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Monday, 24 August 2009

Wuthering Heights costumes on display

News release from Jenna Holmes:

As Wuthering Heights hits TV screens this August Bank Holiday, viewers can see the costumes from the production on display at the Brontë Parsonage Museum. Plus details of upcoming events with Bonnie Greer and Barbara Taylor Bradford.

Viewers who will enjoy ITV’s new adaptation of Wuthering Heights, to be broadcast over the coming bank holiday weekend, should make a visit to the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth where they can see the original costumes from the production on display. Outfits worn by the cast in the two-part drama, including dresses worn by Charlotte Riley as Cathy and Heathcliff’s (played by Tom Hardy) dramatic long black coat, are displayed within the period rooms of the museum.

The new drama, which hits screens on Sunday August 30 & Monday 31 at 9pm, was filmed at various locations in Yorkshireand was adapted for television by BAFTA-winning screenwriter Peter Bowker. Peter Bowker will be visiting Haworth, along with members of the production team, in October to speak about the process of adapting such a classic novel for television, as part of the museum’s contemporary arts programme of talks and events.

The museum will also be hosting two events with high-profile authors in September, again as part of the contemporary arts programme of events.

On Wednesday 9 September, at 2pm, playwright, critic and broadcaster Bonnie Greer will be speaking about her latest nove lEntropy at the Old Schoolroom, Church St, Haworth and tickets (priced £3) will be available on the door.

On Saturday 19 September, international bestselling novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford will be visiting Haworth as part of a special tour celebrating 30 years since the publication of her landmark novel A Woman of Substance. The event will take place at the Old Schoolroom, Haworth at 7.30pm. Barbara Taylor Bradford will also be speaking about and signing copies of her new novel Breaking the Rules and will be talking about her love of the Brontës with arts critic and journalist Danuta Kean. Tickets will cost £5 and should be booked in advance.

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.

For tickets and further information on any of these events, contact the Brontë Parsonage Museum on 01535 640188 /

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

More Conference Photos

More photos, all taken by Maddalena De Leo, of delegates at dinner, delegates listening to Gyles Brandreth, Lucasta Miller, Margaret Cochrane and Michael O'Neill:

Moments to Remember

Maddalena De Leo writes:


I had the honour and pleasure to be present this year at a Brontë Society Conference, a major event I had looked forward to for years. Held at the University Campus of York, the Literary Meeting lasted three days, revealing itself to be a real success and a glorious moment to remember in the life of any Brontë fan who was there.

Thanks to the perfect organization of Coreen Turner who arranged full and excellent accommodation for all 130 delegates at Vanbrugh College, the most important Brontë scholars from all over the world were gathered in the same place, surprisingly for the first time, to talk Brontë, propose their views and exchange opinions with members, fellow-scholars and student enthusiasts. What a miracle!

The considerable number of interesting lectures ranged from the biographical aspects to the most technical ones related to the Brontë novels. Every lecturer (Christine Alexander, Paul Edmondson, Michael 0’Neill, Sue Lonoff, Margaret Smith, to name only a few) was at his/her best to guarantee complete immersion in all matters Brontë, and the peak moment was reached during the Saturday evening dinner when the BS President Gyles Brandreth held his so waited for speech and gave a short and delightful performance for all of us.

I was the only representative from Italy and soon felt at home meeting old and new friends who called me simply by name. In fact most of us actually knew the others for their articles and writings if not by person so that coffee breaks and leisure time at the bookshop became precious to feel the friendly Brontë atmosphere pervading the place.

I had the infinite pleasure to meet for the first time after twenty-nine years Mrs. Sally Stonehouse, the former librarian at the Bronte Parsonage, who long ago had helped me from there in my Brontë-Shakespearean research while at Naples University. I also enjoyed friendly talks with Lucasta Miller, Patsy Stoneman, Dudley Green and Akiko Higuchi whose works I have long appreciated. A word in particular I have to reserve for my dear friends Christine Alexander and Paul Edmondson who really were the soul of this conference and spent all their energies to assure its absolute success. One thing for sure: we all delegates won’t easily forget those three Brontë days in Summer 2009.

Below, Maddalena with Christine Alexander, Paul Edmundson and Jane Sellars, Maddalena with Dudley Green, Maddalena with Achiko Higuchi:

Monday, 10 August 2009


Helen MacEwan writes:

The combination of the theme of this year's conference, Men in the Brontës' Lives, encompassing so many fascinating figures, with the setting of York made it an irresistible event. We heard ten talks in two days by some of the people best qualified to tell us about the men in question. Thus we heard about Patrick Brontë from his most recent biographer, and about Arthur Nicholls from the husband and wife team who have dedicated their retirement to researching this sometimes maligned and sidelined figure. And who better to tell us about M. Heger, Charlotte's inspirational Belgian teacher, than the translator and editor of Charlotte and Emily's "Belgian Essays"?

