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Tuesday, 30 October 2007

People's Poet Laureate in Haworth

An Evening with Wendy Cope

Wendy Cope was Radio 4’s Poetry Please listeners' first choice for Poet Laureate following the death of Ted Hughes in 1998. She is one of the UK’s most popular poets and will be visiting Haworth and reading from, and discussing, a selection of her hilariously wry, ironic poetry for one night only - at 7.30pm on Saturday 10 November at the West Lane Baptist Centre.

"Wendy Cope has achieved both critical and popular acclaim through her poetry and it’s wonderful that she will be performing here in Haworth.

She reads in a wonderful, entertaining way and I’m sure that we’re in for a real treat. Her poetry is very different to that of the Brontës, but this is part of our intention to establish Haworth not just as a heritage centre but as vibrant creative centre too" (Andrew McCarthy, Deputy Director, Brontë Parsonage Museum)

Wendy Cope’s poetry collections include Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis (1986), Serious Concerns (1992) and If I Don't Know (2001), which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Poetry Award. She received a Cholmondeley Award in 1987 and was awarded the Michael Braude Award for Light Verse (American Academy of Arts and Letters) in 1995. She has also edited a number of poetry anthologies including The Orchard Book of Funny Poems (1993), Is that the New Moon? (1989), The Funny Side: 101 Humorous Poems (1998), The Faber Book of Bedtime Stories (1999) and Heaven on Earth: 101 Happy Poems (2001).

Tickets are £7.50/ £5 (under 16s) and should be booked in advance.

For further details and bookings please ring the Brontë Parsonage Museum, 01535 640194 or email

Below, Wendy Cope photographed by Caroline Forbes

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Graphic Jane Eyre

Jo Wheeler from Classical Comics has sent us this page of artwork from Jane Eyre. The artist is John M Burns. For more, go to the Jane Eyre Artwork link on the right hand side.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Brontë Soul Website

Randall Grimsley writes:

Marie Vaughn Manis, US Region 7 member, has recently created the Brontë Soul website. The link for this is here:

It presents the Brontës' prose and poetry in addition to information about their schooling, life in Brussels, artwork, devoirs, links to novels, film adaptations, daily lives and loves, pets, and life in the Parsonage. Brontë bibliography and links to related web sites can also be found there.

Marie continually updates her site. She is currently posting Emily's poems on it, along with several letters written by Charlotte.

Brontë Soul now has a page that offers an update on the Brontë movie due to be released next year.

Brussels “in the grip of Brontë frenzy”

Helen MacEwan reports:

The first talk organised by the Brussels branch, on 18 October, attracted an audience of over 50 people. At present the group members are predominantly expatriate so we were pleased to see Belgians there as well, including a well-known writer and students from a Brussels university.

Derek Blyth, who is a journalist, took a fresh and personal approach to the subject of the Heger letters, sharing with us his fascination in them and musing on some unanswered questions, from the exact nature of Charlotte's feelings to points of practical detail (why the torn-up letters were repaired as they were). He had taken the trip to the British Library to see them for himself, and had heard from Sally Brown, keeper of rare manuscripts at the Library, a Charlotte Brontë ghost story well known in Brontë circles but less familiar to our Brussels audience. Derek confided that when exploring Brussels he is often aware of Charlotte's presence, if not her ghost.

We hope to attract more Belgian members to our group, so were delighted by the amount of media interest in the talk. A national newspaper was interested enough to do an interview. The reporter was fascinated by the whole concept of literary societies, almost unknown here: "People meeting to discuss the works of the Brontë sisters: this is the latest craze blown across the Channel from Britain to Brussels"! A Brussels "What's On" also forecast a Brontë craze and advised bruxellois to be "one step ahead of the pack" by going to the talk: "Close your eyes and let yourself be swept along by this torrent of passion".

A radio station decided to get in on the act by broadcasting an interview with Derek Blyth. The interviewer, albeit good-humouredly, grilled him about Charlotte's comments on Belgians. Derek, while cheerfully admitting that had she been writing today she might possibly have been sued, tried to make amends by dwelling on her affection for Brussels.

