A leading Flemish newspaper, Het Nieuwsblad, has published an article on our Group and on the Brontë Society in the lead-up to Derek Blyth's talk on the Heger letters (on Thursday 18 October).
We are delighted by the publicity but would point out that there are a number of inaccuracies in the article (for example, we are not "hoping for funds from the Brontë Society to finance research").
Below is the link to the original article, in Dutch, and an English translation.
Group searches for traces of the Brontë sisters
First Belgian branch of the Brontë Society
BRUSSELS – People who meet to discuss the works of the Brontë sisters: this is the latest craze blown over from the Channel from Britain to Brussels. Helen MacEwan is leading the first Belgian branch of the Brontë society.
Brussels is once again displaying its international character with the formation of this branch of the Brontë Society. "In Britain, the fascination for the Brontë sisters is a national sport", says Helen MacEwan. "People are constantly doing research about the tragic lives of the Brontë family. And there is a continuous stream of TV and film adaptations of one or other of the Brontë novels."
MacEwan has founded the first Belgian branch of the Brontë Society in Brussels, where she works as a translator. It is hardly a coincidence that a branch has been set up in Brussels. Charlotte Brontë lived there in 1842 and 1843. She came here to study French and fell in love with her teacher. Her novel Villette tells the story.
During its first event, the Brussels Brontë Group organized a walk visiting several sites which were portrayed in Charlotte’s book, guided by British-born Derek Blyth.
Derek Blyth explains the worldwide fascination for the seven novels by the three Brontë sisters. "They are very personal works, with a psychological depth which somehow manages to reach every age group. My 16-year-old daughter is currently reading Jane Eyre. There aren’t that many 160-year-old books that teenagers of today still read."
The Brussels Brontë Group isn’t a collection of purists. You don’t have to pass an exam to join. Knowing the names of the three sisters is enough. And you should enjoy reading of course. With the expansion of the Group, it has set up a Reading Group, focusing particularly on romantic authors such as Austen.
Charlotte Brontë stayed in the Pensionnat Heger in Brussels in 1842-43 and fell in love with her teacher Constantin Heger, who taught her French. When she returned to England, she remained obsessed with her professor and wrote him a series of letters.
But the professor did not answer her letters. In fact Monsieur Heger tore them up. But his wife rescued them from the wastepaper basket and sewed them back together. Paul Heger, Constantin’s son, donated four of these letters to the British Museum in 1913.
On Thursday 18 October, at 19.30, in the Le Cercle des Voyageurs / Travel Arts Café, Rue des Grands Carmes 18, 1000 Brussels, Derek Blyth will talk about these letters.