Like all Brontë Society events, this one was attended by a mixture of academics and the non-academic members who are in a majority and are as interested in the Brontës' lives as in their works - this fascination with their lives is surely what gives the Brontës their unique appeal for such a wide variety of people. In this conference with its emphasis on biography the Society succeeded, as it generally does, in pitching its appeal to both groups.

We were housed on the campus of York University, made attractive by its lovely lake. Between talks we enjoyed stimulating conversations with other members and made new friends. We were entertained as well as instructed, particularly by an amazing after-dinner speech by the Society's new president Gyles Brandreth, writer, broadcaster, TV personality and, above all, entertainer. His anecdotes were hilarious but his underlying message was one he feels passionately about. He spoke about how the Brontës' works (which he discovered through his three elder sisters) introduced him to the world of literature, and about the importance of literature in general and the fascination of 19th century literature in particular.

At the end of the conference, some of the youngest attendees – students at school or university – were invited to give their impressions on what we had heard. Charlotte Jonné, a student at Brussels University who has written a dissertation on Charlotte Brontë's The Professor, has written the report below on the talks.

Brontë Conference 31 July-2 August 2009: Men in the Bronte's Lives

A report by Charlotte Jonné

(Note: I have done my best to give an accurate report of the speakers' ideas. If any inaccuracies have slipped in I apologise and will correct them if pointed out.)

As I am writing this, I am sitting on my bed in the lovely York Youth Hostel pondering events past, and basically not wanting to go back home. Home, which is – granted – a few degrees warmer, but not as appealing as a conference room filled with Brontë enthusiasts. A lot has happened over the past weekend. I have listened to eminent scholars making their points (accompanied by the occasional plugging of a book), I have got to know very nice people from all over the world (including fellow country…women I should say), and I have had heated discussions about the actor to play Heathcliff / Mr. Rochester in the perfect screen adaptation. The perfect screen adaptation which of course only exists in our mind’s eye (which is, I believe a submerged reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet – an inside joke never hurts, but I’ll stop now, I promise). What I am trying to say, in this rather roundabout way, is that there was something for everyone at last weekend’s Brontë Conference at the University of York, the topic being Men in The Brontës' Lives - Influences, Publishers, Critics and Characters.

The very first lecture was by Christine Alexander, who talked about hero-worship and Charlotte Brontë. She agreed that there is a lot of hero worship in Brontë's work, because it was fashionable at the time, and because children model their behaviour on people they admire. The Brontë circle being as closed as it was, Charlotte had to look elsewhere, and found the Duke of Wellington among her father’s heroes. However, Alexander argues, Brontë always found a way of putting her admiration into perspective. Alexander then showed how this was done in throughout Brontë’s juvenilia and in Shirley.

The second lecture was given by Dudley Green, an expert on Patrick Brontë. He shed some light on the characteristics the Brontë children inherited from their father. Reverend Brontë made sure they had proper schooling and encouraged them to read, write, paint and play music. His religious influence can also be seen in the many biblical references in his children’s works. A special place in his heart was reserved for Emily, with whom he went shooting. He imprinted on Charlotte his sense of determination to succeed, which she would need when going to Belgium and when looking for a publisher. Patrick was paid a beautiful compliment on his parenting skills by M. Heger, who was impressed by the remarkable character of Charlotte and Emily.

The third lecture on Friday did not have a literary basis. Jane Sellars, an art historian, told us about the Brontë family portraits, of which there are two: Branwell's Pillar Portrait and Gun Group, which has been severely damaged. Sellars reviewed Branwell’s artistic influences and presumed intentions in painting his sisters, but also tried to look at the paintings afresh. She pointed out that the Pillar Portrait was painted when none of the sisters were famous, before the family tragedies. And yet, she argues, our modern-day perception of the portrait is distorted, because in our eyes, it has absorbed all the biographical information we now have about the Brontës.

On Saturday, Miriam Bailin gave us her views on the relationship between Charlotte Brontë and the critic George Henry Lewes. Lewes was the first person to characterise fictional realism, and that is what he wanted out of Charlotte Brontë: realism. He warned her about melodrama and was of the opinion that she should stick to her own experience. Charlotte recognised Lewes’s wisdom but did not accept it, since that was exactly what she had done in writing The Professor, a novel everyone was reluctant to publish. Brontë and Lewes had a lively correspondence, until he judged Shirley harshly, and revealed that the author was a woman. Charlotte felt wronged, since he had judged her as a woman and not as an author. Their frank interchange came to an end.

