Monday 4 April 2016

Celebrating the bicentenary of Charlotte's birth

In the run up to the events celebrating the bicentenary of Charlotte's birth, we will be publishing a range of blogs written by our members and others to whet your appetite.

There is so much going on on the subject of Charlotte Bronte at the moment, that it is hard to find the time to follow everything but, if you have some time on your hands, here are some brief comments on a few things that I have seen that may be of interest to you.

First, both BBC Radio 4 and French radio have recently aired adaptations of Jane Eyre. Both are good and you can take your pick as to which language you prefer or try them both.

The links are as as follows:



Then, if you would like something else to listen to, BBC Radio 3 recently ran a series of 15 minute episodes called "Yours sincerely, C Bronte" discussing  what some of Charlotte Bronte's letters reveal about her identity. These are all fascinating. In particular, Claire Harman gives two talks: one on Charlotte as a governess and the other about her time in Brussels and the famous letters to M Heger. Another of our past speakers, Lyndall Gordon shares her pleasure in Charlotte's correspondence with the Poet Laureate, Robert Southey, to whom Charlotte had sent some of her poems and who deemed it wise to quash her ambition. Charlotte's reply in which she says 'In the evenings, I confess I do think, but I never trouble anyone else with my thoughts' and ends 'I trust I shall nevermore feel ambitious to see my name in print; if the wish should arise, I'll look at Southey's letter, and suppress it' is a tour de force. The five episodes are available here:


Lyndall Gordon also has an article, "Reader, I stalked him" in this month's New Statesman in which she reviews Claire Haman's biography "Charlotte Bronte, A Life"; "The Bronte Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects" by Deborah Lutz, and "Reader I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre" edited by Tracy Chevalier". In this article, Lyndall Gordon writes that 'Brussels has emerged as as a current site of inspection' and she refers Eric Ruijssenaars' book "Charlotte Bronte's  Promised Land" which she says was 'ably followed by Helen MacEwan with detailed topography and vivid detail about sleeping arrangements and food - pistolets for breakfast and pears from the garden cooked in wine - in "The Brontes in Brussels" (2014)'. Gordon also notes that 'MacEwan leads a vibrant Bronte society
in Brussels which offers tours of the sites ...".'

On the books in question, Gordon admires Harman's biography describing it as 'graceful, intelligent and meticulously researched' - the 'dominant story is about an obsession' that of Charlotte's for Monsieur Heger. Gordon notes that 'Brussels is again a crucial site for Deborah Lutz whose scrutiny of nine objects ... includes a chapter on the letters to M Heger'. Finally, Gordon describes the stories inspired by "Jane Eyre" as 'terrific' which speaks for itself!


Of course there is plenty going on at Haworth which you can follow on the website as usual and the National Portrait Gallery in London has an interesting exhibition running until 14 August, when it transfers to New York, including items on loan from the Haworth Parsonage:


And if you've seen all the usual stuff before, a more quirky homage to Bronte, which also includes some items on loan from the Parsonage, which has been curated by the artist Charlotte Cory can be found at the John Soane Museum:


If you have heard or seen other interesting items about Charlotte Bronte, please share them with us. With so much going on, there is certainly no reason to be bored this April.

Dawn Robey

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