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Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Religion, learning and expectations for women – Dinah Birch

Dinah Birch, Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool, gave a most stimulating and wide-ranging talk on Victorian education systems and the position of women in society when the Brontës were growing up. 

She took in religion, school curriculum and the expectations for women, among other topics. What makes a good school, a good teacher? Should education develop the full potential of the child or train them to fill their position in society? Victorian society expected women to work for a wage when only a few decades earlier they were supported by a father, brother or husband.

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Education, independence and self-improvement: Brontë talk

For the Brontës, education was not only a way to gain financial independence, but more importantly a way to improve oneself. That was one of the main messages of the very interesting talk last week by Dinah Birch, Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool, to the Brussels Brontës Group.

It all started with their father Patrick. Eldest son of a large family in County Down in the north of Ireland, he was fond of books. It seems suprising to me that he took to the written word, because we are always told that his father Hugh was a great storyteller, a man of the spoken word. Patrick Brontë was ambitious and determined and seems to have met the right people to help him get to Cambridge University. His hard work at university brought him an ordination in the Church of England. And eventually he made his way to Haworth.

Monday, 18 October 2021

Talk by Dinah Birch: Education and the Brontës

Our 2021-22 season of talks got off to a magnificent start with a Zoom talk by Dinah Birch on 14 October titled Education and the Brontë family: Principles and Practice


Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Book review: 'Lies and the Brontës: The Quest for the Jenkins Family' by Monica Kendall

A new book shines the spotlight on the couple who recommended the Pensionnat Heger to the Brontës and found Charlotte and Emily difficult guests at Sunday lunches in their home in Brussels.


Monday, 17 May 2021

Is Isabel Greenberg’s graphic novel 'Glass Town' fanfiction?

During Isabel Greenberg’s talk to the Brussels Brontë Group about her graphic novel Glass Town, one of the members asked her a question about whether she thought Glass Town would qualify as “fanfiction” of the Brontë works.

The jury is still out on where to draw the line on what is fanfiction and what isn’t, but the question made me reflect about why I related so much to this book; it has the spirit of fanfiction in it – especially if we think about the young Brontë siblings as early fanfiction writers.  

Saturday, 15 May 2021

Following the Brontë sisters in Brussels on the Totemus app

Listening to the Klara-podcast “The Brontës”, I discovered that the writer of my favorite book Jane Eyre lived in Brussels for two years. Yes, Charlotte Brontë, but also her famous sister Emily, stayed in a Pensionnat in Brussels! I had to find out more and contacted expert Helen MacEwan from the Brussels Brontë Group. Ordered her books. And did a Brontë walk in Brussels.

I will share with you my experience with the Brontë walk on the Totemus app.

Friday, 14 May 2021

In the footsteps of the Brontës in Brussels – on an app

The Belgian app company Totemus has just launched a treasure hunt (‘chasse’) in the form of a historical walk in Brussels on the theme of Charlotte and Emily Brontë’s stay in the city in 1842-43. As far as I know, this is the first time the Brussels tourist services have launched a Brontë-themed walk. 


Participants have to fill in the answers to questions as they follow the route. The idea is not just to tell participants about the Brontës in Brussels but to highlight some of the city landmarks that existed in that period.

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Isabel Greenberg on the Brontës and their fantasy world

Isabel Greenberg took the Brussels Brontë Group on a fascinating journey through how she created her inspired graphic novel Glass Town, an exploration of the young Brontës’ fantasy world that mixes fiction and memoir.


Her book is an incredible blend of Brontë biography and the imaginary realm that the siblings created as children in the first half of the nineteenth century – a very apt approach for a work about the young Brontës, who lived so much in their fantasy world as children.

Isabel, an award-winning graphic designer and illustrator, was just as excited about how the Brontë children created their fantasy world as by the imaginary world itself.

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.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Helen MacEwan to talk on Brontës at Arts Society Brussels

Helen MacEwan, founder of the Brussels Brontë Group, will give a talk by Zoom for The Arts Society Brussels next week. 

Helen will take her audience on a virtual tour of Brussels at the time Charlotte and Emily Brontë were in the city in the early 1840s.