Tuesday, 11 September 2018

The Brontë Brussels Calendar: July 1842

1 July, Friday – Weather: 18 to 20 to 13 C, clouded, rain around 4 pm, stormy wind
After the heat of June the month of July brought nicer weather: lower temperatures and a welcome amount of rain on a number of days. It started poorly though, with a severe storm. 

2 July, Saturday – W: 11 to 20 C, clouded, rain around 7.25 am, strong wind

3 July, Sunday – W: 13 to 20 C, low clouds, grey sky

4 July, Monday – W: 12 to 24 C, clouded morning, quite bright afternoon
The Journal de Bruxelles had news again about Pierre-Jean-Joseph Parent ( 13 June). A second pamphlet he had written in June about the, in his view, show trial of March, was quickly seized by the police, but the text, posted at his house at Rue de la Madeleine 74, drew crowds of interested people. Now he had issued a third pamphlet, which was quickly confiscated again. This time Parent (not related to Zoë Parent) had gone too far, in insulting judges and other high “fonctionnaires public.” Not long afterwards he was sentenced to two years in prison. 
The same newspaper wrote about a ‘petition of a great number of noble habitants of the manufacturing districts of the north and northeast of Yorkshire, complaining about the distress of the people.

5 July, Tuesday – W: 17 to 22 to 14 C, pretty clouded, rain between 12 and 2 pm, a fine rainbow visible around 8.15 pm in the southeast
L’Indépendant gave figures for June of travelers from London to Ostend. On 39 journeys 620 people had been brought to Belgium. The number of passengers had sharply increased, due to lower tariffs, caused by the fact that the General Steam Navigation Company now had to compete with a Belgian company sailing between Antwerp and London. More ships had become available, and the average number of passengers per ship had increased by more than 50%.
The newspaper also had an advertisement for a cigar and tea shop. Maybe Heger bought his cigars there, at least sometimes. Twelve days later there was an ad for another cigar shop, at the Rue de l’Infirmerie. There will surely have been more shops where one could buy cigars.

Below it a dentist ad can be  seen. Dentists often advertised. There was one very close to the statue of Belliard too.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Belgian writer Kristien Hemmerechts broadcasts a 14-part series of talks on the Brontës on Flemish radio station Klara

To kick off this academic year here in Belgium, the writer and academic Kristien Hemmerechts is giving a series of 14 short talks on the Brontës on the Flemish radio station Klara. The talks, which last around 7 minutes, will be broadcast from 3 September on weekdays at 8.15 am. More information can be found here: https://klara.be/thebrontes

Kristien Hemmerechts 

As the starting point for each broadcast, Kristien Hemmerechts takes a quotation from one of the Brontës, drawing on their novels, letters (including Charlotte’s letters to Constantin Heger), Emily’s ‘diary papers’ and the French essays written by Charlotte and Emily in Brussels. All four siblings are discussed; one of the talks is dedicated to Branwell.

Look out for the ninth broadcast, which discusses Charlotte’s attitude to Brussels and the Belgians! And in the last of them, the Brussels Brontë Group gets a mention.

Kristien Hemmerechts has written many articles on the Brontës in the Belgian press. In the early days of our Group, she wrote about our activities in an article dated 25 April 2008 for the newspaper De Standaard

Next year, on 6 April 2019, she will be giving a talk to the Brussels Brontë Group called ‘A Belgian reads the Brontës’. She says: ‘At a pivotal time in my life, I spent two years in Britain, mirroring Emily’s and Charlotte’s stay in Brussels. For all their differences I often find herself identifying with them. Their resilience, power and determination have often been a source of inspiration for me. Rereading their work and reading about them for the Klara broadcasts has only added to my enthusiasm and profound admiration. My talk will focus on what the Brontës have meant to me as a writer, a teacher, a feminist and a Belgian.’

