Sunday, April 17, 2016

As we posted yesterday, Judi Dench is the new honorary president of the Brontë Society. The Daily Express talks about it:
James Bond’s former boss Dame Judi Dench has been called in to restore order to the warring Brontë Society. (...)
As well as marking Charlotte this month, next year will celebrate 200 years of her brother Branwell, 2018 Wuthering Heights author Emily Brontë and 2020 Anne Brontë.
The society said that it was well placed to mark the anniversaries.
A spokesman said: “Following a period of vigorous debate, the work of moving on positively together is already well under way.” (Mark Branagan)
Claire Harman explains to the Yorkshire Evening Post how she wrote her Charlotte Brontë biography following Charlotte's letters:
Harman was particularly interested in Charlotte’s letters which had been documented by Margaret Smith in a comprehensive three-volume edition and which she says “threw up various questions, mostly to do with Charlotte’s motivations. When she was writing to her friend Ellen Nussey what was it that she really trying to say? There is always some extra angle. I was looking at the letters like a detective looking for clues.” (...)
Harman is putting together a proposal for a biography of another 19th century subject but admits it is difficult to get Charlotte out of her head.
“Part of the fascination of the Brontë story is that they were such an odd group of people who were not easy in society and yet were able to write books that appealed to millions of people,” she says. “The dining room in the parsonage was the place where three classic novels were written in one year. I find that hidden talent – and the fact that the Brontës very nearly didn’t come to public attention at all – completely fascinating. I do think it was Charlotte’s drive and inner self-belief, and her belief in them as a group, that made that happen.” (Yvette Huddleston)
The Yorkshire Post has an excellent behind-the-scenes article on the new Northern Ballet production inspired by Jane Eyre (opening in May):
When Cathy Marston was asked to choreograph a new dance adaptation of Jane Eyre for Leeds-based Northern Ballet the cast list was obvious. Aside from Charlotte Brontë’s tortured titular heroine, Marston knew that she would need a whole company of female dancers to bring to life the likes of Grace Poole, Bertha Mason, Blanche Ingram and Helen Burns. Add in a couple of male leads to play Rochester and Mr Brocklehurst and it was just about job done. (...)
“Charlotte’s story has women at its heart, but David was quite right, we couldn’t have half the company twiddling their thumbs. I picked up the novel again and there was a solution staring me in the face. Jane is a solitary figure, but in fact she is never really alone. Wherever she happens to be in life, she is haunted by the men in her past whether it’s her father who died or Rochester who abandons her. Once I realised that, everything fell into place.” (Read more) (Sarah Freeman)
More Yorkshire Post. Ian McMillan on why he is more seduced by the Brontë legend than by the books themselves:
Well, for me, once I’d thoroughly ingested the legend, I turned to the books, and to Wuthering Heights in particular. In that book I found a universal story, of lost love and missed opportunity, of hopes and dreams and towering emotions set against a landscape that felt oppressively real and mythical at the same time.
And then, in my dream stroll around the parsonage, I encounter Branwell, the sibling who never wrote a book that we can all remember, and so I decide to let him into literary history. Here’s a Brontë fact: Branwell Brontë wrote the greatest Yorkshire work of them all. Yes, that’s right, Ilkley Moor Baht ’at is all his own work. I mean, Wuthering Heights is a masterpiece but Ilkley Moor Baht ’at? Well, I rest my case. Here, on the desk where Branwell wrote his greatest work, just by the hatstand. But where’s the hat?
The Herald on Sunday reviews Reader, I Married Him, edited by Tracy Chevalier:
Like many short story collections, this is a curate’s egg, with good, bad and indifferent contributions. Some authors have stretched the brief to breaking point, but those who have stayed close to the source of inspiration have produced interesting stories.
Chief among these is Salley Vickers’s Reader, She Married Me, a radical re-imagining of Bronte’s story from the dying Edward Rochester’s point of view. In this tale, the much-loved Bertha Mason’s mental illness is an acute case of postnatal depression, reactivated when her baby daughter dies. Rochester tries to care for his wife while dealing with his own grief. He finds comfort in the calm presence of Jane Eyre, his foster child’s new governess, but realises too late that the quiet strength that he had come to rely on masked an arch, passive-aggressive manipulator. There is a sharp barb in the story’s title, which echoes the most famous line from the novel.
