Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Return to Haworth I

Renate Hurtmanns writes:
After the outstanding AGM of 2010 (a first for me), I felt happily excited when the bus dropped me off in Haworth in the afternoon of 3 June.

Less focused on lectures this time, we had nevertheless a highly enjoyable weekend full of variety again and also extremely amusing in different ways: a great evening of light entertainment provided by Haworth’s Gilbert and Sullivan group (among others a funny and very special version of “Cinderella”), but above anything else the Brontë spoof Withering Looks by Britain’s most famous literary lunatics Maggie Fox and Sue Riding – extremely inventive and utterly hilarious!

We also had lots of fun around the usual dinner at the Old White Lion on Sunday evening - pitting our Brontë brains against everyone else while trying to find the correct answers to Judith Bland’s 60 questions out of the Brontë books and lives.

But the real highlight for me was our walk on Sunday morning to Ponden Hall, often cited as the model for the Lintons’ home Thrushcross Grange– although none of the sisters left evidence of making such a link themselves. In part this opinion is due to its location, on the way up to the moors, in part to the fact that there were so few larger houses in this area.

Actually, Ponden Hall corresponds in some measure to the description of Wuthering Heights given by Emily and seems thus far more identifiable with Heathcliff’s home - being less grand and more humble than Thrushcross Grange as described in the novel. The date plaque above the main entrance, by the way, identifies the rebuilt house as dating from 1801 - the date that begins the story in 
Wuthering Heights.

Emily Brontë’s association with the Heaton family at Ponden is well documented: one of the Heatons served as a churchwarden to Patrick and it is known that she used the library which was reputedly the finest in West Yorkshire. Branwell Brontë was also a frequent visitor to Ponden where he attended pre-hunting gatherings.

As soon as I entered the large hall - realising that this was Wuthering Heights as I had imagined it – I had a kind of vision, i.e. Heathcliff standing by the fireplace when Mr Lockwood came in and asked for shelter from the snow-storm outside … And a second one in the master bedroom overlooking the valley beyond, where a tiny single-paned window in the east gable - underneath which a box bed, as in 
Wuthering Heights, was once standing but has sadly disappeared - is said to be the one where Cathy’s ghost knocked at the glass. I closed my eyes one second and could nearly hear her voice pleading: “Let me in, let me in”….

I didn’t take photos – unfortunately for those who read these lines, but not for me because for me the best souvenirs are those that you keep in your heart. And this I will – forever !

Now that I am back home again I feel like Emily when she was away from Haworth – nostalgic and missing the Moors already, their stillness, their grandeur and beauty and I can’t wait to go back to them!

(This report also appears on the Brussels Brontë Blog)

Below, Ponden Hall: 

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