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Monday, 21 December 2009


Helen Kirk writes:

I am currently doing an MA in Victorian Studies and am putting together my dissertation proposal which I am intending to do on the portrayal of orphans in the works of the Brontës and how this links to their own experiences of mother-loss and isolation.

I was wondering if you knew of any links that the Brontë Sisters had with regards to orphans as they grew older, i.e. any references to any of them visiting Coram's Foundling Hospital for example. Any advice or tips on where to look would be much appreciated.

(Reply to email address on the right - or click on comments below)

Sunday, 20 December 2009

A literary prize

Buon Natale a tutti i nostri lettori in Italia!

Maddalena De Leo from the Italian Section of the Brontë Society sent us this article:

A LITERARY PRIZE TO Prof. MADDALENA DE LEO for her article about a comparison she drew between Wuthering Heights and a novel by the Italian writer Francesco Bruno

On 18th December 2009 Professor Maddalena De Leo from Ascea Marina (SA) was awarded a literary prize for an article in Italian she wrote and published in an Italian newspaper and on the Internet dealing with a comparison between an aspect of Wuthering Heights, the famous novel by Emily Brontë, and Paese di eriche e ginestre, the only novel written by the Italian critic and journalist Francesco Bruno who lived in Naples during the first part of the twentieth century.

Every year a journalistic prize and a cultural evening are held to commemorate this literary man by his still living relatives. The seventh edition of the event was held this year in Naples in the elegant Red Room of Libreria Guida, a very antique and renown bookshop in the very historical centre of the city. It was a delighting evening in which three important Italian journalists gave lectures on Futurism and Francesco Bruno’s critical contribute to it at the beginning of the last century.

Our BS member Maddalena De Leo received a plaque and a cheque by Mr Francesco D’Episcopo, Professor of Italian Literature at University Federico II in Naples and the approval and the economical contribution of the direct heirs of the late journalist and critic, Mr Francesco Jr. and Enrico Bruno and their mother, Mrs. Maria Novi Bruno.

Prof. De Leo explained to the public what inspired her to draw so strange a parallel between two worlds apparently so different, the North of England and the South of Italy, eventually the word ‘heather’ used by both the authors to describe their birth landscape. By going on in the reading of Bruno’s novel, Mrs. De Leo realized instead that the real parallel in the two novels was to be found in the inmost nature and the different fate of their main characters and so she worked on this idea.

You can read here the winning article by Professor De Leo translated into English by herself:


by Maddalena De Leo

Recently I came across a rare book that is virtually unknown even to Italian readers. Written by Francesco Bruno, an eminent journalist, critic, and essayist this book was a unique and fascinating discovery. Entitled "A Country of Heather and Gorse" the work is nearly impossible to find in either bookshops or libraries.

Mr. Bruno's life spanned a good deal of the twentieth century lasting from 1899-1982. Snatched by death just before completing the book it was never given a conclusion. It is my intention through this article to do just that. We would. perhaps, never even have heard of this work if it wasn't for his son Elio. A journalist and critic in his own right we owe a great deal of the preservation of this classic to him. Another tireless promoter of Mr. Bruno's work is Professor Francesco D'Episcopo. We are indebted to him for keeping the literary works of Bruno alive.

The novel takes place in a rural setting, so familiar to the works of his contemporaries. It is reminiscent of Deledda and Verga where love of the land and pride in property ownership form the basis of so many of their stories. The landscape forms a backdrop against which even the birds are given human-like qualities. These fluttering birds actually seem to not only witness but in fact understand human affairs.

The title of this work could easily be "A Country of Thrushes and Alder" because of its location. Set in Ascea-Velia a lovely Mediterranean region the naturaly beauty of the land is vibrantly depicted. It is in fact the birthplace of Francesco Bruno and he has very tender feelings for it.

There are several references to the harsh sun of the south which causes devastating droughts. He also alludes to historical facts which occurred during the seventeenth century. There are allusions as well to social injustice and outright piracy all of which Mr. Bruno has accurately captured.

His descriptions of plant life is also quite captivating. Heather, like the plant broom, both grow in cold, harsh, remote and unproductive lands. The author's protagonist, Archangel, like the plant heather can survive and even thrive in the most difficult environment. His life, like that of the heather plant endures in a sterile and barren environment.

Archangel is a devout person trusting in Providence just like the characters created by Manzoni. He is an asset to his fellow countrymen lending support whenever he can. This goodness to others is not reflected in how the character views himself. Archangel is in fact dissatisfied with his sterile existence and is increasingly worried about the fact that he has no children.

The psychological imagery employed by Mr. Bruno is also utilized in one of the world's most famous novels "Wuthering Heights." The "land of heather" in this case refers to the fertile and highly imaginative mind of its author Emily Brontë. In "Wuthering Heights" birds along with harsh winds and a barren landscape form a relationship to mankind's suffering.

