Saturday, March 17, 2018

First of all, today is Saint Patrick's Day, which means that Patrick Brontë (or rather one Patrick Brunty or Prunty), father of the Brontës, was born in a small cottage in Ireland 241 years ago. On Twitter, Hilary Robinson refers to him as being her 'favourite Patrick'.

Yorkshire Post features author Michael Stewart, who will be in Haworth later today.
So, what exactly did Heathcliff get up to during that three-year absence? It is a question that Bradford-based author Michael Stewart has been pondering for some time and he provides a beautifully written, thrilling answer in his new novel Ill Will, published later this month. Publication was timed to coincide with the bicentenary this year of Emily Brontë’s birth, but it is a measure of the interest in Heathcliff’s story that the film rights have already been snapped up by Kudos, the production company behind a number of top-quality television dramas including Broadchurch, Gunpowder and Apple Tree Yard. Stewart’s own fascination with Wuthering Heights goes back a long way. It began as a child when he first heard Kate Bush’s hit song which was at the top of the UK charts for several weeks in 1978. Stewart, who was just seven years old at the time, was captivated. “There was something about the lyrics, I had no idea it was based on a book, and I became obsessed by it,” he says. “I taped it from the radio on my little cassette recorder and just listened to it over and over.” His mother, who by coincidence was studying Wuthering Heights as part of a course at night school at the time, explained the story to him but told him to wait a while to read it because he was still too young. He eventually read it for himself and loved it. Then much later, in 1995, he came across an essay by the academic and author John Sutherland entitled ‘Is Heathcliff a Murderer?’ which speculates on that intriguing period of exile. “In the opening lines he writes ‘when Heathcliff returns to Wuthering Heights… he has become someone very cruel. He left an uncouth but essentially humane stable-lad. He returns a gentleman psychopath,’” says Stewart. “That phrase ‘gentleman psychopath’ just lodged in my brain. I kept thinking about Heathcliff and who he was – there have been various theories about his ethnicity and origins.” [...]
“I wondered why Mr Earnshaw had gone to Liverpool,” he says. “Why would he, a farmer, go to a place where there was no farmers’ market? And why would he go in the summer which is the busiest time of year for a farmer? And why on foot? There was a carriage from Keighley to Liverpool and he himself had at least two horses. Was he going there incognito? I also thought about the fact that Liverpool at that point in history was the biggest slave port in Europe, so maybe he was going there to find a slave? And if he was: why? Did he need someone to help work on the farm? Then there is the fact that Mrs Earnshaw is very hostile towards Heathcliff and that fits in with the back story I have for him.” Without giving too much away, Stewart’s novel brilliantly incorporates ‘the facts’ of Brontë’s original, expertly filling in the gaps in a way which makes perfect sense. Stewart also forcefully foreshadows the unremitting brutality that we see from Heathcliff when he returns. “When he comes back he has a very routine attitude towards violence – he rapes Isabella, I think he probably killed Hindley, he hangs Isabella’s pet dog and he does all that without any regret or remorse. How has he got to that level of psychopathy?” When Wuthering Heights first appeared it, people were shocked by it. It was reviled by many reviewers at the time who talked about its savagery and violence. One memorably described it as ‘a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors’. “I wanted to restore the coarseness of the original book,” says Stewart. “What shocked the Victorian reader wouldn’t necessarily shock the contemporary reader, so it was about finding the equivalent for the modern reader.” [...]
“My book is about answering the questions that surround Heathcliff – you get an explanation. He is no longer a mystery character, he is a character with psychology,” says Stewart. “So, I suppose I feel differently about him now in that I feel like I know what makes him tick, but my feelings about Wuthering Heights remain the same – it has always been one of my favourite novels of all time and it will continue to be. I get something out of it every time I read it.” (Yvette Huddleston)
The Yorkshire Post also mentions HRH The Duchess of Cornwall's enthusiasm for the Brontës, particularly after her recent visit to Haworth.
She is a self-proclaimed Brontë addict, an avid reader and patron of several literary charities.
Artist Celia Paul writes about her work for Financial Times and brings to our attention a lovely painting.
Another painting, “The Brontë Parsonage (with Charlotte’s Pine and Emily’s Path to the Moors)”, relates back to the time before my father died, when he was Bishop of Bradford. The bishop’s house looked towards Bradford from one side and the other faced towards the Yorkshire Moors and Haworth where the Brontës lived. My father used to drive my mother, Kate and me out to Haworth on a Sunday afternoon and we would walk to Top Withens (the abandoned farmhouse that is said to have inspired Wuthering Heights).
I went back to the parsonage in February last year to make studies for a painting. I’ve always felt a special bond with the Brontës (as all my sisters do) because of belonging to a family of creative sisters, daughters of a clergyman also. When I visited it, the boughs of the great trees in the garden were leafless and echoing with the cawing of rooks. It was very silent and felt haunted. It was easy to imagine Charlotte looking out of her window towards the gravestones in the churchyard and the clock on the church tower: constant reminders of the brevity of life and the immortality of the soul. I sensed her longing and the huge pine trees in the churchyard seemed connected to her “pining”. Behind the parsonage is a glistening pathway to the moors: this was Emily’s escape route towards inspiration, “a chainless soul”.
The Irish Times has published an obituary for author Val Mulkerns.
She had a much happier experience in the lavender-waxed halls of the Dominican College on Eccles Street. She fostered her love of reading in its junior library, encountering books such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights for the first time.
The Chatanoogan tells a funny anecdote about writer Madeleine L'Engle.
At the time, she was working on her 18th book, “A Wind in the Door,” which was evidently inspired by the growing dependence of man on computers. She apparently did not like how at places like banks, names were being replaced with numbers.
So, as a protest, she said that she had been signing checks with such famous literary names as “Emily Bronte” and “Jane Austen” and found they were still clearing the bank. (John Shearer)
Bustle recommends Jane Eyre as one of '21 Classic Books That You Can Read For Free Online'.
Jane Eyre is a great book to read if you're considering getting married to your boss, but you haven't yet checked his attic for any lurking ex-wives. It's a classic coming of age tale, a Gothic romance, and a surprisingly modern take on being a young, independent woman. (Charlotte Ahlin)
And now for some music: The Belfast Telegraph features Kate Bush and of course her Wuthering Heights is an unavoidable mention. The Irish Times has an article on the duo Ships:
When I listen to Ships, my imagination takes me to misty moors, with songs like None of It Real and All Will Be encouraging me to find my way to my metaphorical Heathcliff. In this case, the metaphorical Heathcliff is the darkened dance floor. (Louise Bruton)
Le Devoir (France) mentions that writer Sarah Perry is a Brontëite. The Pine-Scented Chronicles posts about Wuthering Heights.


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