For more details of this and our other forthcoming events, see our website:

Helen MacEwan

Friday, 17 August 2018

Emily Brontë: “I wish to be as God made me”

2018 is the year of Emily Brontë’s bicentenary. As I am a massive Emily Brontë fan, this year is important for me. I sometimes wished that I could have taken a sabbatical year off to go to all the events that have been  organised to celebrate Emily’s 200th birthday. But sadly, I have to limit my taking part in the celebrations to the BS conference in York (in September) and afterwards my annual visit to Haworth.

My husband and I go to Ireland (and England) on our holidays every year and for both Charlotte’s and Branwell’s bicentenary I have found special places to visit that were related to the travels of these Brontë siblings. For Charlotte her honeymoon in Ireland was a very good topic to explore in Ireland, for Branwell the Lake district was the selected area.  I reported on these travels on the BBG blog.
In Emily’s case that was more difficult, she was not really someone who travelled a lot. Apart from her work as a governess at Law Hill, she only travelled to York (with her sister Anne) and to Brussels (with her sister Charlotte). Both these destinations were not really a good option to write about or to visit: Brussels is for me not a special destiny to travel to as I work there (and this subject has been dealt with in great detail by our own Helen in books, articles and presentations), and the BS conference on Emily this year is taking place in York.

Therefore, I had to find something else to do during my holidays to remember Emiliy Brontë and to celebrate her special birthday. My only option left was reading the many books (old and recent ones) that have been written on Emily’s life and work. And reading I did! A lot! Even while in Ireland, Emily was not out of the picture. One Tuesday morning I went to the newspaper agent and what did I see: “Ireland’s Own” (an Irish magazine) featured Emily Brontë’s bicentenary (“The unforgettable Emily Brontë”): five pages on Emily’s life and work. Nothing new, of course, but still it made my day!

Monday, 18 June 2018

Annual Brontë Society weekend of events in Haworth 9-10 June 2018

Several members of the Brussels Brontë Group attended the Brontë Society’s 2018 weekend of events in Haworth, this year celebrating Emily Brontë’s bicentenary. Our group included Guy and Evy Desloovere-Van de Voorde with their 8-month-old son Arthur Branwell – his first visit to the village of the family that inspired his name!

After an invitation to join Brontë Society trustees for chat, tea and cake in a restaurant in Main St, the weekend’s events kicked off with a presentation on the Brontë Parsonage Museum, now 90 years old. Ann Dinsdale, Principal Curator, and Jane Sellars, a former Director, talked us through highlights in the Museum’s history. Ann Dinsdale is the author of numerous books including At Home with the Brontës: The History of Haworth Parsonage & Its Occupants and The Brontës at Haworth.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Aspects of the Brussels of the Brontës: The Passage de la Bibliothèque, the Panoramic View of the City and the Pensionnat

In the Calendar articles we have already seen references to the two new buildings opposite of the Pensionnat Héger in the Rue d’Isabelle. They were placed on either side of the steps leading to Place Belliard. Many people complained that they were too high, because they made it quite impossible to enjoy the fine panoramic view of the city from that little square. At about the time of the Brontës’ arrival in the city a petition will have been worded, which in early March was handed to the city’s regents, demanding that something should be done about it. It was signed by “the elite of the artists and by the friends of the arts of the capital.” (The l’Observateur newspaper wrote about it for a second time on 10 March 1842.)

This adapted version of the 1842 cadastral plan of the Isabella Quarter (from the collection of the Brussels City Archives) shows the Belliard Steps, the placement of the two buildings (indicated by the black dots) as well as the extent of the panoramic view at the level of the statue. It is possible that these crossing interrupted lines were added to the plan as a result of the debate about the two houses. The view also depended on the height of the Pensionnat. The cross shows the wide range of the panoramic view. On bright days Charlotte and Emily would have been able to see for instance Koekelberg, and surely places quite far beyond that village, if only there hadn’t been these two obstacles. 

Based on the cross lines it is possible to give the range of the view to a much larger extent. For this an 1840 plan of the city and wide surroundings was used, for the following picture, as well as an 1853 plan to get to a good estimate of how these lines would have run.