The character Heathcliff is an evil, selfish, and dominating man. He is the antithesis of Bruno's Archangel. Even though Archangel is a good man and Heathcliff an evil one they both share a similar fate. Both men are disappointed by the paths their lives have taken.

Both men adopt the false belief that if they work hard and protect their land they will get whatever they want from life. Both live in homes that are isolated from the rest of the world. Bruno's "Casa Romita" perfectly corresponds to Bronte's "Heights."

Bruno tells us at the end of chapter two "the story of men is changeable and cannot be contained by any rational force." Only death will draw a veil of oblivion over the inevitably stormy passions experienced in these so far off lands, one sunny and the other solitary and exposed to winds. Only by his lonely and irreligious death the diabolical Heathcliff will be able to obtain, although superficially, that peace he never enjoyed in life, and certainly for the Archangel a reverse path will be accomplished based again on a melancholy resignation and an acceptance. So in the end both Archangel and Heathcliff await death as the final and true peace.

I believe this may well be the never written yet inevitable conclusion to this enigmatic novel.

Below, Professor Francesco D’Episcopo presents a plaque and a cheque:

Monday, 30 November 2009

Commemoration in Dewsbury

Dewsbury Minster is to celebrate the arrival of Rev Patrick Brontë in December 1809 at what was then called All Saints Church with a service on Sunday 6 December at 6.30pm

The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Rev Stephen Platten, will lead the commemoration.

For further details telephone 01924 457057.
From Imelda and David Marsden

Help raise the funds

News release

The Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, West Yorkshire has been stunned by news of two auctions in as many weeks, both featuring Brontë treasures of a kind that have not been seen at public auction in many years.

On 4 December, Christies in New York will host an auction of the William E Self library which includes numerous Brontë lots. The most significant of these is an extremely rare first edition of Emily’s only novel, Wuthering Heights. This is the copy owned by her sister Charlotte, who revised the novel for a new edition published after her sister’s death, and contains her pencilled-in corrections. There are also three lively letters from Charlotte Brontë to Henry Nussey, brother of her close friend Ellen Nussey. The letters include Charlotte’s reflections on family, work, the relationship between men and women, and marriage. One of the letters is Charlotte’s response to Nussey’s proposal of marriage. The sale also includes a miniature poetry manuscript produced in childhood by Charlotte.

These lots alone are expected to fetch in the region of $280,000 or £170,000 and the museum is desperately trying to raise funds to ensure that these items are returned to a public collection in the UK and not lost to a private collector.

It’s rare for such significant items to come onto the open market and there’s no doubt that these are items which are of such great significance to our cultural and artistic heritage that they should certainly be thought of as national treasures. It would be very sad indeed if these treasures were not repatriated or were lost to a private collection. We feel that these are things which belong here in Haworth and we’re appealing for people to get in touch if they can help us raise the funds to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Andrew McCarthy

Director, Brontë Parsonage Museum

This will be followed on 17 December by an auction at Sotheby’s in London, which features items from the Law Collection and includes Charlotte’s mahogany writing desk, a pencil drawing by Emily, and an extremely rare surviving personal possession of Emily’s, her artist’s box and geometry set. As an independent charity the museum is constantly trying to raise funds to support its work, a fundamental part of which is seeking to acquire such important Brontë material and making it accessible to the public.

It’s very difficult for us to compete in a market where these items can fetch such high prices and we need the support of organizations and individuals to make sure that they are returned to Haworth where they surely belong. If anyone feels they can make a financial contribution to help us, this would be very much appreciated

Andrew McCarthy

Director, Brontë Parsonage Museum

Click for Daily Telegraph report

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Gyles Brandreth standing on his head

Richard Wilcocks writes:

Thanks, George and several others, for your enquiries about our President's gymnastic abilities. Yes, he can stand on his head, and he did so in York. He did it for the One Show on television not so long ago as well........see this post for the photo.

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë

Syrie James writes:

Exciting news! The Women’s National Book Association has named my novel, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, one of the Great Group Reads of 2009. I am delighted because I truly believe that Charlotte’s story will open up lively discussions about a host of timely and provocative topics.

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, by Avon/HarperCollins Publishing in July 2009, is the result of many years of intense research and writing. As a devoted Brontë scholar, I was intrigued by how many of Charlotte's own life experiences found their way into her novels, and I found immense pleasure in bringing her true story to life on the page.

The novel begins with an impassioned proposal from Charlotte’s father's curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls, who has carried a silent torch for Charlotte for more than seven years. Charlotte greatly disliked Mr Nicholls when they first met, but her feelings have evolved and changed over the years. Does she love him? Does she wish to marry him?