Michael O’Neill subsequently gave us a talk on Emily Brontë’s poetry and Romanticism, firmly establishing the ties between the Romantics (especially Shelley) and Emily’s poetry. He showed how Brontë reworked Romanticism, and how she responds to her predecessors.

Lucasta Miller, author of The Brontë Myth, gave us an introduction to Letitia Elizabeth Landon, an English poet and novelist, whose celebrity turned into notoriety after a series of scandals. Miller connects L.E.L.’s world with that of Charlotte Brontë. One similarity is the gossip: Charlotte Brontë was the alleged mistress of Thackeray. Unlike Landon, Brontë refused the part of the scandalous woman, and allowed no flirtation with anyone whatsoever. It is, however, interesting to ask the question: if Charlotte Brontë had lived in London, would she have been tempted?

Then Patsy Stoneman took the stage with her lecture on Rochester and Heathcliff as romantic heroes. As in earlier romantic stories, e.g. Jane Austen's, the relationship of Jane Eyre and Rochester is very Oedipal, Stoneman argues. He is an older man. He is also dark, moody, powerful, with hidden sorrows, not unlike Zamorna, Brontë’s Romantic hero. Whereas in the earlier stories it is often the heroine who changes, Jane Eyre revolves around the reformation of the hero. This has become a defining feature of modern romance writings. Rochester is gentler than many Byronic heroes and is prepared to share his life with his wife.

Heathcliff, however, is different from the traditional hero of romance and the relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff is far from Oedipal, Stoneman claims. It stems from an earlier psychological phase, the mirror phase, where the child needs another person as a mirror to reflect it back to itself. This love, comparable to love between siblings, is a heritage from the Romantics, and explains the doubt as to whether there is adult sexual attraction between Heathcliff and Cathy. Heathcliff is a Romantic hero with a capital ‘R’, his story being sad and epic, while Rochester has more of the traditional romantic hero with a small ‘r’; his is a more appealing storyline.

Next, Paul Edmondson established the tie between Shakespeare and Anne Brontë’s novels. He showed that Anne has digested and reworked Shakespeare’s work. She had a copy of his work and the creases in its pages indicate what she read, where she paused, etc. The plays she alludes to most are Hamlet and Othello.

Richard Mullen subsequently analysed the relationship between William Makepeace Thackeray and Charlotte Brontë. The two of them had several meetings and an animated correspondence. Theirs was a very ambivalent relationship; Charlotte was at the same time very pleased and displeased with him. Even after Thackeray had revealed her identity in public, she continued to go to his lectures, but five years after that, she was tired of him, and he of her, and their correspondence ended. Charlotte had got too close to her idol.

On Sunday, Mr and Mrs Cochrane, two local historians, lectured on Arthur Bell Nicholls, Charlotte Brontë’s husband. Nicholls has been neglected in Brontë studies, has always stayed on the periphery, because Brontë admirers in general have had a strong antipathy towards him. The Cochranes emphasised that this does not do him justice, and that we should be grateful to him, since he gave Charlotte one of the happiest years of her life.

After which Sue Lonoff brought up M. Heger. She split her subject up into four parts. Firstly, Constantin Heger, the busy, Catholic man who lost his first wife and child. Secondly, Charlotte and Emily’s professor, an inspiring man with remarkable teaching methods. Thirdly, Heger is transformed into M. Paul Emanuel in Villette. This is a radical revision of reality: in Villette, Emanuel is a bachelor, whereas M. Heger was very much a family man. Fourthly, Heger was very responsive to Brontë fans, answering questions and giving them Charlotte’s essays as souvenirs.

The last lecture was one from Margaret Smith, who talked about George Smith and William Smith Williams and their connection with Charlotte Brontë. Smith was a very good friend, gave her advice on financial matters and was even an alleged love interest, although he wasn’t in the least attracted to Charlotte. William Smith Williams sent her books and advised her to write a three-part work (Jane Eyre) rather than another two-part work like The Professor. Charlotte dissolved their correspondence with a rather cold letter.

To conclude the conference we were asked our opinion, and our suggestions for future Brontë Conference topics. Suggestions were: “Branwell”, “The influence of the Brontës on their contemporaries”, “Brontë and Shakespeare”, “Brontë influences”. In sum, there is enough material to keep on talking for many, many years to come!

