Monday, December 31, 2018

Monday, December 31, 2018 6:10 pm by M. in    No comments
It is with great sorrow that we report the death of Sarah Fermi (1935-2018) a few days ago, on Christmas day.

Sarah Fermi was a life member of the Brontë Society, member of the Council as Publications Officer from 2008 to 2015 and frequent contributor to Brontë Studies, where she published pieces based on her original research into puzzles connected with Brontë biography.

Her interest in the Brontës was long and fruitful, maybe motivated by being one of three sisters herself. It was her reading of Edward Chitham's biography of Emily Brontë (and its many unanswered questions about Emily's life) that prompted her to more serious research.

Probably, her most famous and controversial theory was her suggestion that Emily Brontë had a relationship with a local boy named Robert Clayton, who in a certain way inspired much of Emily's poetry and even parts of Wuthering Heights. This theory was taken up by BBC Radio 4, and the play 'Cold in the Earth, and Fifteen Wild Decembers' by Sally Wainwright (who, ten years later, was to write and direct To Walk Invisible) was broadcast in 2006. Nevertheless, Sarah Fermi felt the need to explore her theory outside the boundaries of a radio play and she published a fictionalised account in the form of a diary: Emily's Journal was published a few months later.

Controversial it could be but not entirely crazy and thoroughly researched. It is worthwhile quoting from the Preface of the book in which Dr Patsy Stoneman writes:
Sarah's methods are those of the traditional historian: the patient and meticulous sifting of church records, land registers, wills and testaments, and, where they exist, letters and memoirs. By these means she has been able to solve problems which have lain uninvestigated since Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Brontë.
Bibliography:
Emily Brontë’s Second Novel, Brontë Studies, Volume 42, 2017 - Issue 4
A Question of Colour, Brontë Studies, Volume 40, 2015 - Issue 4
'The Pillar Portrait' Reconsidered, Brontë Studies, Volume 35, 2010 - Issue 3
A Trip to Yorkshire — 1842, Brontë Studies, Volume 33, 2008 - Issue 3
The Young Brontës, Lord Wilton, and the Manor of Oxenhope, Brontë Studies, Volume 30, 2005 - Issue 1
Emily Brontë: a Theory, Brontë Studies, Volume 30, 2005 - Issue 1
Mellaney Hayne: Charlotte Brontë's School Friend, Brontë Studies, Volume 27, 2002 - Issue 3
The Real Miss Andrews: Teacher, Mother, Abolitionist, Sarah Fermi & Judith Smith, Brontë Society Transactions, Volume 25, 2000 - Issue 2
Jane Eyre and the Greenwood Family, Sarah Fermi & Robin Greenwood, Brontë Society Transactions, Volume 22, 1997 - Issue 1
The Brontës at the Clergy Daughters' School: When Did They Leave?, Brontë Society Transactions, Volume 21, 1996 - Issue 6
The Brontës and the Case of the Beaver Forgery, Sarah Fermi & Dorinda Kinghorn, Brontë Society Transactions, Volume 21, 1993 - Issue 1-2
A “Religious” Family Disgraced: New Information on a Passage Deleted from Mrs Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Brontë, Brontë Society Transactions, Volume 20, 1992 - Issue 5
She was also behind the Brontë Society Literary Competitions several times and in 2011 she edited Cats "Truelove" a Bracelet... with the winning entries of that year's competition.

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