Seeking answers, Charlotte takes up her pen to examine the truth about her life. In these pages, she exposes her deepest feelings and desires, her triumphs and shattering personal disappointments, her scandalous, secret passion for the man she can never have—the man who was the basis for all the heroes in her books, including Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre —and the intimate details of her compelling relationship with Mr Nicholls, the man she eventually comes to love with all her heart.

At the same time, we learn of Charlotte’s relationship with her family, the inspiration behind their work, and their evolution as novelists. Although Charlotte and her sisters Emily and Anne did not have a single connection to the literary world, and lived in an era when women rarely saw their work in print — and despite their difficult circumstances at home, including an alcoholic brother and a father who was going blind — all three women became published authors at the same time. I cannot think of any other family in history who have achieved such an extraordinary feat, and I wanted to celebrate that and reveal how it happened.

As part of my research I made an extended visit to the Brontë Parsonage Museum. I owe a debt of gratitude to Ann Dinsdale, the Collections Manager, for her gracious welcome to both the house and library, and to Sarah Laycock, the museum’s Library and Information Officer, for sharing many wonderful details about Charlotte’s clothing and other garments in the collection. I also was privileged to receive an unforgettable, attic-to-cellar tour of the former Roe Head School in Mirfield which Charlotte attended, which still sports the legend of a mysterious attic-dwelling ghost.

I hope you will enjoy reading The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë as much as I enjoyed writing it. My first novel, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, became a bestseller and was named a Best First Novel of 2008 by Library Journal. I welcome visitors and messages at my website,

ISBN 978-0061648373

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

A remarkable cache

News release from the Parsonage:

A remarkable cache of new Brontë treasures have recently been donated the Brontë Parsonage Museum by a private owner living in Manitoba, Canada. The items were given to the museum by Mr Tony Hart, whose great grandfather was the nephew of Mary Anna Bell, the second wife of Arthur Bell Nicholls. Nicholls’ first marriage was to Charlotte Brontë and took place at Haworth Church in 1854, although Charlotte died the following year, possibly in the early stages of pregnancy. Mr Hart’s great grandfather emigrated from Ireland to Canada in the 1870s.

The items donated all belonged to Charlotte Brontë and include a gold brooch set with garnets, a beautifully carved ivory visiting card case and card, a fragmentary manuscript by Charlotte, dated 1829 and entitled ‘Anecdotes of the Duke of Wellington’, an ink drawing of a ‘Wellington monument’ accompanying the manuscript, and a signed engraved portrait of Charlotte. The items would have been taken to Ireland by Arthur Bell Nicholls in 1861 after Charlotte’s death and may have been given to Mr Hart’s great grandfather as keepsakes.

It’s very rare indeed for such a wonderful group of items to emerge under any circumstances, but we feel extremely fortunate and grateful to Mr Hart for donating what is certainly a very valuable collection indeed to the museum. Some of these items are quite unique within the context of the museum’s collection and so to have them return to Haworth after so many years, and all the way from Canada, is very special.

Ann Dinsdale

Collections Manager

The new items are now on display at the Brontë Parsonage Museum and can be seen along with many other treasures from the museum’s collection as part of an exhibition focusing on Charlotte Brontë.

Henry Hastings in Italian

Maddalena De Leo reports from Milan:

On Saturday 24th October 2009 at 5 p.m. Professor Maddalena De Leo gave a talk at the British Council in Milan concerning her last publication, a first edition and translation in Italian of Charlotte Brontë’ novelette Henry Hastings. The event was organized by the Italian section of the Brontë Society and by Albusedizioni, the publisher of the nice little book.

The public assembled in the historical seat of the British Council at Via Manzoni 38 had the pleasure to listen to Mrs. Franca Gollini, who introduced the editor and her work and to Mr Giuseppe Gambini, an Italian narrative writer, who spoke about the publishing House Albus and dramatized some famous moments in the book as the Prologue and Henry Hastings’s arrest. Professor De Leo then explained why she long ago had chosen to translate this particular tale by Charlotte by saying that it is extremely fascinating. Its main characters, just three, and the analysis of the already troublesome relationship between brother and sister are really puzzling for any Brontë lover. Moreover in the character of Elizabeth Hastings can already be found the germs for Charlotte’s mature heroines Jane Eyre and Lucy Snowe. The talk ended with a video reproducing some moments of the York Conference 2009 and the flowered moor at Haworth and, last but not least, a little party for all the people present.

Are you anybody, Miss Snowe?

