Wednesday 9 January 2013

Paying homage to Martha & Julia

On 22 November a memorable event took place. For the first time a ‘Brontë’ delegation paid homage to Martha Taylor and Julia Wheelwright, the two Yorkshire friends of Charlotte and Emily who died in Brussels in 1842.

Martha’s death especially was a big loss for Charlotte. She quite often visited her grave in her second year in Brussels. That cemetery has long gone, and it was only recently that the reburial place was located.

Sue Lonoff and I had arranged to meet that day in (my beloved) Brussels. It was my first visit to the city since I was in America. It was there that I heard about the discovery. Renate Hurtmanns had solved the problem that had bothered me for some 20 years!

Renate herself joined us at Central Station, for the bus to Evere cemetery. And a few stops before reaching the destination Helen joined us too. At a flower shop close to the entrance we bought a bunch of red and white roses. The weather was lovely, it was a perfect late autumn afternoon, especially for a cemetery visit. And there was the additional pleasure of walking on or through tons of fallen leaves.

The remains of those buried of the old Protestant cemetery (those without a ‘concession’) were anonymously, without gravestones, reburied along a 150 meter stretch of the boundary wall on the east side of the cemetery. Certainly a nice place to lie buried. Somewhere in the middle the flowers were laid by Helen and Renate, for the girls who died 170 years ago. Charlotte would have been pleased no doubt.

Eric Ruijssenaars