Wednesday, 14 February 2007

A memento for Charles Lemon

A number of tributes to the late Charles Lemon MBE (see blog archive for January) have been made by those who knew him. A display which includes some of them, together with selected photographs, will be put up for Brontë Society members who attend the annual June Weekend in Haworth which begins on Friday 1 June. This one was sent by Maddalena de Leo in Italy:
Charles Lemon – a personal memento

I’ve just heard of Mr Charles Lemon’s death and although I never knew him in person, I would like to bear a personal witness of this wise man whose kindness and culture were evident even through paper.

In Autumn 1980 as a young student at university, my greatest dream was to have an article of mine published in Brontë Society Transactions, as the current Brontë Studies journal was then called. I had been a BS member since 1975 but nobody at Haworth knew me besides Mr Norman Raistrick, the Parsonage custodian, to whom every year I sent money by letter to renew my subscription. Being already interested in Charlotte’s Juvenilia and having read by chance the short tale Albion and Marina – at that time there was no popular edition of her early writings, let alone in Italy – I enthusiastically wrote a short article in English on the topic with my impressions and promptly sent it by mail to the editor, Mr Charles Lemon.

From that day, even if I was an unknown young student, I eagerly waited for an answer from him and surprisingly, after some time it came. In the letter Mr Lemon, who then lived in Bognor Regis, told me he needed to ‘refresh’ his ideas on Albion and Marina to be able to judge my writing so he kindly asked me to wait for a few weeks.

Meanwhile, the southern area of Italy where I then lived was hit by a terrible earthquake on 23 November and all changed around me - what a sad period! Also, John Lennon was shot in New York some twenty days later ….

Mr Lemon’s opinion came, as promised, with his moving concern on that Italian earthquake and I still keep his letter among my most treasured papers, hand-revised by him in many parts and with his own signature at the end. It contained a veiled refusal for the publication of my article but, I dare say, with a so kind and articulated discussion on Albion and Marina that it seemed to me better than an appreciation!

Maddalena De Leo
11th January 2007

Here’s the complete text of Mr Charles Lemon’s letter:

24 Burnham Avenue
Bognor Regis, West Sussex

19 December 1980

Dear Maddalena De Leo,

Since writing to you on 20th November I have been able to obtain a copy of ‘Albion and Marina’, but before writing on that subject I must express the hope that you have come safely through the dreadful earthquake which recently afflicted your part of Italy.

Having re-read ‘Albion and Marina’ I have been able to appreciate your comments which are both observant and well expressed. It is remarkable what a wealth of knowledge the young Brontës amassed through the teaching received at home (before they went out to school) and through the access they were permitted to the periodicals and newspapers at the Parsonage.

You have drawn attention to the way in which Charlotte in this little piece foreshadows some of the events in her novels – in particular the remarkable message from Rochester to Jane Eyre which travelled simultaneously across so many miles. Some Brontë scholars as you probably know argue that all the materials used in the Brontë novels are to be found in the Juvenilia.

The present story is, as you say, a fragment of Angria, an episode of relative tranquillity – abounding in human tension but at the same time without extremes of violence. This is an interesting point because you will see in this year’s Transactions a poem by Charlotte, hitherto unpublished, written on the back of a letter from Roe Head. The letter was written in 1832 but the poem was probably written when Charlotte was engaged on that part of the story when Zamorna was conquering the country.

The Byronic influence is clear but ‘Albion and Marina’ has other points of interest which would not be apparent to those unfamiliar to England. In particular attention can be drawn to Charlotte’s remarkable achievement, at the age of 14, in describing the country in the south of England, when she had scarcely ever left the limits of her remote village in Yorkshire. The result may not be entirely accurate but it reads very well! One is also entertained by the rapid transformation of the Duke of Strathelleraye’s residence from a ‘magnificent villa’ to a palace and then to a castle, all within the space of a few pages.

The difference of rank between the Duke and Sir Alured Angus is probably exaggerated by Charlotte. Both are gentlemen of title and the physician to a Duke is clearly someone highly placed in his profession who would have a number of equally important patients. His daughter therefore would have some claim to a place in society and her outstanding beauty would support such a claim.

I hope you will enjoy reading Transactions. With best wishes for the New Year,

Yours sincerely,

Charles Lemon

1 comment:

Peter said...

I believe it’s the very best, splendid homage due to the memory of such active BBS member, lovingly operating fruitfully for so long time. Hearty, sincere thankings to our fellow-coutrywoman Prof. Maddalena de Leo for her friendly testimony. Much gratefully. Thanks, Peter.-