Readings from Villette. From left to right: Valerie Sculfor, Sally Batten, Maureen Peeck, Jennifer Rankin, Sherry Vosburgh, Zigurds Kronberg

Helen MacEwan reports on a talk organised by the Brussels Brontë Group:

The theme of our talk on Saturday 17 October in our usual venue (Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis) was Charlotte Brontë's novel Villette. People who read or re-read the novel after moving to Brussels agree that reading it here is illuminating both about Villette and Brussels. There are always some readers who find it difficult and unappealing, yet for many it is uniquely atmospheric and fascinating.

Maureen Peeck O'Toole's talk,
Are you anybody, Miss Snowe? by focusing on the narrator Lucy Snowe and her relationship with us, the reader, addressed some of the questions that arise about this novel. Many of these relate to the character of Lucy. Can we like her, or at least understand her and feel sympathetic towards her? What is her attitude to us, the reader? Why does she sometimes seem to deliberately mislead us or at least withhold things from us? The talk was intended to be useful for first-time readers of the novel while suggesting new ways of approaching it to those already acquainted with it. The discussion that followed and comments by people who attended suggest that the audience did indeed find it thought-provoking.

Maureen Peeck has lived in the Netherlands for much of her life and taught for many years at Utrecht University, but she was born Maureen O'Toole and brought up in Bradford close to the Brontë village, Haworth, which she visited as a child. Maureen is a founder member of the Brussels Bronte group and has always been one of its most active members.

Her talk was followed by readings of passages from
Villette selected by her to illustrate it. We had five very competent readers, many with acting experience. Four were members of our group while the fifth had volunteered to join them in response to our appeal for a male reader to read M. Paul's part. The formula of talk plus readings worked well and several people said afterwards that the readings highlighted the points touched on by Maureen as well as being enjoyable in their own right.

We prepared for the talk by reading
Villette in our reading group. There was so much interest that in addition to our meeting of regular members of the reading group, we organised an extra discussion just before Maureen's talk for all the other people eager to talk about the novel.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Heathcliff the scrubbed-up oik

Richard Wilcocks reports on yesterday evening's event:

“I first read Wuthering Heights when I was sixteen,” director Coky Giedroyc tells the audience in Haworth. “I think it spoke to my innermost gothic self.”

Screenwriter Peter Bowker says that he stumbled through the novel in his teenage years: “My first strong memory is of the black and white Hollywood film, but I read it at university and I adored it……..

I had to return to my brutal younger self when I was choosing what to cut and what not to cut. The book is the work, of course, and I am doing a take on it, what a musician calls a cover version………ultimately, it is a redemptive version……..

I was told things like ‘Unless you are doing Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you won’t get away with it’, but I was determined to keep in the gothic and supernatural elements.”

We watch a clip, one of several. Heathcliff looks at the fresh gravestone for Catherine Linton and starts wielding his spade, watched by a distant figure behind an upstairs window. He reaches the wood of the coffin lid quickly and tears it open with ease. Cathy’s beautiful face is in his mind, and he sees it down there, but there’s also a glimpse of a skull.

Coky Giedroyc speaks: “It seems sacred…..a lot of people think they own the characters…….

This was the first time I have understood Heathcliff…….huge and rock-like….a fulcrum……..Peter got inside his soul….”

“Writing it felt like a conversation with Emily Brontë…..there are certain key speeches which can’t be lost…’s more of an extended prose poem than a novel……….I often put the dialogue reported by Nelly Dean back into the characters’ mouths” says Peter Bowker.

“My dialogue filled in gaps….I was responsible for the card game….I had to show that debauched moment.”

Poet James Nash asks questions. He is there to engage the pair in conversation and to bring out significant insights, which he does with wit and charm. Dryness is not in order this evening. It’s a kind of family affair, part of a pleasant weekend visit to the Parsonage and the village. Both of the speakers have their mothers with them (in the audience) and everybody is smiling. The pair talk briefly about their collaboration on Blackpool, then about the casting. Coky Giedroyc begins:

“Casting was a long journey………we needed a brave and dangerous performer for Heathcliff……there’s few that can do it, but there’s so many who want to do it. I was getting live links from LA.

I was confident that Tom Hardy would be brave……and grubby and……a little bit random. He played that graveyard scene absolutely from his solar plexus… have to embrace the gothic but also the emotional truth.

As for Cathy, we kept on coming back to Charlotte Riley…..she brought a minxy, compulsive quality to the character……but she still is able to elicit sympathy…

To cast Andrew Lincoln as Edgar makes Cathy’s decision to marry much more understandable. He’s not the weedy opposite to the Byronic Heathcliff that we often see.”

“Andrew’s Edgar contrasts well with Heathcliff, the scrubbed-up oik,” adds Peter Bowker. “Tom was just the actor for that……he’s a playful actor……

When I first started on this, I was thinking I would have three Cathys and three Heathcliffs to cope with times and ages, but then you would have to have three of all the others…”

We watch a clip set in Thrushcross Grange. Nelly comes in gasping as Heathcliff threatens Edgar with a poker. Emily Brontë does not write all that much about Thrushcross, but there’s plenty of detail here. It speaks of a squire’s wealth, but it is pale and quiet, calm and comfortable in contrast to Wuthering Heights.

