkshire Moors. The Brontë sisters lived in Haworth, a charming village with historic cobbled main street, and not far away you can find Top Withens, which many Brontë fans believe was in Emily’s mind when she wrote about Wuthering Heights. With steep, winding valleys and blustering winds, the moors strip away all the glitz and glamour, leaving nothing but the perfect raw emotion and unforgettable kisses.