Visiting the Brontë World in Haworth - Bronte Parsonage Museum: Check out this blog post full of beautiful pictures from the Brontë world. Museum insights included. 214 (3 hours ago) Visiting t...
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The BrontësaurusJohn Sutherland is a well-known Brontëite and many horders of Brontë-related books will be acquainted with his books Is Heathcliff a Murderer? (1995) and Can Jane Eyre Be Happy? (1996) in which he ponders literary mysteries of the kind, Brontë-related or otherwise. His new book is wholly devoted to the Brontë family: The Brontësaurus: An A-Z of Charlotte, Emily & Anne Brontë (& Branwell)(1)
An A-Z of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte (and Branwell)
John Sutherland and John Crace
Publisher: Icon Books
Pub Date:December 2016
There is no fate worse for fiction than to come and go into Shakespeare's 'wallet of oblivion'. Everything from 'Jane Hair' salons to Jane Eyrotica confirms that will never happen to the Brontës' fiction. Their novels will last as long as there is money to be made from the novels, which are wholly uncontaminated. Long live 'tat': it bears witness to long life. ('Tat', p. 159)'That Name', on the surname Brontë offers nothing new per se, but is highly perceptive. One of our favourite chapters in the whole book may be 'Three-decker', which is very enlightening on this eminently-Victorian way of publishing and brilliant in its analogy of TV-series on regular channels and on Netflix these days.
''Normal' (even if true, which I believe it is) has a hard time triumphing with the Brontës. We love the myths too much.'Some chapters are wholly unexpected, somewhat random, but most make interesting reads nonetheless. 'Bog people', 'Branderham', 'Extradiegesis', 'Guadeloupe', Myopia', 'Spirit-written', 'Steel' (which is one Agnes Grey and Anne's defence of animals) and 'Toothsome' are among the least expected.
The Madwoman in the Attic argues a powerfully ideological reading and one is grateful for it. But it masnifestly violates what Charlotte Brontë, in her ignorance, believed she was doing. What was that? She believed she was writing a 'moral' tale for young women, not a manifesto. When asked what good novels did, Trollope replied they instructed young women how to receive their suitors. Charlotte Brontë could have said the same. [...]But that's just a matter of opinion, of course. What the book would seem to need, objectively speaking, is a proofreader. 'Claire Harmon' [Harman] and 'Susan Gerber' [Gubar](2) are among the 'most perceptive critics of the Brontë oeuvre' in the preface. Some inaccuracies are also incurred on in the Brontë story: the reader is told that 'Anne, Charlotte and a servant' left for Anne's last trip to Scarborough(3), and that was not a servant but a friend: Ellen Nussey. Thornfield Hall is once referred to as 'Thornton Hall'. We are told that Emily Brontë said that she liked her dog better than her pupils while in Brussels, while she did so at Law Hill and referred to the school dog, not Keeper. John Sutherland thinks that Arthur Bell Nicholls was incorporated into Shirley in the shape of Malone, while it was Macarthey. Nicholls, too, is said to have been 'seven years older than Charlotte' when in fact he was three years younger. Tabitha Aykroyd is said to have outlived all the Brontë siblings, when in fact she pre-deceased Charlotte. A photograph of 'the main street in Haworth, at the period the Brontës lived there' is highly improbable. Nothing too relevant, and yet small details that subtract from the book, particularly if a Brontëite is reading and noticing the mistakes made.
But in a long career I can't recall any essay arguing that Jane Eyre is a novel with an overt Christian motive written by a woman who attended church weekly (often daily) and subscribed faithfully to its doctrines; the daughter of a clergyman (whose parsonage she never left--even in death), eventually the wife of a clergyman, who superintended Dorcas meetings, undertook the routine task of 'district' [i.e. parish] visiting' and awaited, with almost orgasmic excitement, the second coming. ('Attic Matters', p. 7-8)
One is tempted to take it with a grain of something stronger than salt. But the jury is out. And we'll never know and always wonder. The usual situation with the Brontës.The Brontësaurus is definitely a fun book for Brontëites. It jogs our minds, takes us out of our comfort zones, asks unexpected questions and offers insightful glimpses into what the Brontës may or not have known. And not many writers can pull that off as--seemingly--effortlessly as John Sutherland.
There are obvious objections to the 'Madwoman in the Attic' reading of Jane Eyre and the critical theses which have given it currency. [...]The first objection is rather mundane [...]. Bertha Mason is not locked up in an attic. There are indeed attics at Thornfield Hall under the 'leads' (i.e. lead-lined roof). But servants were accommodated in these wretched, cold and leaky dormers at the back of the main building. Bertha Mason is housed in a separate annex, with its own staircase, on the third floor, accessible only by master key, with a barred window. ('Attic Matters', p. 6)(2) Gubar's surname is sometimes spelt correctly. In one instance it's spelt wrongly in a paragraph then correctly in the following paragraph.