Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Country Life has visited the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
A relatively humble West Yorkshire parsonage occupies a remarkable place in the story of English literature. It was the home of the Rev Patrick Brontë, a widower, where three of the children he raised there, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, became published novelists of lasting repute. Each generation discovers these extraordinary books for themselves and few readers of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights or The Tenant of Wildfell Hall can fail to be curious about the stone walls that contained the short but productive lives of their authors.
It was, in its way, a dignified and secure home, but not without its privations, principally emotional, but also economic and social. A schoolfriend wrote after Charlotte’s death how odd it was that reviewers of her biography by fellow novelist Elizabeth Gaskell never seemed to think it strange that this woman of ‘first-rate talents, industry and integrity’ had lived ‘in a walking nightmare of poverty and self-suppression’. [...]
A house museum since 1928, owned and run by the Brontë Society, the Haworth Parsonage has been through a number of presentations, of which the latest, completed in 2013, was the result of a two-year programme of research by the University of Lincoln, wallpaper expert Allyson McDermott and Ann Dinsdale, the Society’s Principal Curator and author of The Brontës at Haworth (2006).
The house was crisply redecorated using contemporary descriptions, surviving bills and accounts, sampling and cross-section evidence to achieve a more authentic reconstruction of its 1850s appearance. The wallpapers are either exact replicas or well-evidenced contemporary patterns of the appropriate colours. Nearly all the items of furniture are authenticated pieces from the Brontës’ period of occupation collected by the Society since the 1890s.
The most exciting recent arrival, in 2015, is the original dining table at which Charlotte, Emily and Anne wrote their novels; every evening, they would walk around it and discuss their writings. After the death of Emily and Anne, a family servant, Martha Brown, used to recall how sad she felt ‘to hear Miss Brontë walking, walking on alone’.
The table had been acquired directly from the house sale in 1861, sold on quickly to a local family, in whose hands it had passed by descent, until its recent acquisition, with generous support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. (Jeremy Musson) (Read more)
Still in Haworth, there's news of more (absurd, if we may say so) closures and cuts. As The Telegraph and Argus reports,
Residents in the tourist hotspots of Haworth, Saltaire and Ilkley have reacted with dismay at cost-cutting proposals to close their visitor information centres.
Bradford Council has already agreed to cut its tourism service budget by £172,000 – about a third – and had asked a consultancy firm to come up with potential ways to cut costs.
The firm, Team Tourism, has now put forward four options, which each involve shutting at least three of the district’s four visitor information centres.
Its recommended option is to close the centres in Haworth, Saltaire and Ilkley but keep open the one in Bradford city centre.
Haworth trader Nikki Carroll said it made “absolutely no sense” to close the village’s visitor information centre.
She said: “It’s a ludicrous proposal. I will do all I can to oppose it and would urge other people to make their views known too.
“The Council was very eager in its support of the Tour de France when that came through the district and was keen to build on the legacy, plus we’ve seen a surge in tourists since the BBC screened the To Walk Invisible Brontë drama at Christmas.
“Bradford Council should be doing more to promote tourism and bringing people into smaller villages, rather than focusing on the city centre.”
Ward councillor Rebecca Poulsen (Con, Worth Valley) said the proposal was “nonsensical”.
“The Haworth building is leased rather than owned by the Council which I suspect is a factor behind this,” she added.
“Haworth is where the tourists go and that’s where a visitor information centre is needed. It’s beyond belief that the Council would contemplate closing it.”
Clearly Team Tourism (a misnomer if ever there was one) are even more shortsighted than Charlotte Brontë. Here's hoping this won't be carried out in the end.

Dazed interviews Finn Atkins, who plays Charlotte Brontë in To Walk Invisible.
How did you find taking on such a big story, was it a challenge for you? Finn Atkins: I think the main challenge came from the fact that a lot of people hold these characters really dear to their heart so you have to make sure that you are doing their story justice. Also they are not just characters, they are actual people, that’s what you’ve got to remember, so there is the added pressure of trying to nail all their little quirks. [...]
How did you prep for the role? Finn Atkins: We had a Brontë boot camp before we started where Sally Wainwright got me and the other siblings together in a house for a week. We had calligraphy lessons, we walked on the moors and got familiar with the landscape and where the family lived. I read as much as I could but I only had a set amount of time and it would have just been physically impossible to read all of their literature and biographical stuff as well. We had a literary advisor who put stuff in an order of what would be more useful for us to read. Obviously, it was really important for me to have read Charlotte’s novels and then she would have read Emily’s (Wuthering Heights) and Anne’s (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall) as well.