Question time arrives. A woman thanks the pair at the front for providing her eight year-old daughter (who is with her) with an excellent experience. She has watched the DVD several times. There is a question about the novel’s ambiguity. In the novel it is not clear what Cathy and Heathcliff actually do with each other. Does Cathy really understand what she is doing anyway? Why is their relationship so steamy in this television version?

“We had to strip away the ambiguity to make the story work on screen,” comes the reply from Peter Bowker.

I ask, “Why did you go down the gypsy route so firmly with Heathcliff? Did you consider the Irish interpretation, with the young boy speaking Gaelic? Or a mixed-race Heathcliff found in Liverpool, the slave port?”

And, of course, Peter Bowker had considered all of those: “We had to fit it to the chosen actor. I did think about the Irish connection though.”

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Last chance to see Ghosts

Not only is the half-term holiday a great opportunity to see some fantastic exhibitions at the Parsonage, it’s also a chance to enjoy special discount entry. Throughout the half-term week, two for one vouchers will be available at various locations around the village, allowing two visitors to enter for the price of one.

Visitors will have a last chance to view Ghosts, an exhibition of atmospheric landscape photographs by major British artist, SamTaylor-Wood. The exhibition is a response to Wuthering Heights and will close on 2 November.

Jenna Holmes writes:

The Ghosts exhibition has proved very popular with visitors this summer. It is unusual to find the work of such an important contemporary artist in an historic environment such as the Parsonage, and many visitors have commented that the works are like windows on to the moors, and the dramatic landscape that the Brontës knew and wrote about in their novels.

We hope that people will take this last opportunity to see the works hung within the museum, before the series of photographs is returned to London.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Behind the Scenes of ITV’s Wuthering Heights

Arts Officer Jenna Holmes writes:

Bafta-winning screenwriter Peter Bowker and director Coky Giedroyc will be visiting Haworth to talk about their recent work adapting Wuthering Heights for ITV1. The special event will take place on this coming Saturday (24 October) at 7pm at the West Lane Baptist Centre in Haworth, and will look at the process of adapting the novel for television, as well as behind the scenes information about making and filming the drama production.

The drama, which was filmed on location in Yorkshire including sites such as Oakwell Hall and East Riddlesden Hall, was broadcast over the August bank holiday and has proved popular with visitors to the museum:

We’ve had a lot of interest in the ITV production from visitors, especially with the costumes being on show at the Parsonage. It will be fascinating to hear how a drama like this is put together, and the ways in which Peter Bowker and Coky Giedroyc have adapted the story of Wuthering Heights for a twenty-first century audience.

Peter Bowker wrote Blackpool for the BBC and won a BAFTA for his 2001 ITV movie Buried Treasure. His television film Flesh and Blood won the Prix Europa and two Royal Television Society awards in 2002. Peter Bowker’s three part drama Occupation about three British soldiers serving in Iraq was shown on BBC1 earlier this year and he also wrote the recent Desperate Romantics for the BBC.

Coky Giedroyc has directed numerous dramas for television, including the BAFTA-nominated The Virgin Queen (2006) and Oliver Twist (2007) for BBC television. She also directed Peter Bowker’s Blackpool in 2004.

Tickets are £10 and can be booked from the Brontë Parsonage Museum by contacting the Arts Officer: / 01535 640188.

For further information contact / 01535 640188.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Haworth Through Time

Susan Goodacres writes:

Few English villages can have been as well documented and photographed as Haworth, a place with more significant connotations than most of the others. A recent publication is the latest in a series which uses the old pictures next to the new ones to show how things have changed, and not always for the better. The title is
Haworth Through Time, and it is by Steven Wood and photographer Ian Palmer.

Its brief introduction puts the causes of the many changes into a nutshell. It is explained, for example, that the first development of Main Street was brought about by the making of the Blue Bell turnpike through Haworth in 1755, and that the reason for the large number of non-conformist chapels in the Haworth area is because one of the charismatic leaders of the evangelical revival, William Grimshaw, was the local minister. The major nineteenth century expansions were caused by the opening of the branch railway from Keighley in 1867, which also made it necessary to alter the road system in the lower part of the village.

A point sometimes missed by students of the Brontës and by some scholars as well, is that Haworth was until well into the twentieth century a hectic, industrialised part of Yorkshire, and a generally unhealthy place for those people packed into small rooms where they lived, worked hard and died, apart from the folk up at the Parsonage. It was not at the far end of beyond. Many industries and the quarries have of course collapsed now, and at one time the railway itself was closed – until it was reopened by a preservation society.

