This was the title of the first talk ever organised by members of the Brontë Society based in Brussels, which was held on 18 October 2007 in the library at the Travel Arts Café Cercle Des Voyageurs in Rue des Grands Carmes near Grand Place, a venue full of character in an old building. The library seats about 60 and was almost full. We were pleased by the good attendance and feel hopeful about the prospects for organising such events in the future. There is of course no shortage of literary events in English in Brussels but most of them relate to contemporary writers.
This being Brussels, the audience was pretty international. It included many native English speakers of course, but also a contingent of members from the Netherlands who always come to our main events, and quite a few Belgians, including a well-known novelist and academic and several university students. Thanks to the interest taken in our group by the local media, our Belgian membership is growing and we are very pleased about this.
The media coverage given to our venture was gratifying. The national Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad interviewed us and published an article on our group. The reporter was fascinated by the whole concept of literary societies, almost unknown here: "People meeting to discuss the works of the Brontë sisters: this is the latest craze blown across the Channel from Britain to Brussels". Similarly, Agenda, the Brussels "What's On", wondered whether a Brontë craze on a par with the current Austen one might be imminent, and advised bruxellois to be "one step ahead of the pack" by going to the talk: "Close your eyes and let yourself be swept along by this torrent of passion". And the radio station FM Brussel decided to get in on the act by broadcasting an interview with Derek Blyth.
Derek gave a highly personal talk about his feelings on reading Charlotte's letters to M. Heger, the unanswered questions that puzzle him and his expedition to the British Library to see them for himself (the keeper of rare manuscripts at the Library told him a Charlotte Brontë ghost story which is fairly well known in Brontë circles but probably less familiar to our Brussels audience).
We hope that this will be the first of many such events and that we will be able to attract speakers from the UK and other countries, as well as from Belgium, to come and talk to us.