Brussels offers unique advantages for organising literary events. It has a huge English-speaking community and most of the multinational staff at the EU and other international organisations speak English, as do many Belgians. There is a plethora of English-speaking events such as theatre and talks. But, until now, no literary societies.

To exploit some of this Brontë enthusiasm, we have started a reading group. Brussels abounds in these, but ours is the only one to specialise in 19th century literature. Eighteen people have already signed up - too many for the room Waterstone's has kindly placed at our disposal. Fifty percent of the members are British, the others are Swedish, Belgian, Finnish, Bulgarian, Slovenian, German and Thai! A multinational group of expats in Brussels, just as Charlotte was, coming together in the city where she spent two homesick but intense and fruitful years.

Below, stitched letter, stitched envelope:

Friday, 19 October 2007

Held in thrall

Amy Corzine writes about her work for Classical Comics:

What was it like writing the comic adaptation for Jane Eyre?

Wonderful. I was paid to wallow in an ocean of romance! The characters, language, plot and descriptive passages held me in thrall so that writing this adaptation was a joy. It was also great fun to suggest imagery, keeping to Charlotte Brontë’s vision while utilising my own imagination, and to plot the story, panel by panel, much as scriptwriters and playwrights plan their scenes.

Writing the graphic adaptation of Jane Eyre for Classical Comics gave me a fantastic excuse and tremendous opportunity to immerse myself in its author’s mind. It quickly became obvious that Brontë was propounding the belief, perhaps gleaned from her Irish forebears, that real spirituality arises from a natural goodness in human beings that is inextricable from Nature.

A potent mixture of Christianity and British folklore established a powerful psychological background for the love affair between Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. Symbolism made the novel sparkle. Jane’s show of strength was linked with the moon rising. Mr. Rochester was described as a bird of prey. He often called Jane a tiny bird of one sort or the other, or a fairy sprite.

Why is it such a great novel? Acute observations of the social and relationship constellations of the people of Bronte's time play a part. But the clever chemistry and verbal dances between the lovers are perhaps what most strike the heart. Often it seemed as if Brontë were simply recounting real conversations – perhaps ones she had really had with a schoolmaster with whom she fell in love while working as a governess in France.

The book was so well-plotted, its language so moving, and its descriptions so colourful, that putting it into visual form was one of the easiest and most enjoyable writing jobs I have ever had. My most difficult task was choosing which passages to leave out.

Its images remain indelibly imprinted upon my psyche. I became the unloved orphan rejected by wealthy relations who read a picture book while hiding on a heavily veiled window seat for solace. I grew indignant with childish rage against Jane’s early tormentors. I shivered with hunger in the cold of Lowood Hall. I fell in love with Mr. Rochester right alongside Jane, felt her fear and desperation upon discovering the mad Mrs. Rochester, and her despair as if it were my own, upon discovering the only man she had ever loved was deceitful and married. I contemplated the star above me as if I were Jane Eyre lying on the moor, penniless and alone.
The passions of another age, another time and place, filled me while I adapted this book. Now I understand the people of Brontë’s time, whom she described so movingly.

Jane Eyre showed me that the repressed Englishman has always been a myth. The emotions of the people on these islands rage as furiously, and deeply, as the seas around them.
I hope the comic book will inspire adults as well as young people to read the original work. The novel will draw them into the England of two centuries ago, and inspire them to contemplate ideas such as the nature of love and religion, and whether our spiritual consciousnesses are inextricable from Nature and each other. Nothing stimulates debate so well as a good story.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Two Hats on tour

Jane Thornton's adaptation of Wuthering Heights has been gathering popularity ever since it was first performed a few years ago by Hull Truck. It was on recently at the Theatre Royal in York, and now the Two Hats Company is touring it. Here is the official press release from Darren Scott:

Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same

A mysterious orphan who sets two families at odds. A conflict passed down across generations. And a love that lasts beyond death. Cathy and Heathcliff grow up on the remote Yorkshire moors, soulmates and fellow victims of Cathy's brother. But when a chance mistake sends Heathcliff away, Cathy marries the wrong man...


