Saturday, October 10, 2020

Saturday, October 10, 2020 12:55 am by Cristina in , , ,    No comments
Thanks to Juvenilia Press for providing us with a copy of this book.
Edited by Christine Alexander, with Mandy Swann
Juvenilia Press
ISBN: 978-0-7334-3715-1
Let us tell you something about how we came to find this just-published book. A few months ago, it dawned on us that we had never seen a picture of Anne Brontë's last Diary Paper, written on July 31st, 1845. We asked about it to several people with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Brontës and one of them pointed us in the direction of Christine Alexander and her latest Juvenilia Press book: The Diary Papers of Emily and Anne Brontë.

Both Christine Alexander and this book confirm what we had been told: Anne's manuscript is in private hands and, unlike other Diary Papers also in private hands, no facsimile or photograph of it is known to exist. This is supposedly done in order to increase its monetary value (while toying with its unique literary value). What's more, it's not even the only Diary Paper never seen by the public at large. Anne's Diary Paper for July 30th, 1841 is in private hands, though scholars such as Christine Alexander have been allowed to see it in order to transcribe it, though no facsimile or photograph has ever been published. Even worse, as Christine Alexander writes,
No complete manuscript or copy of a manuscript is available to scholars for the final two Diary Papers of 1845, both of wich are in the private colletion of William Self.1
However, Emily's diary paper was published as a facsimile before and Margaret Smith was allowed to transcribe the first page of it after having been allowed access to the collection. Similarly, Juliet Barker transcribed Anne's diary paper in her biography The Brontës after having been allowed access to the collection as well while William Self was still alive.2 

Speculating with such delicate and unique objects of such high literary value is of course up to the owners, but in our opinion, it is certainly risky business and not fully right. It is our hope that sometime in the (near?) future we may be at least offered a glimpse of the never-seen-before Diary Papers. The monetary value of these fragile insights into the daily lives of the Brontës will always be sky high regardless of whether they are shown to the public or not. However, were they to be lost somehow the loss would be irreparable anyway but doubly so if there were not any images of them.

Overlooking the money matters concerning the Diary Papers, this carefully edited book by Christine Alexander and Mandy Swann is a real joy. It brings the Diary Papers as close to the originals as possible. The Diary Papers in the collection of the Brontë Parsonage Museum (where all of them should be anyway) have been methodically transcribed again as have those made readily available by its current owners. And for those not available, the utmost care has been taken to transcribe them as closer to the real things as possible with what's available. Pictures of those diary papers that can be shown (ie. again those in the BPM collection and those whose facsimiles were published in previous books) are printed completely (both sides) and in colour. 

All papers are transcribed twice. First of all, there are the Diary Papers as most of them know them and have read them before. But after that comes the 'diplomatic' edition which transcribes them exactly as they are written: misspellings, erratic punctuation, deleted words, etc. If reading the Diary Papers, with their joyful mixture of reality and fantasy, is always a delight, reading them just as they were written is amazing.

Extra material in the book includes an introduction with emphasis on the importance of the Diary Papers as witnesses to the Brontës' daily lives; the poem Alexander and Zenobia by Anne Brontë, which she refers to in the 1837 Diary Paper; Anne Brontë's Gondal notes, including the full list Gondal place names added to the Brontë household's copy of A Grammar of General Geography as well as lists of names and characters' descriptions; a selection of letters by Emily and Anne concurrent with the Diary Papers, intended as a tribute to Margaret Smith, to whom we all owe so much; and fragments from Ellen Nussey's Reminiscences.

It's a small book in appearance, but a great book in terms of Brontëana. Highly recommended.

(1) William Edwin Self (1921-2010) was a notable television and film producer. Among his numerous credits, we can mention the pilot episode of The Twilight Zone or the TV series Peyton Place, Batman and M*A*S*H.
(2) As far as we know the diary papers are in the possession of his children.


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