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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Anne Brontë started writing her first novel some time between 1840 and 1845 while she was working as a governess for the Robinson family, at Thorp Green near York. I imagine she must have made her excuses in the evenings, and escaped the drawing room, where she had to do the boring bits of her pupils’ sewing, and often felt awkward and humiliated – excluded from the conversation because she was not considered a lady, yet not allowed to sit with the servants either, because governesses had to be something of a lady, or how could they teach their pupils to be ladies?The book is reviewed in The Times:
Anne must have stolen away to her room and pulled out her small, portable writing desk. Leaning on the desk’s writing slope (which was decadently lined in pink velvet), Anne could go on with her novel. She had to write in secret because she was skewering her haughty employers and her peremptory pupils on the page. Although her job was difficult and thankless, she had realised that it was providing her with excellent material, that she was telling a story no one else was telling. As she laboured away in her neat, elegant handwriting, Anne must have felt that she was writing a novel that would go off like a bomb.
Agnes Grey sticks close to the facts of Anne’s life. The eponymous heroine is a clergyman’s daughter, just as Anne’s father, Patrick Brontë, was the perpetual curate of Haworth in Yorkshire. Anne doesn’t specify where Agnes grows up, but she does say she was “born and nurtured among ... rugged hills”, so when I read the novel, I imagine the Yorkshire moors. Both Anne and Agnes were originally one of six children. Anne lost her two eldest sisters when she was five. Agnes has lost even more siblings; she and her older sister Mary are the only two who have “survived the perils of infancy”. Both Agnes and Anne are the youngest. When Agnes says she is frustrated because she is “always regarded as the child, and the pet of the family”, considered “too helpless and dependent – too unfit for buffeting with the cares and turmoils of life”, it feels like Anne talking. She always chafed at being patronised. (Read more)
Wisely, Ellis has not written a conventional biography of her new heroine. There simply isn’t enough material to justify another addition to the endless stream of Brontë babble. Only five of her letters survive, as opposed to the 950 left by Charlotte. The same is true of Emily, of course. However, the few things we know about Emily — the striding across the moors, biting her dog, Keeper, and her reclusiveness — only make her seem more compellingly strange. What we know of Anne — that unlike her sisters, she successfully held down a job as a governess — has allowed her to be written off as a Victorian stereotype, the oppressed governess who comes home only to die. (...)The Halifax Courier has an article on Luddenden:
This book is a great pleasure to read and a more fitting tribute to Anne than her gravestone in Scarborough, where her age is given as 28, when she was 29. Even in death she was shortchanged. (Daisy Goodwin)
Luddenden lies quietly isolated at the bottom of a steep valley and is seemingly many more than five miles from the bustle of Halifax. It remains a charming and atmospheric village, with an old pub in which Branwell Brontë is reputed to have set up the first ever lending library.The Darlington and Stockton Times publishes a list with novels set in the countryside:
Wuthering Heights by Emily BrontëLiterary Hub lists classics of the 'new' gothic canon:
No list of books about country life would be complete without including this classic. The brutality of the Yorkshire Moors is the backdrop for the doomed love affair between our heroine Cathy and her volatile and violent cousin Heathcliff. Taking inspiration from her own surroundings, Emily weaves the wild landscape of the moors into the story – almost like a character in its own right. The savagery of the windswept and rugged terrain reflects the stormy relationship between Cathy and Heathcliffe (sic) as they inevitably fall in love with tragic consequences.
