Friday, 7 September 2007

The Letters to Brussels

Deep in the heart of the British Library are four letters written by Charlotte Brontë to her Belgian teacher Constantin Heger. It is nothing short of a miracle that the letters have survived at all. They were torn into small pieces, repaired with needle and thread and then left forgotten in a drawer until 1913.

The importance of these letters can hardly be underestimated. They are essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the true nature of Charlotte Brontë’s feelings for Monsieur Heger when she wrote to him from Haworth:

I would rather suffer the greatest physical agony than always have my heart lacerated by painful regrets. If my master withdraws his friendship from me entirely I shall be altogether without hope; if he gives me a little – just a little – I shall be satisfied – happy; I shall have a reason for living; for working.

It takes a certain dogged persistence to gain access to the letters, but Derek Blyth of the Brussels Brontë Group recently saw them for himself. With the letters on the table in front of him, he was able to obtain a better insight into Charlotte’s mind when she sat down to write to Heger. Study of the originals also helps to pinpoint the moment they were torn up, and to identify the person who saved these outstanding literary documents for posterity. Derek Blyth, a Brussels-based writer who has written guide books on Belgium, will be talking about the letters at the Cercle des Voyageurs Café in Brussels on Thursday 18 October.

More information on the talk at:

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Brussels tourist information:

The Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent is currently organising a major exhibition titled British Vision that highlights some 200 years of British painting. The earliest works date from the Victorian period when Charlotte Brontë and her sisters were writing their novels and so provides some interesting insights into the artistic mind of the time. Held in Ghent’s recently restored neoclassical museum, this is a unique opportunity to discover the British imagination in all its richness.

More information on British Visions at

Images below:

Derek Blyth, drawings from Charlotte Brontë's tale High Life in Verdopolis, the story that she presented to Heger and that turned up mysteriously in a Brussels secondhand bookshop in the early 1890s - now in the British Library. "Portrait of a Young Woman" c. and "King of Angria, Duke of Zamorna" c. 1834.

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