Charlotte Jonné is a member of the Brussels Brontë Group (

Below, Parsonage Director Andrew McCarthy introducing Sue Lonoff, York University's Central Hall, student delegates with Paul Edmundson, Gyles Brandreth standing on his head:

Poetry and Picnics

Bring your own picnic to enjoy on the Parsonage lawn on one of our creative poetry days. Yorkshire Dales Ice-Cream will be on site for the three days, selling ice cream fresh from their local dairy.

On Tuesday 11 August, poets
Sarah Hymas and Sue Wood will be working at the museum for the day, engaging with visitors and creating fun poetry-based activities for visitors and families. Have a go at creating your own poem, or simply enjoy the poetry readings in the garden at various times throughout the day.

On Saturday 15 August, poet
Mark Ward will be reading from his latest collection Thunder Alley in the grounds of the museum, while local storyteller Peter Findlay will be entertaining children and families with his very silly songs at various times throughout the day.

Another creative poetry day on Friday 21 August will see poets
Jane Commane and Char March offering activities for families and visitors to enhance their visit to the museum. Come and explore the museum in extreme close-up using a magnifying glass, or create your own Brontë-style story in less than 50 words!

Monday, 13 July 2009


News release from Jenna Holmes:


An exhibition of landscape photographs by one of Britain’s most famous artists,
Sam Taylor-Wood, will go on show at the Parsonage on Friday 17 July until Monday 2 November 2009. The exhibition will be formally opened on Friday by broadcaster and art critic Matthew Collings.

The series, titled
Ghosts, was shot on the moors near Top Withens, the fictional place where Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights is set, and the novel serves as a backdrop to Sam Taylor-Wood’s photographs.

The landscape in Ghosts is bleak and unremitting, and echoes the brutal portrayal of heightened passion and suffering found in
Wuthering Heights. Traces of the novel are found in Taylor-Wood’s landscapes; in Ghosts II, two solitary leafless trees, twisted towards each other, embody Cathy and Heathcliff and throughout the series Sam Taylor-Wood’s response to the book has been to photograph the wildness of the air that inspired Brontë’s novel.

The series was originally exhibited as part of Sam Taylor-Wood’s most recent show,
Yes I No, at White Cube, London in October 2008. The photographs have been resized to fit the Parsonage and will be exhibited in the period rooms of the Brontë Parsonage Museum as part of its Contemporary Arts Programme 2009. The exhibition has been made possible with the support of Arts Council England and the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council.

“Exhibiting such powerful work by such a prominent artist is tremendously exciting. As well as showcasing the ways in which the Brontës continue to influence contemporary culture, Ghosts is also an important addition to the strong legacy of landscape photography in the area.

We hope that by exhibiting Ghosts in the place that inspired it, new layers and connections will be drawn between the work and the Parsonage, as well as offering the public a unique opportunity to see important contemporary art in an unusual setting”. Jenna Holmes, Arts Officer, Brontë Parsonage Museum

Sam Taylor-Wood (b.1967) graduated from Goldsmiths College in 1990 and has received international critical acclaim for her work in photography and film. In 1997 she was awarded the Illy Café Prize for Most Promising Young Artist at the Venice Biennale and a Turner Prize nomination followed in 1998. Taylor-Wood is at the centre of the Young British Artist movement of contemporary British art, part of the same generation as
Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. Since her first solo exhibition at White Cube in 1995, she has had numerous solo exhibitions, including being the youngest artist ever to be granted a solo exhibition at The Hayward Gallery. In 2004 she famously exhibited a film of David Beckham asleep. The work was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery and is in their permanent collection.

Solo exhibitions include Kunsthalle Zurich (1997), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek (1997), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC (1999), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2000), Hayward Gallery, London (2002), State Russian Museum, St Petersburg (2004), MCA, Moscow (2004), BALTIC, Gateshead (2006), MCA Sydney (2006), MoCA Cleveland (2008) and Contemporary Art Museum, Houston (2008).

For further information about the exhibition or arts events contact 01535 640188.

Image below courtesy of Sam Taylor-Wood and White Cube

Eighth not fifteenth

The local residents' free admission day is Saturday 8 August, not 15 August as reported recently.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Jane Eyre in French

Jon Lindseth writes:

I am compiling a census of two Bruxelles 1849 adaptation editions of Jane Eyre in French language. If any one knows of any copy other than those listed below, please let me know.