Blanche McIntyre directs a cast featuring Two Hats regulars Chris Dobson, Emma Cooper and Nick Marshall and newcomers Matt Dudley and Krisha Harman to present an intimate evening of story-telling suitable for all ages.

Composer Darren Scott provides an evocative original score for this production, with costumes designed by Helen Brady.

Tour information:

Nov 19th & 20th Criterion Theatre, Coventry £8 (£7 members)
Nov 21st & 22nd Waterside Theatre, Stratford upon Avon £10
Nov 23rd & 24th Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham £10 (£9 concessions)
Nov 26th Napton Village Hall Tickets on door £7 (£6 concessions)
Nov 28th The Gap, Warwick £4
Nov 29th Greig Hall, Alcester £7 (£6 concessions)
Nov 30th The Herbert, Coventry £6
Dec 1st Malt House, Alveston Tickets on door £7 (£6 concessions)

About Two Hats Theatre Company

Formed in 1999, and based in Warwickshire, Two Hats is an outward-looking company, connecting the best of the region's professional actors with the wider community.

The Company is distinctive by combining broad audience appeal and accessibility with an uncompromising approach to both 'classics' and newer work. We use modern multimedia technology fused with traditional theatre practice to stage original and exciting productions.

A tightly-knit team, Two Hats is dedicated to the highest standards of preparation and production.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Kring zoekt spoor van Brontë-zussen

It means 'Group searches for traces of the Brontë sisters' and it comes from the Nieuwsblad, one of Belgium's leading Flemish-speaking newspapers. Helen MacEwan tells us that it was published because of a talk to be held by the Brussels group tomorrow, Thursday. She has also sent a translation, and comments that the original article contains "a number of oddities and inaccuracies" (see for yourself if you know Dutch or Flemish at but that it is generally good publicity.

Translation of the article:

Group searches for traces of the Brontë sisters
First Belgian branch of the Brontë Society

BRUSSELS – People who meet to discuss the works of the Brontë sisters: this is the latest craze blown across the Channel from Britain to Brussels. Helen MacEwan is leading the first Belgian branch of the Brontë society.

Brussels is once again displaying her international character with the formation of this branch of the Brontë Society. "In Britain, the fascination for the Brontë sisters is a national sport," says Helen MacEwan. "People are constantly doing research about the tragic lives of the Brontë family. And there is a continuous stream of TV and film adaptations of one or other of the Brontë novels."

MacEwan has founded the first Belgian branch of the Brontë Society in Brussels, where she works as a translator. It is hardly a coincidence that a branch has been set up in Brussels. Charlotte Brontë lived there in 1842 and 1843. She came here to study French and fell in love with her teacher. Her novel Villette tells the story.

During its first event, the Brussels Brontë Group organized a walk visiting several sites which were portrayed in Charlotte’s book, guided by British-born Derek Blyth.

Derek Blyth explains the worldwide fascination for the seven novels by the three Brontë sisters. "They are very personal works, with a psychological depth which somehow manages to reach every age group. My 16-year-old daughter is currently reading Jane Eyre. There aren’t that many 160-year-old books that teenagers of today still read."

No exam

The Brussels Brontë Group isn’t a collection of purists. You don’t have to pass an exam to join. Knowing the names of the three sisters is enough. And you should enjoy reading of course. With the expansion of the Group, it has set up a Reading Group, focusing particularly on romantic authors such as Austen.

Charlotte Brontë stayed in the Pensionnat Heger in Brussels in and fell in love with her teacher Constantin Heger, who taught her French. When she returned to England, she remained obsessed with her professor and wrote him a series of letters.

But the professor did not answer her letters. In fact Monsieur Heger tore them up. But his wife rescued them from the wastepaper basket and sewed them back together. Paul Heger, Constantin’s son, donated four of these letters to the British Museum in 1913.

On Thursday 18 October, at 19.30, in the Le Cercle des Voyageurs / Travel Arts Café, Rue des Grands Carmes 18, 1000 Brussels, Derek Blyth will talk about these letters.