Today, so many people have cars, and Haworth is a healthy and desirable place for commuters and families to put down roots. Main Street is full of little shops and cafés geared to the tourist trade, and a good place to stroll along, even though it is not yet a pedestrian precinct, and cars can often be observed going unnecessarily fast along it.

The cars were a problem for Ian Palmer too – he had to put up with their obscuring of many views of course, and apparently had to dodge one or two while pointing his camera, and no doubt holding in one hand the old photograph so that the new one could be taken from the same vantage point. One surprising thing to note in the new colour images is the number of trees. They appear to have multiplied. For example, in a view entitled
Haworth from Brow, the increase in the numbers of houses for mill workers dating from the late nineteenth century can be clearly seen, and they are now accompanied by large numbers of verdant trunks and branches. In the old photo, Ivy Bank Mill with a smoking chimney is visible on the left. The chimney has gone, of course, along with thousands of others across Yorkshire, mainly demolished in the 1960s, and the background landscape looks windswept and bare. Ivy Bank mill is now a burnt out ruin.

A view of
Church Street and Changegate from the Church Tower taken at the time of the Great War shows huddled buildings (usually described as ‘slums’) and a lack of modern roads. These can be seen in the up-to-date view. An old photo dating from 1960 of Acton Street shows a row of houses now demolished where once lived Old Jack Kay, who was known as the village wise man. Did every village have one of these? Old Jack could foretell and even control the weather, so it was said, and defeat the evil created by witches. Not many people come into the old or the new photos, but an exception is Smithy in the Fold, c1900, in which four well-built men can be seen posing casually – blacksmiths Abraham Scarborough and his son Herbert, along with two other smiths. Their smithy is now a garage.

And the most photographed building in Haworth has to be there as well, naturally – a well-known sepia image of the Parsonage from about 186o is set above a present-day view with tall trees in the foreground.

There are more than 180 photographs in this book, which is published by Amberley Publishing at £12.99.

ISBN 978-1-8468-509-3

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Singing was superb

Richard Wilcocks writes -

Keeping the Flame Alive
Friday 25 September
Lyrics by Val Wiseman
Music composed by Brian Dee
Featuring the Brontë Legacy Musicians

The show was in just the right venue: Val Wiseman, at the mike beneath gothic arches, made frequent references to her musings on Patrick Brontë, about how he would have walked where she walked in Dewsbury Minster, about what he might think of the music. Her personal engagement (dating back to childhood) was total, which resulted in her effectively bringing to life through narrative and song such characters as Blanche Ingram from Jane Eyre, Helen Huntingdon from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights. There were many references to and quotes from Brontë texts in her lyrics (I particularly liked her take on Blanche), and she explained all the contexts more than adequately for the benefit of those in the audience who might not be as fully acquainted with the poetry and the novels as herself.

"Some critics described the novels of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell as 'brutal', 'coarse' and 'wicked'," she told us. "But the appetite of the reading public to obtain books written by them was insatiable......

For the next piece, I want you to imagine Jane, who has left that brutal Clergy Daughters School, not long after her arrival at Thornfield, feeling the first strong feelings of love for Mr Rochester, who......" and so on.

The singing, as might be expected from the Best British Jazz Vocalist 2008, was superb - dramatic and presented with a beautiful flourish. Regretfully, I did not get to see the tribute stage show 'Lady Sings the Blues', in which she portrayed Billie Holiday - but I am certain that the acclaim she received was very well deserved, because she oozes presence. The music composed by the illustrious Brian Dee was excellent, too. He was on one of the two keyboards alongside bass and drums.

It was a wonderful climax for Dewsbury's commemoration of the arrival of Patrick Brontë two hundred years ago. It should be experienced elsewhere -


For the website click HERE

Monday, 7 September 2009

Keeping the Flame Alive in Dewsbury

Imelda and David Marsden write:

As part of the Brontë Dewsbury 200 celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of Patrick Brontë's arrival in Dewsbury in 1809, London Brontë Society member Val Wiseman will perform at 7.30pm on 25 September in Dewsbury Minster, in a musical tribute to the father of the family.

This is entitled Keeping the Flame Alive. It takes as its inspiration the enduring themes in the Brontë novels, poetry and art.

Val Wiseman (pictured) was voted the Best British Jazz Vocalist in 2008

Booking enquires: 01924 466076 / 01924 457057

Tickets £7: Booking in advance is recommended

Arts Events at the Parsonage

News release from Jenna Holmes, Parsonage Arts Officer:


The Brontë Parsonage Museum launches its new Contemporary Arts Programme this month, with an evening with internationally bestselling novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford on Saturday 19 September at 7.30pm at the Old Schoolroom, Haworth. The event will see Yorkshire-born Barbara Taylor Bradford return to the UK as part of a special tour celebrating 30 years since the publication of her landmark novel A Woman of Substance and her new book Breaking The Rules. Barbara Taylor Bradford will be discussing her books, career and love of the Brontës with arts critic and journalist Danuta Kean.