1. The first is: Jane Eyre. Bruxelles: Alp. Lebegue, imprimeur-editor. 1849. Translated by “O.N.” (Old-Nick; i.e. P. E. Durand-Forgues.) 2 v in 1. This is an adaptation of pp143;104.  It is discussed by Emile Langlois in Brontë Society Transactions Part 81, No.1 of Volume 16, 1971. It is shown in one copy on COPAC, that at Cambridge and in three copies on OCLC, at Cambridge, Princeton and Leiden University.

2. The second is: Jane Eyre. Bruxelles: Meline, Cans et Compagnie. 1849. No translator listed but now known to be the same Durand-Forgues as in book (1) above. 2 v. Pp [iv] + 269; [iv] + 284. In 27 chapters.  Not discussed by Langlois or listed in any Brontë bibliography. No copy in COPAC or OCLC. I have a copy which so far is the only one located.

Neither book shows in American Book Prices Current (ABPC online) for recorded auctions since 1978, or on Artfact or Jahrbuch der Auktionspreise.

The Bodleian has not posted their pre-1920 books on COPAC but a check of their catalogue shows they have no Jane Eyre editions, Bruxelles, 1849. The British Library has neither edition. Bibliotheque royale de Belgique and the Belgian Union Catalogue have neither. Bibliotheque nationale de France and the French Union Catalogue locate neither edition. Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the national library of the Netherlands, confirms they have neither edition; their search of the Dutch Union Catalog confirms that only Leiden University holds the Alp. Lebegue adaptation edition and the Meline edition is not found.

My speculation is that other copies will turn up in personal Brontë or Victorian woman writer collections or library shelves of people who have inherited books and don’t know the significance of what they have.

If you know of other copies of either edition, please contact me at

Monday, 29 June 2009

Help from the Lottery Fund

A news release from Andrew McCarthy, Parsonage Director:

The Brontë Parsonage Museum has been awarded a grant of £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to support a programme of exciting new developments.

The museum has ambitious plans to completely refurbish the historic interiors of the Parsonage over the next two years. This will involve researching and introducing a new decorative scheme to the Parsonage rooms, the renewal of interpretation giving visitors of all ages information about the house and the family, and installing new object cases and displays. The project will also seek to create a greater focus in the museum on Haworth’s history and the social-historical context in which the Brontës lived.

As part of this initiative there will be a programme of community activity to involve local people in the project. The Heritage Lottery Fund grant will fund stage one of the project which will involve the introduction of new interpretation, object cases and displays and the community programme of events which will begin with a local residents’ free admission day on 8 August.

The museum, which was home to the famous Brontë family for over forty years, and is where Charlotte, Emily and Anne’s great novels were written, recently completed a major refurbishment to its permanent exhibition space located in an extension to the original Brontë house. The refurbishment was the first major development at the museum in over twenty years and the new exhibition space,
Genius: The Brontë Story, which includes the treasures of the museum’s collection as well as fun interactive displays for children, has proved a big hit with visitors. This latest project will see further improvements to the museum.

Fiona Spiers, Head of HLF, Yorkshire and the Humber Region, said: "This fantastic project will really bring the museum’s collections to life for everyone to explore. HLF is dedicated to supporting projects that open up our heritage for locals and visitors to learn about and enjoy."

We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund is supporting us with this work. The Brontës are the heart of Haworth but they were part of a broader community when they lived and wrote here and the museum has an important role in reflecting that and in forging links with the twenty-first century Haworth community.

This project will hopefully allow us to work in partnership with that community to reinterpret the Brontës and the Parsonage for the next generation.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

More on the Annual Meeting

Brussels delegate Helen MacEwan writes:

One of the joys of the annual Brontë weekend in Haworth  is the encounters with the other members who converge on the village each year. They (we) are a very diverse group of people ranging from academics who have devoted their lives to researching the Brontës to local people who grew up with them, so to speak, and have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the family and of local lore. Some even have family links with Brontë connections, like Audrey Hall, who has inherited a scrapbook of Ellen Nussey's containing newspaper cuttings about Ellen's beloved friend Charlotte Brontë.

Then there are the claims made by some enthusiasts. There's the lady who claims to be a descendant of an illegitimate child of Branwell Brontë. Or the one who took a photo of the Parsonage and believes that a shadowy outline in the doorway is the ghost of Charlotte.

Of course the Brontës were keen on the supernatural so it is perhaps natural that ghosts should come up sometimes in the tales that are swapped over pints and generous helpings of Yorkshire pudding in the pub after the day's events. Have you heard the story about the London taxi-driver who saw Charlotte's ghost sitting in his cab? 