For me, Jane Eyre will always be the quintessential Gothic novel. We follow plain, poor, orphaned Jane to her scut job as a governess in a big English house—the kind of rambling place that keeps its secrets imprisoned, quite literally, within its attic walls. What feels so fresh and contemporary about the book is the tenderly flirtatious rapport established between Jane and her employer, Rochester, and in particular the sparkling ferocity that Jane maintains in the face of Rochester’s heated appeals. Virginia Woolf famously slammed Charlotte Brontë for wearing her heart too much on her sleeve in Jane Eyre, but to me it is precisely the unabashed politics of yearning in this book that makes it so propulsive even now. (Emily Fridlund)Vox discusses the TV series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and talks about the end of the marriage plot:
It is impossible, the theory goes, for a marriage plot to have real stakes in this era of no-fault divorces and women’s economic liberation. The marriage plot is effectively dead.The Wall Street Journal reviews Enigma Variations by André Aciman:
In the 21st century, Mr. Rochester isn’t going to lock his mad wife in the attic; he’s going to send her to an institution and quietly get a divorce, and there goes the plot of Jane Eyre. (Constance Grady)
Tristan and Isolde are referenced, and there is also something of Heathcliff and Cathy in “Wuthering Heights” when Chloe vows, “We’ll stay in love until everything about us rots, down to our teeth.” What ultimately seems to thwart these two is the impossibility of love matching expectation—a romanticism that could have seemed trite in lesser hands. The coda tale features an older Paul back in the hunt when he encounters a beautiful younger woman. (Toby Lichtig)Schools Week defends Mills & Boon novels:
I travelled the world with Mills & Boon; the characters and storylines exposed me to exotic places that I had never visited and did not ever dream that I would. From then on my relationship with reading was changed and I used it as a stepping stone to the worlds of Austen, Brontë and Dickens. I enrolled in night school, studied for a degree and trained as a teacher – all because of a few cheesy romance novels. (Joy Ballard)Princeton Alumni Weekly interviews Jeremy Rosen, author of Minor Characters Have Their Day: Genre and the Contemporary Literary Marketplace
From King Lear came Fool, Christopher Moore’s irreverent take on the Shakespeare play that is told from the point of view of King Lear’s fool; from The Odyssey came The Penelopiad, in which Margaret Atwood tells the story of the Trojan War from the perspective of Odysseus’ wife Penelope; and from Jane Eyre came Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys’ prequel to the Brontë novel that zooms in on the story of Mr. Rochester’s “mad” first wife. (Jennifer Shyue)Fractal Enlightenment has some quotes 'to inspire the journey of action to come':
He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” – Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
Again, what made Wuthering Heights stand out was this doomed fusion of souls; a fate of the outsider and anti-heroes of Victorian society. Heathcliff’s life journey in particular reveals the shaping of an enemy, and how any society creates opposition through our unscrupulous prejudices and projections on to those who we perceive to be different from us. They had been together for centuries, and not even Cathy’s desire to be normal could tear them apart. In fact, it may have been her desire to be normal that cursed them in the first place. For when we go against ourselves, we create a life of suffering. (Lauren)
One of the stories deals with Body Integrity Identity Disorder, the desire of a healthy person to have a limb removed – and also acrotomophilia, the phenomenon of sexual desire for amputees. I considered the fact that two of my fantasy males, Luke Skywalker and Mr. Rochester, have their hands cut off. I also love the Hound, who is horribly scarred, in A Song of Ice and Fire. I don’t think I have acrotomophilia. I do think, however, that women may write about cutting off the limb of a man, as a form of revenge fantasy. Brontë certainly enacted her revenge against males, in her treatment of Rochester. (Rebecca Bratten Weiss)Not so disturbing, though, as a mention of Wuthering Heights on the NRA-ILA website:
But to read of the reactions of some professors to campus carry, you would think America’s college and university campuses are a seething cauldron of anger and resentment poised to explode whenever students differ on their interpretations of Wuthering Heights or grapple with Newton’s Laws of Motion.We still have chills after visiting the website.
Llevaba uno de esos recogidos que le dejan el pelo mate y de no ser por los cristalitos de los bordados podría haber sido una institutriz algo tímida de una novela de Charlotte Brontë. (Carlos García-Calvo) (Translation)Westfälische Nachrichten (Germany) reviews the film The Handmaiden by Park Chan-Wook:
Mit Stars des koreanischen Kinos vor der Kamera (darunter Min-hee Kim aus „Right Now, Wrong Then“ als Hideko) gelingt ihm ein fesselnder erotischer Thriller, der kurioserweise auf einem britischen Krimi basiert: Sarah Waters’ „Solange du lügst“ (2002) wird hier aus dem viktorianischen England nach Asien versetzt, wo in der Atmosphäre von Sex-Klassikern wie „Im Reich der Sinne“ Charles Dickens auf die Brontë-Schwestern trifft. Reizvoll seltsam. Sehenswert. (Gian-Philip Andreas) (Translation)Libération (France) interviews the writer Tanguy Viel:
Ce territoire très romanesque, je l’ai quitté à l’âge de 12 ans, et ce n’était pas un moment très agréable pour moi. Mon enfance, je l’ai laissée là-bas et cette terre revient souvent dans mes rêves de fiction. La lande, le vent, les maisons en pierre, ce côté Hitchcock et Brontë réunis. A aucun moment, je ne me suis posé la question de mettre mon histoire ailleurs. (David Carzon) (Translation)The Blue Blog discusses Wuthering Heights.