Did you know much about the Brontë literature before you took the part? Finn Atkins: No, not at all, I had studied them a little bit at school but that was literally as far as my Brontë knowledge went. One of the things I’ll take away from playing this role is being introduced or reintroduced to their life and their story. That was something I didn’t know too much about and it’s really inspiring. Would I have picked up their novels again in my lifetime? I don’t know, maybe not, it’s not really the sort of thing that I would normally read. But I’m so glad that I’ve had to for this because I love their work.
It must have been amazing reading the books in the place that they were written… Finn Atkins:  So I started reading some of them while I was in London. But reading their novels when we were there having costume fittings and we were actually in the moors where they used to walk, around Ponden Kirk in Yorkshire, it was like being transported back in time, it was really weird.
So why do you think the story resonates so well now? Finn Atkins: I think it’s the thing of the three girls in Yorkshire, completely unsuspecting, that just produced these legendary pieces of work that are still remembered now. The idea that whatever you are put up against you can still do amazing things – I think that is something that everyone can relate to. They had an alcoholic brother and their general living conditions and their setting was so much more difficult to contend with than what we have now, yet they still managed to get their work out. You know, we have social media now and it’s obviously a lot easier but they were up against so much more.
It’s obviously amazing for women as well because they used these male pseudonyms, well these gender-neutral pseudonyms, because that’s what they had to do to write. They had so much passion and dedication that they carried on and wrote under those names. I think that a lot of people would respect their story and their situation and what they did for women.
Do you think you have learnt some things from Charlotte through playing her? Finn Atkins: Well, she’s a really bossy character. We were actually the same height. She was 4”10 and I’m 4”10 as well, so I think maybe I’ve learnt that even if you are small you can be quite mighty. (Ella Wills)
Kudos to those Rogue One reviewers who saw the Jane Eyre influence behind Jyn Erso's name (even if wasn't real). John Knoll, chief creative officer of Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic effects house, tells all about to Yahoo! Movies.
“I wanted a really strong, smart, and active female character as the lead of this movie,” Knoll, chief creative officer of Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic effects house, told Yahoo Movies. “I have three daughters, and they were all growing up, and they were all young when I was working on the prequels. I felt like Star Wars could really use another good strong smart and decisive female character.”
When it came to naming her, Knoll didn’t have to look far for inspiration. “My youngest daughter is Jane, and my wife is Jen, so [Jyn] is sort of mashup of them. And growing up my aunt was Aunt Ginny, [short] for Virginia, so there’s a little bit of that, too. It’s a mix up of a lot of my favorite women in my life.”
As for Jyn Erso, I figured it was a play off of Charlotte Brontë’s literary heroine Jane Eyre. Not only do the names sound alike, Jane, like Jyn, is orphaned as a child and rises to prominence as a young woman. Eyre has long been viewed as a proto-feminist, and Erso, along with The Force Awakens‘ Rey, ushers in a new breed of empowered women in the Star Wars universe. (Another theory out there pointed out that Jyn Erso sounds like Jan Ors, a character who appeared in the LucasArts videogame Star Wars: Dark Forces.)
Earlier, we ran some of these theories by Kennedy and Rogue One director Gareth Edwards (watch the video below), and while they gave credence to a couple of them, they did debunk any Eyre connection. Edwards, though, thought Jyn was named after women in Knoll’s family. He was right. (Kevin Polowy)
Blackpool Gazette reviews The Vanishing, a novel by Sophia Tobin.
After forays into 18th century London and the Kent coast in 1851, author-to-watch Sophia Tobin returns with a gripping gothic tale of intrigue, romance and revenge set amidst the brooding hills of Brontë country. [...]
Rich in atmosphere, suspense and mystery, and with more than a nod to the bleak, forbidding North Yorkshire landscape so memorably evoked in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, this beautifully written page-turner is packed with passion and darkness. (Pam Norfolk)
Electric Lit interviews writer Lindsey Lee Johnson about her novel The Most Dangerous Place On Earth.