Enjoyable as these stories are, however, few Brontë Society members claim to see ghosts or dabble in any way in the supernatural! True, most of us have our passions and enthusiasms. Such as adding to our libraries of Brontë-related books. The Brontës must be the most written-about literary family in the world and we always live in hopes of picking up first editions or rare biographies in the many second-hand bookshops in Main Street.

The Brontës have always attracted creative people. In the pub I talked to the Italian cellist Paolo Mencarelli who belongs to a chamber music group called the Gondal Trio and is interested in the similarities between Emily's writings and Beethoven's music, and jazz singer Val Wiseman who's brought out an album of songs inspired by members of the Brontë family and by characters in their books.

Turning to the scheduled entertainment, one of the highlights was a concert given by Veronica Metz, who recently performed for the Brussels group, of her Celtic settings of Emily Brontë's poems.

Another was the panel discussion with novelists Joanne Harris (author of Chocolat), Jude Morgan, Amanda Craig, and Kate Walker who writes for Mills & Boon, on the influence of the Brontës on their work. Look out for Jude Morgan's The Taste of Sorrow, a fictionalised biography of the Brontës, which has just come out.

Interesting insights were provided during the discussion both by the writers and by members of the audience. For example, Patsy Stoneman said one gets the feeling from their novels that the Brontës somehow wanted to be women and Romantic heroes at the same time.

We also had talks by Juliet Barker, THE Brontë biographer, who started her career working in the Parsonage Museum. She refutes many of the "myths" about both Haworth and the Brontës perpetrated by Mrs Gaskell in her Life of Charlotte Brontë, and spoke to us about the motives that led Gaskell to deliberately distort some of the facts. But despite its inaccuracies, the Life is still a wonderful introduction to the Brontës. Our Brontë weekend in Brussels in 2010, the bicentenary of Mrs Gaskell's birth, will focus on her and we'll be exploring the ways in which she researched the material for her biography.

The revised edition of Juliet Barker's own Brontë biography is about to come out and she told us that some new facts have come to light, for example fresh evidence discrediting the story that Branwell went to London to study art at the Royal Academy and returned penniless having failed in the attempt and spent his money on drink.

The Society's annual general meeting, which all members can attend, always takes place over the weekend, with the Society's Council members reporting on developments in the past year. Financially, the Society relies heavily on revenue from visitors to the Parsonage Museum, and this year has seen an exciting revamp of the exhibition area. Every year there is an extensive arts programme. The Museum promotes works by contemporary writers and artists inspired by the Brontës and offers a wide range of educational activities.

As always, there were guided walks and happily the weather, which for the first part of the weekend was much more conducive to ghost stories round the fire than to walking, cleared up in time for our tramp over the Moors.

Next year's Brontë weekend in Haworth will be from Friday 4 June to Monday 7 June 2010. The main events are from Friday to Sunday, with an all-day excursion on Monday for those wishing to prolong the weekend.

Hope to see some of you there!

(See also the Brussels Brontë Blog in Links)

Below, concert by Veronica Metz of the band Anois in the Baptist chapel in Haworth used for many of the events:

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Sex, Drugs and Literature

On Thursday evening the new exhibition Sex, Drugs and Literature: The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë was viewed by an appreciative crowd. Branwell's life is presented in a balanced way, with recent research appropriately incorporated. We saw Branwell the impressive translator, Branwell the accomplished musician and Branwell the inspirational child as well as Branwell the drunk, Branwell the mediocre painter and Branwell who was hopelessly in love with his distant Lydia: her name appears in Greek lettering on one of the documents. It is beautifully set out and well designed, with banners by Den Stubbs.

"Branwell with his red hair would have been bullied had he been sent to school," Juliet Barker told her audience yesterday. "The only reason he wasn't sent was because his father couldn't afford it." She was speaking on her own, efficiently introduced by Jenna Holmes from the Parsonage, and without Justine Picardie, who is ill. The listeners included a contingent of younger aficionados, sitting cross-legged on the floor, an excellent sign.

Later yesterday, Director Andrew McCarthy talked about the new permanent exhibition and how problems installing it were overcome, using a slide show. Today, there's the church service, the AGM in the afternoon and  The Brontës and Romance. Tomorrow, there's music and walking - hopefully not too lashed by the Pennine weather.

Below, four of the overseas members - Maddalena and Paolo Mencarelli from Italy, Judith Watkins from Canada and Helen MacEwan from Belgium.

