Karen Hewitt is the type of speaker that we really appreciate here at the Brussels Brontë Group. Not only is she very charming and personable in her delivery (even on Zoom), she also considers the Brussels-based Villette as Charlotte Brontë’s best novel.
On October 7, she gave a delightful virtual talk on “the English gentleman” in Villette. And even on Zoom, the Q&A after her talk was just as engaging as the talk itself.
Karen delineated what it took to be an English gentleman in the nineteenth century (too complicated to include here). Her bottom line: “There are no English gentlemen now.” (To which many attendants begged to disagree, I’m sure.)
One example of a gentleman was Patrick Brontë, Charlotte’s father, who worked hard to earn this status, gaining a scholarship to Cambridge University and then being ordained into the Church of England, one of the few avenues to gentleman-hood available if your family wasn’t already there. So Patrick Brontë was a gentleman, and his daughters were therefore the female equivalent – ladies.