AA: New teacher Molly Nicoll has a lot of compassion for her students. You wrote: “…as a teenager she’d felt alien and alone with her Bob Dylan T-shirts and her Doc Martens rip-offs and the claustrophobic rage that she could not explain to anyone.” Who is Molly? LLJ: Molly is a very idealistic, sheltered, twenty-three-year-old, brand new teacher. She’s from Fresno and has recently graduated with her credential. She just wants to get out and escape her life. She goes to Mill Valley, and she is very impressed by it. She thinks she’s going to save these kids with books, which is every English major’s dream. Like maybe I’ll hand a copy of Jane Eyre to the impressionable thirteen-year-old girl, and then she’ll become a confident, successful woman! [Laughs] Which is a fantasy that I’ve had and I think a lot of teachers have had. Molly finds out that teaching is not going to be what she thought it would be. Eventually, she is lured into this world she doesn’t understand, and gets herself into a bit of trouble. (Andrea Arnold [not that one])
Dispatch Argus shares a few 'Tips for newbies diving into classic literature', which, in our opinion, will make said newbies run away from it. And then there's this:
3. It’s OK to quit a book. Sometimes a book on everyone’s list of greats just doesn’t speak to you. Give it a fair investment of your time, remembering that readers of other eras did not demand instant gratification, so older books often build more slowly. But if, after a fair hearing, you just can’t stand it, put it aside and choose again.
After all, there are more books to read than any of us can in one lifetime; you’re not failing if you move on. I personally hate Wuthering Heights and find Heathcliff and Catherine obnoxious bores. (Michelle Ferguson)
Quite à propos, Charleston City Paper interviews Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes.
CP: Downton Abbey became a huge part of a lot of viewers’ lives when it was on (mine included). Do you have a book, story, movie from your youth that defined a part of your life?
JF: I am always flattered when I feel that Downton and the Downton characters played an active role in people's lives. I know they did because I have had many men and women pouring out their feelings about the whole thing to me, which I take as the highest compliment. I certainly understand it. In my own life, various books and films and songs and television shows have sparked feelings in my breast that have in many cases stayed with me. I have magic films in plenty, The Third Man, Breakfast at Tiffany's, LA Confidential, and many more, as well as a long list of magic books. Wuthering Heights was a novel that took me by surprise as a boy, when I thought I was ploughing into a dusty old Victorian tome and discovered a tale of white hot passion that enthralled me. I loved Jane Eyre and Bleak House and Dombey and Son, at the same time, and all for much the same reason. (Connelly Hardaway)
Here's how Salon describes Tom Hardy's new role in Taboo:
Hardy previously played the role of Heathcliff in an ITV production of “Wuthering Heights,” and he carries himself with the same sense of danger and vulnerability as Emily Brontë’s hero possesses. He’s all hot glares and gravelly snarls, and that may be enough to mesmerize viewers for a time. Damn if he doesn’t make aimlessness look handsome. (Melanie McFarland)
According to Derby Telegraph, Haddon Hall is one of '10 of Derbyshire's most romantic places for a wedding proposal'.
If your loved one has a passion for history there are few better places for a romantic proposal than Haddon Hall, near Bakewell. It is probably the finest example of a fortified medieval manor house in existence and dates back to the 12th Century. It too, is constantly in demand as a film and television location. It was the location for the 2011 film version of Jane Eyre, starring Mia Wasikowska and directed by Cary Fukunaga. Franco Zefferelli and the BBC have also filmed versions of Jane Eyre there and it played cameo roles in Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley, (jilldcfc)
The Huffington Post shares 'Ten Confessions Of An Angsty 22-Year-Old':
My fifth confession is that I’ve never actually liked Kate Bush’s music and this was made so much easier to deal with after she praised Theresa May. Really, Kate? In this climate? Come off it. Wuthering Heights is a great tune though, even if I don’t actually know what she’s singing. (Wemmy Ogunyankin)
Deutschlandradio Kultur (Germany) reports that Jane Eyre will be used as a part of a literacy programme. Better View of the Moon posts about The Jane and Bertha in Me by Rita Maria Martinez, including an interview with the poet. Librópatas (Spain) features Samantha Ellis's new biography of Anne Brontë.

The Brontë Parsonage Facebook page alerts to the following:
Unfortunately our event with Samantha Ellis this weekend is no longer going ahead. But we still have a handful of tickets for our Branwell Storytelling Walks on Saturday 28 January. Grab them while you still can!
And don't forget to check their #BehindThe Scenes on Twitter: here are days 5 and 6.

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