Monday 18 June 2018

Annual Brontë Society weekend of events in Haworth 9-10 June 2018

Several members of the Brussels Brontë Group attended the Brontë Society’s 2018 weekend of events in Haworth, this year celebrating Emily Brontë’s bicentenary. Our group included Guy and Evy Desloovere-Van de Voorde with their 8-month-old son Arthur Branwell – his first visit to the village of the family that inspired his name!

After an invitation to join Brontë Society trustees for chat, tea and cake in a restaurant in Main St, the weekend’s events kicked off with a presentation on the Brontë Parsonage Museum, now 90 years old. Ann Dinsdale, Principal Curator, and Jane Sellars, a former Director, talked us through highlights in the Museum’s history. Ann Dinsdale is the author of numerous books including At Home with the Brontës: The History of Haworth Parsonage & Its Occupants and The Brontës at Haworth.

Wednesday 13 June 2018

Aspects of the Brussels of the Brontës: The Passage de la Bibliothèque, the Panoramic View of the City and the Pensionnat

In the Calendar articles we have already seen references to the two new buildings opposite of the Pensionnat Héger in the Rue d’Isabelle. They were placed on either side of the steps leading to Place Belliard. Many people complained that they were too high, because they made it quite impossible to enjoy the fine panoramic view of the city from that little square. At about the time of the Brontës’ arrival in the city a petition will have been worded, which in early March was handed to the city’s regents, demanding that something should be done about it. It was signed by “the elite of the artists and by the friends of the arts of the capital.” (The l’Observateur newspaper wrote about it for a second time on 10 March 1842.)

This adapted version of the 1842 cadastral plan of the Isabella Quarter (from the collection of the Brussels City Archives) shows the Belliard Steps, the placement of the two buildings (indicated by the black dots) as well as the extent of the panoramic view at the level of the statue. It is possible that these crossing interrupted lines were added to the plan as a result of the debate about the two houses. The view also depended on the height of the Pensionnat. The cross shows the wide range of the panoramic view. On bright days Charlotte and Emily would have been able to see for instance Koekelberg, and surely places quite far beyond that village, if only there hadn’t been these two obstacles. 

Based on the cross lines it is possible to give the range of the view to a much larger extent. For this an 1840 plan of the city and wide surroundings was used, for the following picture, as well as an 1853 plan to get to a good estimate of how these lines would have run.

Sunday 3 June 2018

The Brontë Brussels Calendar: June 1842

1 June, Wednesday – Weather: 8 to 23 C, cloudless

2 June, Thursday – W: 12 to 18 C, clouded, with a little bit of rain
On this day Charlotte finished writing her Anne Askew devoir.

3 June, Friday – W: 7 to 19 C, some clouds in the morning, a sunny afternoon
Abraham Dixon, in Ostend, continued writing a letter to his daughter Mary, in England, begun on 31 May: “John Taylor arrived in Brussels on Friday evening last, he & Martha arrived here on Wednesday, & yesterday (Thursday) they left for Calais, will be in London most probably this evening, in Birmingham on Monday & in Leeds towards the end of next week.”
The newspapers reported about the failed attempt to assassinate Queen Victoria, on 30 May. It was a continuing story for some time, up to the end of the trial (forced labor in Australia, the verdict was for that man).

4 June, Saturday – W: 8 to 22 C, a very sunny day

5 June, Sunday – W: 14 to 22 C, another sunny day
Both L’Indépendant and the Journal de Bruxelles had four extra pages, recording exactly what everyone had said in the final debates on the 4th in Parliament on the main part of the  proposed loi communale, the nomination and appointment of mayors. The proposal of the government – the king gets the right to do that – gets the majority of votes.
L’Indépendant reports that the people of Brussels have so far raised a sum of 11,000 francs for the victims of the Hamburg fire disaster ( 29 May).