Likewise, Helen Dunmore’s, Grace Poole, Her Testimony, leaves a strong impression. (...)
Kirsty Gunn, Elizabeth McCracken, Susan Hill and Francine Prose deserve honourable mentions for their contributions but the collection seems awkward with not all the stories comfortably fitting the brief. For instance, it is hard to detect the echoes of Jane Eyre in Linda Grant and Lionel Shriver’s tales, although they are otherwise perfectly sound short stories. As a commemoration of the birth of Charlotte Brontë this collection is a qualified success. It is worth reading to enjoy the stand-out stories, and perhaps to puzzle over the connections between Jane Eyre and some of the more ambiguous stories. (Shirley Whiteside)
Also in the Yorkshire Evening Post an article about the Brontë Bus:
 Moments before the Brontë Bus pulls out of Haworth, an elderly man gets on and recognises a friend sitting near the back. “Nar then,” he says, and sits down next to him. “All reight?” The friend nods. “All reight,” he says, gravely. “You all reight?” The man nods. “All reight,” he says, also gravely. The conversation lapses.
It’s not quite Jane Eyre, but we’ll work on it.
The Brontë Bus, since you ask, is a regular daily service between Keighley and Hebden Bridge via Haworth, the capital of the semi-mythical kingdom of Brontetania. Launched last year by Transdev in Keighley, Service No 500, as it’s officially called, is one of the highest bus routes in the Pennines. (...)
For the sake of completeness, I carry on to Keighley, then get the next bus back to Haworth. MJB Baddeley, BA, had a thing or two to say about the village in 1906. Readers of the Brontë novels and Mrs Gaskell’s biography of Charlotte, he suggested, might be surprised: “It is not specially gloomy, and the buildings associated with the sisters’ memory are no longer as they were in their time.”
The church exterior was “singularly ugly” and the parsonage was “open to all introduced visitors, the thousands of others being necessarily excluded”. These days, of course, the thousands of others are welcomed with open arms and open shop doors. I doubt Mr Baddeley would be too impressed by the steep main street today. With every passing year, it gets ever more bijou: a fiesta of chintzy chic, vintage, retro and Brontë bric-a-brac-ery (though there are a couple of excellent second-hand bookshops flying the flag for literature).
The best time to go is in winter, staying overnight. The village can feel deserted and a moorland path beckons you to Top Withens, the possible inspiration for the Earnshaw home in Wuthering Heights. In the evenings the street lights gleam on the cobbles up to the parsonage. It becomes what visitors hope it will be: “atmospheric”. (Stephen McClarence)
The Yorkshire Post interviews the new collections assistant at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, Amy Rowbottom:
What is your first Yorkshire memory?
Oddly enough – and this does sound so contrived, but it happens to be true – it is of coming to Haworth as a little girl, and of visiting the Brontë Parsonage. I was born in Norfolk, and we were up for a family holiday. I must have enjoyed the experience, because, whenever we came back up here, I pleaded to come again – and again. (...)
Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub? We are surrounded by several in Haworth, and to name just one wouldn’t be fair. A lot of them are associated in some way or another with the Brontës and some don’t seemed to have changed very much at all. I’m thinking, in particular, of the Black Bull, which was one of Branwell’s favourite drinking haunts, and where he went for more than a few glasses of his favourite tipple only three days before he died. (...)
Who is your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer? The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the book, Anne’s masterpiece. And I love music by Arctic Monkeys and Pulp.
Keighley News reports that Jackie Kay has become the National Poet of Scotland and reminds us of the fact that she once was writer-in-residence at the Brontë Parsonage Museum:
Ms Kay was the Haworth museum’s writer-in-residence in 2013 and 2014, with a brief to engage with visitors and students.
She wrote new pieces exploring the lives and works of the Brontë sisters, and her writing was showcased at public events, including poetry workshops, readings and the museum’s annual Brontë Festival of Women’s Writing.
At the time of her appointment, she said she had grown up with the Brontës, through Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Villette and Emily’s poetry, and had returned to them again and again all her reading life. (David Knights)
BBC News announces the re-opening of Gawthorpe Hall after an extensive renovation:
The Grade I listed Gawthorpe Hall in Padiham has undergone a £500,000 renovation to the external stonework and windows.
