Monday, 26 April 2021

Samantha Ellis and Her Enjoyable Books

Let’s start by stating that I am a big fan of Samantha Ellis and have been ever since I read her much beloved book How to Be a Heroine a couple of years ago. In this book, she explores different literary heroines and how they have shaped her life. This is often quite funny and recognizable.

Ellis successfully combines clever observations about literary heroines with personal experiences and anecdotes. One of the conclusions she comes to is that while she had always identified herself with “wild, free, passionate Cathy” Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights, she actually “should have been trying to be Jane” Eyre, a woman who listens to her own voice and makes her own way in life.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Samantha Ellis didn’t come to Brussels – but she gave us a wonderful talk

Why Anne Brontë didn’t go to Brussels and why it matters was the title of Samantha Ellis’s eagerly awaited talk to our group, which finally took place on 20 April. Afterwards, Samantha tweeted about the irony of giving a talk about Anne not coming to Brussels while being unable herself to come to Brussels. She said she was sad not to be on a Eurostar eating ‘proper chocolate’ as she headed home.

Samantha was originally billed to speak to us in April last year, Anne’s bicentenary year, when she was busy promoting her book Take Courage. Then Covid struck, the lockdown began and her visit to Brussels was put on hold. A year on, Covid is still with us and Samantha’s talk had to be held virtually. But her speaking style works well on Zoom. Her talk was just like her book – personal, entertaining, erudite, packed with anecdotes and facts. 

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Brontë-Bremer connections: Talk by Paulina Carlin

The Brussels Brontë Group is a uniquely international one, bringing together members from all over Europe who have come to live and work in the ‘capital of Europe’. Talks by members provide an opportunity for information and insights from different national perspectives.

In a presentation on 23 March called ‘The Novel that made Charlotte Brontë Fear Plagiarism Charges – Meet The Neighbours by Fredrika Bremer’, Swedish lawyer Paulina Carlin explored links between Charlotte Brontë and a Swedish contemporary of Charlotte’s, the novelist and reformer Fredrika Bremer. Today Bremer is better known in Sweden as a feminist than for her novels, but in her day they were extremely popular in English translation.

Fredrika Bremer

Her readers included the Brontë sisters, Charlotte for example telling a correspondent in 1849 that ‘Anne is engaged with one of Frederika Bremer’s tales’.

Monday, 22 February 2021

Brian Holland: ‘Angel in the House … or Angel in Heaven?’

In the first member’s presentation ever given to our group by Zoom, Brian Holland entertained us with a lively talk on 18 February 2021 entitled ‘Angel in the House … or Angel in Heaven? How the patriarchy operated in Victorian England with illustrations from the visual and verbal culture of the period.’

Brian recently completed a Master’s in Studies in Literature and Arts at Kellogg College, Oxford, and his talk was based on his Master’s dissertation (‘Fallen women and fearful men in English visual and verbal culture — 1850-70’). In a richly illustrated talk, Brian explored the double standards of the patriarchy in a period in which women tended to be categorised in binary fashion as either ‘respectable’ or transgressive.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Virtual Tour: Brussels When the Brontës Were Here

The Arts Society Brussels enjoyed a very special tour of the city last week, as Helen MacEwan, founder of the Brussels Brontë Group, hopped on Zoom to bring alive, at least virtually, the experience of Charlotte and Emily Brontë when they were in the Belgian capital in the first half of the nineteenth century.

It was a delightful tour of Brussels in the early 1840s, illuminated with photos and paintings, as well as excerpts from letters and Charlotte’s novels, to guide the audience through the sisters’ experience on the Continent just over a decade after Belgium gained its independence.