Paul Demeyer

Below, Derek Blyth and Helen MacEwan

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Exhibition in Baltimore

Thanks, Randall Grimsley, for the reminder that this exhibition is still running. So if you're in Baltimore.......

The exhibition first appeared at the University of Virginia in 2006 and featured materials from the teaching collections of Rare Book School. Founded in 1983, the school moved to its present home in 1992. It is an independent non-profit educational institute for the study of the history of books, printing and related subjects. More info from

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Tamar Yellin in Haworth

Deputy Director Andrew McCarthy writes:

Tamar Yellin, author of Kafka in Brontëland and other stories, will be reading from and discussing her work and the influence of the Brontës at the West Lane Baptist Centre in Haworth on Wednesday 17 October at 2.00pm. This event takes place as part of the Brontë Parsonage Museum’s contemporary arts programme.

Kafka in Brontëland and other stories was longlisted for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award and received the Reform Judaism Prize 2006. Born in Leeds to Jewish parents, Tamar Yellin moved to Brontë country at the age of 21 and has lived there ever since. Her novel, The Genizah at the House of Shepher, based on her Jerusalemite ancestry, has received several awards including the international Sami Rohr Prize for emerging Jewish writers which carries a $ prize.

The museum’s arts programme has featured lots of well known writers but it’s wonderful to have an opportunity to highlight the work of a writer living and working so close to the home of the Brontës. It shows that Haworth still has an inspirational attraction not only for readers of the Brontës' books but also contemporary writers and artists.

Admission is £2.75 on the door. Advance booking is not required. Free to day ticket holders to the Brontë Parsonage Museum. For further details and bookings please contact the Brontë Parsonage Museum, /

Below, Tamar Yellin:

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Fund-raising and filming

Director Alan Bentley writes:

Along with a number of other historic houses and museums, we are participating in a fund- raising effort on eBay.

Top Lots is a partnership between heritage organisations and EBay to auction “experiences” to raise money. We are auctioning Ann Dinsdale, or to be more exact we are offering the following –

An evening for a group of up to 15 people with exclusive access to the Parsonage and Garden, an introductory talk and tour followed by a unique behind-the-scenes look at items from the collection with Ann Dinsdale, Brontë Society Collections Manager and author. Wine and nibbles and entertainment with a chance to meet Branwell Brontë.

Find out more at

On the topic of the forthcoming new film Brontë, director Charles Sturridge and his team have visited the Parsonage recently, mainly to take mouldings of stonework (and photographs) of the exterior, because it will soon be reconstructed at a location near Sheffield in South Yorkshire. Other locations will include Brodsworth Hall, near Doncaster, and Cannon Hall, near Barnsley. Haworth village will feature too – but at the moment it is not known how much.

The cast list has been changing recently, which has given rise to plenty of speculation. The latest names for the Sisters, as conveyed to me, are as follows:

Rebecca Hall (seen recently on TV as Antoinette in Wild Sargasso Sea) as Emily Brontë.

Natalie Press (seen recently on TV in Bleak House) as Charlotte Brontë.

Evan Rachel Wood (well-known from the film Running with Scissors) as Anne Brontë.

In addition, John Hurt replaces Brian Cox as Patrick Brontë, Geraldine Chaplin plays Aunt Branwell, Joan Plowright plays Tabby and Kristin Scott-Thomas plays Lady Robinson.

Brussels scenes will not be filmed in Brussels – but in Luxemberg.

Richard Wilcocks adds:

Rebecca Hall, I suspect, will be an excellent Emily, judging from her remarkable performance on BBC Four’s Wild Sargasso Sea recently. In this she is the perfect Antoinette, who can only assert herself occasionally. Her yearning for love from the cold, authoritarian Rochester is painful to watch, her vulnerability and indecisiveness beautifully conveyed. She is a creature of nature, at home in a hallucinatory landscape, who will do something mad if she is unnaturally confined, and we see that in her well before the end.

Below, Rebecca Hall

This Saturday

A reminder : poet Amanda Dalton will be resident at the Parsonage on Saturday 6 October to mark National Poetry Day - which is officially tomorrow, 4 October. See the post for 9 September below.