This special event is the first in a new season of contemporary arts events to take place at the Brontë Parsonage Museum between September 2009 and March 2010. Other high profile events will include readings by Sarah Waters and Tracy Chevalier, and a talk by screenwriter Peter Bowker who recently adapted Wuthering Heights for ITV1.

As well as its usual mix of visual arts exhibitions, talks and workshops, the museum is currently receiving funding from Arts Council England to develop a season of events that showcase and celebrate women’s writing. Arts Officer Jenna Holmes says:

“The Brontës were pioneering women writers and we are delighted that Arts Council England is supporting us to really explore and highlight the Brontës’ influence on contemporary women writers today. This special strand of programming includes visits by high-profile women writers such as Sarah Waters and Barbara Taylor Bradford, but it also enables us to appoint a writer-in-residence, Katrina Naomi, to explore the museum collections and work with community groups, as well as allowing us to support emerging women writers and introduce new creative writing projects and events for everyone who comes to the museum”.

The full details of the new programme are listed below:

Sam Taylor-Wood: Ghosts
Until Monday 2 November
Brontë Parsonage Museum
Landscape photographs of the moors around Haworth, inspired by Wuthering Heights, by major British artist Sam Taylor-Wood. Free on admission to the museum.

A Woman of Substance: An Evening with Barbara Taylor Bradford
Saturday 19 September
7.30pm, Old Schoolroom, Church St, Haworth
Internationally bestselling novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford will be visiting the Brontë Parsonage Museum as part of the 30th anniversary celebrations of her landmark novel, A Woman of Substance, and the release of her new book, Breaking The Rules. She will be speaking about her work and the influence of the Brontës with journalist and arts critic Danuta Kean.

Barbara Taylor Bradford was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, and was a reporter for the Yorkshire Evening Post at sixteen. By the age of twenty she had graduated to London's Fleet Street as both an editor and columnist. In 1979, she wrote her first novel, A Woman of Substance, and that enduring bestseller has been followed by 24 others. Her novels have sold more than 81 million copies worldwide in more than 90 countries and 40 languages. Barbara Taylor Bradford lives in New York City.

Tickets are £5 and should be booked in advance.
Bookings: 01535 640188 /

National Poetry Day – Writer in Residence
Saturday 10 October
Brontë Parsonage Museum
Poet Katrina Naomi is the Brontë Parsonage Museum’s first Writer in Residence, and over the coming months will be working in the collections, as well as facilitating a special community project. To mark National Poetry Day, Katrina Naomi will be engaging with museum visitors for the day, to produce new poems inspired by visitor responses.

Katrina Naomi is originally from Margate and now lives in London. Her first full collection The Girl with the Cactus Handshake will be published in October 2009. She won the 2008 Templar Poetry Competition and her pamphlet Lunch at the Elephant & Castle was published later that year. She has received an Arts Council England writer's award and a Hawthornden Fellowship, and has an MA in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths. Katrina is also a lecturer in creative writing for the Open University.

Free on admission to the Brontë Parsonage Museum.

Tracy Chevalier (pictured)
Friday 16 October
7.30pm, West Lane Baptist Centre, Haworth
Novelist Tracy Chevalier will be visiting Haworth to read from and discuss her new novel, Remarkable Creatures. The novel tells the story of Mary Anning, who in nineteenth-century Lyme Regis discovers the first pre-dinosaur fossils which will pave the way for Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Tracy Chevalier is the author of five previous novels, including the international bestseller Girl with a Pearl Earring (1999), The Virgin Blue (1997), Falling Angels (2001), The Lady and the Unicorn (2003) and Burning Bright (2007). Born in Washington, DC, she now lives in London with her husband and son. She is Chairman of the Society of Authors.

Tickets are £5 and should be booked in advance.
Bookings: 01535 640188 /

Peter Bowker and Wuthering Heights
Saturday 24 October, 7pm
West Lane Baptist Centre, Haworth
BAFTA winning screenwriter Peter Bowker will talk about his recent work adapting Wuthering Heights for television. Peter will be joined by director Coky Giedroyc and (filming schedules permitting) other key members of the production team to discuss the process of transferring the story from page to screen. The costumes from the ITV production are currently on display at the Parsonage.