Full details of the weekend can be found on the Museum website at

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Annual Meeting 1954

The Writing the Century programme on BBC Radio 4 yesterday evening was fascinating on several levels. The series explores the twentieth century through dramatisations of diaries and letters belonging to what are described as 'real people' - as opposed to politicians, presumably, who are unreal. The real person on this occasion was Linton Andrews, whose diary from 1954 was brought to life beautifully by Vanessa Rosenthal. He was the editor of the Yorkshire Post and lived in Alwoodley in Leeds.

We heard about his blood pressure, something called 'purchase tax', a wedding reception at the Polish Club on the Chapeltown Road in Leeds and how he changed his black Ford Prefect for a grey Hillman Minx. We also heard about the Annual Meeting of the Brontë Society, of which he was chairman - the Society in those days was strongly connected with journalists. This took place in May (it was later changed to June, of course) and the main speaker was Rebecca West, with whom he had cocktails before returning her to the Queens Hotel.

"She was a lively companion, perhaps too lively," he commented. "The famous flowing of wit sounded too much like a dripping of malice." West had previously dined with Dr Phyllis Bentley, novelist, author of The Brontës and their World and prominent citizen of Halifax. "Isn't she pure?" said West to Andrews. "Of course, she's all for Hopkinson in his row with The Daily Sketch."  She then went on to describe Hopkinson as  "a CP member and a slimy soon as I open my mouth on the subject of the Communist Party, I am accused of being a McCarthy supporter, according to J B Priestley."

Andrews was careful with his replies. You can listen to the whole fifteen minutes, wherever you are in the world, by clicking here.

Can anyone shed any light on this Hopkinson? Or the conflict with The Daily Sketch?

Rebecca West below:

Monday, 1 June 2009

Linton Andrews on Radio 4

Richard Wilcocks writes:

A little late for a reminder, but you might catch it: on Radio 4 this evening (19.45) - in the Writing the Century programme - Linton Andrews holds forth. He was Editor of the Yorkshire Post - and Chairman of the Brontë Society half a century ago. 1954 is the year for today....

American women writers and the Brontës

A message from Rachel Page:

Monday 15 June: American women writers and the Brontës

Elaine Showalter

Chaired by Ion Trewin

One of the first essays that Virginia Woolf had published, in The Guardian when she was 22, was about a ‘pilgrimage’ to Haworth. She was writing 50 years after the death of the last of the Brontë sisters, Charlotte, but the ‘thrill’ of the bleak Yorkshire vicarage and the sisters’ small relics was vivid and powerful. Haworth had already become a place for pilgrimage not just for British admirers, but also for Americans, many of them writers.

Elaine Showalter discusses the enormous impact of the Brontës – through Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Villette and Mrs Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Brontë – on American women’s writing in the 19th century: writers black and white, novelists and poets, from Emily Dickinson to Sarah Orne Jewett, who used the lives and novels of the Brontës as inspirations for American stories. A professor emerita at Princeton and former chair of the judges of the Man Booker International Prize, Elaine Showalter has just completed a new book, A Jury of Her Peers: American women writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx, published by Virago Press in May. Her previous books include A Literature of Their Own: British women novelists from Brontë to Lessing.

The talk will be held, as usual, in the Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre at the Courtauld Institute, Somerset House, WC2, and will begin at 7pm, with doors opening at 6pm. The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception. Free for Fellows and members of the RSL; £8 for non-members; £5 concs.

Rachel Page
Royal Society of Literature
Somerset House
London WC2R ILA
T: 0207 845 4677 (direct line)
F: 0207 845 4679

Friday, 22 May 2009

Writers at the Brontë Weekend

Jenna Holmes writes:

A programme of literary events will take place in Haworth between 5 – 7 June as part of the annual Brontë Society weekend. Writers Joanne Harris and Justine Picardie will be amongst those taking part in author readings and discussions as part of the weekend of events.

The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë
To coincide with the new special exhibition focusing on Branwell Brontë, which opens at the Brontë Parsonage Museum on Monday 1 June, writer Justine Picardie and Brontë biographer Juliet Barker will be discussing the life and legacy of Branwell Brontë on the afternoon of Friday 5 June, at 3.30pm in the West Lane Baptist Centre, Haworth. As a child Branwell was considered the greatest genius of the Brontë family, but while his sisters went on to write great novels, Branwell died aged 31 after declining into alcoholism and with a string of failed career attempts behind him. Juliet Barker and Justine Picardie will be debating whether this description of Branwell is fair and discussing some of the remaining mysteries that surround him. Justine Picardie is the author of the novel Daphne, which tells the story of the author Daphne du Maurier’s obsession with Branwell Brontë. Tickets are £5 and can be bought on the door.