Other internal and external remedial work to return the building to its original condition have also been completed.
The Jacobean hall, built between 1600 and 1605, will reopen on 20 April. (...)
Author Charlotte Brontë stayed at the Hall twice at the invitation of the family in 1850 and 1855
Deccan Chronicle interviews the writer Shuchi Singh Kalra:
 Q Your favourite literary character.I have been in an imaginary romantic relationship with Heathcliff (from Wuthering Heights) for the longest time.
The story of the Sills and the Suttons as a possible Wuthering Heights inspiration (check Yorkshire Slavery in Wuthering Heights, Christopher Heywood, The Review of English Studies, Vol. 38, No. 150 (May, 1987), pp. 184-198) is mentioned in the Jamaica Gleaner:
The Sill family and Dentdale played a curious role in British literary history thanks to the similarities found in Emily Brontë's acclaimed novel Wuthering Heights. In her will, Ann Sill granted a substantial sum and a family house to Richard Sutton. Sutton was an orphan adopted by Edmund Sill and eventually rose to become the Sill estate manager. Many of the details of the landscape, names, relationships and everyday life in Dentdale and environs were used by Miss Brontë. Richard Sutton, who could have quite possibly appeared as Heathcliff since Ann was particularly fond of Sutton, but as events turned out, she died a spinster.
However, Emily Brontë may have also known of local scandal in which Ann Sill took a leading role. She was said to have fallen in love with a black coachman. When her brothers objected to their liaison, the coachman disappeared without a trace. (Anthony Gambrill)
Kirkus Reviews does not forget Charlotte Brontë's anniversary:
We’re fast upon Charlotte’s 200th birthday, which falls on April 21. That event touches off a five-year celebration on the part of the Brontë Parsonage, the museum devoted to Charlotte and her younger siblings, notably Emily (Wuthering Heights) and Anne (Agnes Grey). At the least, it makes a good excuse to read or reread of the tribulations of our young and much put upon governess. Oh, Rochester… (Gregory MacNamee)
The Daily Beast talks about some new editions of Austen sequels:
When Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy do marry, it is not only a rebuke to Mrs. Bennet; it is a validation of Elizabeth’s refusal to compromise her ideals. Small wonder that such later 19th-century novelists as Charlotte Brontë in Jane Eyre, George Eliot in Middlemarch, and Henry James in The Portrait of a Lady made a point of putting their own stamp on the marriage plot Austen had developed so richly. (Nicolaus Mills)
The Eagle recommends some films on US TV:
Independent Film Channel, 2:45 p.m. Monday
I Walked With a Zombie (1943): When it comes to zombies, I always think about Charlotte Brontë, don't you? Believe it or not, this creepy film is based on the novel Jane Eyre. No, that's not a typo. The master of the poetic horror film, Jacques Tourneur, tells the creepy story of a young nurse (Frances Dee) who is sent to the West Indies to care for a planter's wife (Christine Gordon). The wife is just a tad on the catatonic side, and plucky Frances is determined to get to the bottom of the mysterious malady...even if it takes delving into the local voodoo culture. So watch this movie with your kids -- just tell them about the zombies. They don't have to know it's based on great literature. (Ray Ivey)
An alert for today, April 17 on the Ö1 Radio (Germany), Jolien Janzing presents her book Charlotte Brontë's Secret Love in German:
Ex libris
Sunday 17. April 2016, 16:00
Jolien Janzing: "Die geheime Liebe der Charlotte Brontë", Roman, Langen Müller Verlag (Übersetzung: Wibke Kuhn)
The Daily Examiner titles an article about morning sickness in pregnancy: 'This pregnancy blight killed Charlotte Brontë'. Several Italian websites highlight the performance of the young singer Chiara Grispo at the piano of Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights in the Italian talent show Amici 15. Angelica Mocco (also in Italian) vlogs about Emily Brontë's novel and Przewodnik Czytelniczy (in Polish) also talks about it. Jo Writes Stuff posts about Catherine Earnshaw s a strong female character. Necks and Necklaces in Jane Eyre on Rereading Jane Eyre. Book Dilettante reviews The Jane and Bertha in Me by Rita Maria Martinez. Portable Voltaire has finished Jane Eyre. The Riverside Way posts about The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.


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