Peter Bowker wrote Blackpool for the BBC, and adapted A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2005) and Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale (2003) for television. His ITV movie Buried Treasure won the BAFTA Lew Grade Award for Most Popular Drama in 2001, and his television film, Flesh and Blood won the Prix Europa and two Royal Television Society awards in 2002. His three part drama, Occupation, about three British soldiers serving in Iraq was shown on BBC1 in 2009.

Tickets are £10 and must be booked in advance. Bookings: 01535 640188 /

From Laptop to Bookshop: The Mslexia Roadshow
Saturday 28 November
Mslexia is a magazine dedicated to women writers. The Mslexia Roadshow offers a day of creative writing opportunities and to hear a successful author discuss her work. Each event can be booked onto individually or you can take part in the whole day.

Mslexia Workshop 1: Writing a synopsis
10am – 12pm, West Lane Baptist Centre, Haworth
Led by novelist and founder of Mslexia Debbie Taylor, this creative writing workshop is aimed at novelists. It will help you identify what your novel is really about, and communicate it to an agent or editor.

Tickets £10 and includes admission to the museum; women only; places are limited and must be booked in advance.
Bookings: 01535 640188 /

Mslexia Workshop 2: First Paragraph
1.30pm- 3.30pm, West Lane Baptist Centre, Haworth
Led by novelist and experienced creative writing tutor Jane Rogers, this workshop is aimed at novelists and short story writers and will help you create an arresting first paragraph.

Tickets £10 and includes admission to the museum; women only; places are limited and must be booked in advance.
Bookings: 01535 640188 /

Sarah Waters in conversation
6pm, West Lane Baptist Centre, Haworth
Sarah Waters will be in conversation with Mslexia founder Debbie Taylor about her writing career and her latest novel, The Little Stranger.

Sarah Waters was born in Wales in 1966. She has a Ph.D. in English Literature and has been an associate lecturer with the Open University. She has won a Betty Trask Award, the Somerset Maugham Award and was twice shortlisted for the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. In 2003, she was named Author of the Year three times and was also chosen as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. Fingersmith won the CWA Ellis Peters Dagger Award for Historical Crime Fiction and the South Bank Show Award for Literature and both FingersmithThe Night Watch were shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange prizes. Tipping the Velvet, Affinity and Fingersmith have all been adapted for television. The Night Watch is currently in development with the BBC. The Little Stranger has been long listed for the Man Booker Prize 2009.

Tickets are £8 and should be booked in advance; all welcome.
Bookings: 01535 640188 /

Mr Lockwood’s Confusing Christmas
Saturday 12 December
Brontë Parsonage Museum
It’s Christmas and characters from the Brontës’ novels have escaped the pages of their books and been let loose in the Parsonage, where mayhem unfolds. What would happen if Mr Rochester met Cathy under the mistletoe, or Jane Eyre came across Heathcliff in the graveyard with a shovel? And when will Nelly Dean sort out that strange laughter coming from the attic?
Event takes place throughout the day. Free on admission to the museum.

Jo Brown: The Sunbeam and the Storm
Friday 5 March – Monday 3 May
Brontë Parsonage Museum
Artist Jo Brown exhibits a series of abstract paintings inspired by descriptions of weather in Emily Brontë’s poems.

Jo Brown was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and studied in Yorkshire, at Bretton Hall College then Sheffield Hallam University, gaining a BA (Hons) in Fine Art in 1995. She was artist in residence at Dean Clough, Halifax in 1995 and has since exhibited regularly in municipal and commercial galleries in England, Scotland and the USA. Free on admission to the Brontë Parsonage Museum

Lisa Appignanesi: Mad, Bad and Sad
Wednesday 10 March, 2pm
West Lane Baptist Centre, Haworth
“Charlotte Brontë’s portrait of Bertha Mason, the ‘mad, bad and embruted’ wife of Rochester in Jane Eyre has taken on iconic value. But by the time Brontë penned it, she was drawing on what were already old images of madness, probably garnered from the notorious Bedlam”. Lisa Appignanesi

Lisa Appignanesi will be talking about her latest book MAD, BAD and SAD: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800. Including writers such as Charlotte Brontë, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath, this is the history of the study of the female mind over the past two centuries. The book has been shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson, the Warwick, the MIND and has won the Medical Journalist’s Award.

Lisa Appignanesi is a novelist, writer and broadcaster, she is former deputy director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, chair of the Freud Museum and president of English PEN.
Admission is £3 and there is no need to book in advance

An Afternoon with Persephone Books
Wednesday 24 March, 2pm
West Lane Baptist Centre, Haworth
Persephone Books reprints neglected novels, diaries, short stories and cookery books by women writers such as Dorothy Whipple and Katherine Mansfield. Founder Nicola Beauman talks about the origins of Persephone, how books are chosen and some of the authors.
Admission is £3 and there is no need to book in advance

For further information please contact:

Jenna Holmes, Arts Officer