The Brontës and Romance
An evening panel event on Saturday 6th June will see authors Joanne Harris, Amanda Craig, Jude Morgan and Mills & Boon author Kate Walker discussing the Brontës and romance novels. Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are often described as being amongst the greatest love stories in literature and this discussion, chaired by Justine Picardie, will look at the ways the novels have inspired romance writers. Huddersfield-based writer Joanne Harris is the author of the bestselling novel Chocolat (which became an Oscar-nominated film starring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche). Jude Morgan’s latest novel, The Taste of Sorrow, is a fictionalised account of the life of the Brontës, while Kate Walker has based one of her recent Mills & Boon novels on the story of Wuthering Heights. This event takes place at 8pm at the West Lane Baptist Centre, Haworth. Tickets cost £10 and can be booked from / 01535 640188.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Zenobia the strong-minded

Sarah Laycock writes:
A newly acquired Brontë treasure will go on display at the Parsonage this half-term for the first time.

The delicate pencil drawing was recently bought by the Brontë Society from a private owner in the USA, following a successful public appeal and grants from The Art Fund and the MLA / V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

The drawing, by Charlotte Brontë, is a portrait of one of the most significant characters in the Brontës’ early writings, Zenobia Marchioness Ellrington. Zenobia is a strong-minded, independent and intellectual woman, a forerunner to Jane Eyre and other later Brontë heroines. It is thought that the portrait of Zenobia was modelled on the Countess of Blessington, who Charlotte would have been aware of through her friendship with the scandalous Lord Byron - a great inspiration to all of the Brontë siblings.

Zenobia is one of three characters all drawn on the same day, in a burst of creativity by the 17 year-old Charlotte. The other two drawings are still in private collections and are only known through reproductions, so we are delighted that visitors to the museum will now be able to see this rare and wonderful drawing for the first time.

The Zenobia drawing will be displayed at the museum through the half-term holiday before it is removed for conservation work to be undertaken. Half-term is also a chance to see the museum’s current special exhibition, Who Were The Brontës, before it closes in early June, and the newly refurbished exhibition space, which features the treasures of the museum’s collection and fun interactive displays for families. There are also puppet making workshops for children on Wednesday 26 May (bookings: 01535 640185). There will be a limited number of special, 2 for 1 vouchers available in the village, including the Tourist Information Centre, allowing one adult or child free admission to the museum when accompanied by another adult.

Contacts & Further Information:
For further information on any new acquisitions please contact Ann Dinsdale - Collections Manager on 01535 640198

Friday, 15 May 2009

Jane Eyre. Bruxelles 1849

John Lindseth writes:

I am compiling a census of two Bruxelles 1849 editions of Jane Eyre in French language. If any one knows of any copy other than those listed below, please let me know.

1. The first is:
Jane Eyre. Bruxelles: Alp. Lebegue, imprimeur-editor. 1849. Translated by “O.N.” (Old-Nick; i.e. P. E. Durand-Forgues.) 2 v in 1. This is an abridgement of pp143;104.

It is discussed by Emile Langlois in
Brontë Society Transactions Part 81, No.1 of Volume 16, 1971.

It is shown in one copy on COPAC, that at Cambridge and in three copies on OCLC, at Cambridge, Princeton and Leiden University.

2. The second is:
Jane Eyre. Bruxelles: Meline, Cans et Compagnie. 1849. No
translator listed. 2 v. Pp [iv] + 269; [iv] + 284.

Not discussed by Langlois or listed in any Brontë bibliography.

This edition may also be an abridgement, it is difficult to tell. It has 27 chapters and the
Jane Eyre, London, first, second, third and fourth editions all have 38.

No copy in COPAC or OCLC. I have a copy which so far is the only one located.

Neither book shows on American Book Prices Current (ABPC online) for recorded auctions since 1978, or on Artfact or Jahrbuch der Auktionspreise.

The Bodleian has not posted their pre-1920 books on COPAC but a check of their catalogue shows they have no
Jane Eyre editions, Bruxelles, 1849.

The British Library has neither edition. Bibliotheque royale de Belgique and the Belgian Union Catalogue have neither. Bibliotheque nationale de France and the French Union Catalogue locate neither edition.

Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the national library of the Netherlands confirms they have neither edition; their search of the Dutch Union Catalog confirms that only Leiden University holds the Alp. Lebegue abridged edition and the Meline edition is not found.

My speculation is that other copies will turn up in personal Brontë or Victorian woman writer collections or library shelves of people who have inherited books and don’t know the significance of what they have.

If you know of other copies of either edition, please contact me at: