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Thursday, 12 May 2022

Some thoughts on the latest Brontë talks

Monica Kendall gave us the gist of her 622-page tome – "Lies and the Brontës: The Quest for the Jenkins Family" – in her talk to the Brussels Brontë Group on April 30, demonstrating the aptness of her title. 

Monday, 2 May 2022

On lies, ramblings and the Brontës in Brussels

“Do you like the truth (between the Brontës and my family)?” asked Monica Kendall in her fascinating, interlinking presentation to the Brussels Brontë Group last Saturday, in which she discussed her journey to discover the connections between her great-great-grandparents Eliza and the Reverend Evan Jenkins, the British chaplain in Brussels from 1825 to 1849, and the Brontë sisters’ stint at the Pensionnat Heger in the Belgian capital.

“Yes” was the resounding answer, if the animated question and answer session after the talk was anything to go by!

Sunday, 1 May 2022

A real Brussels-themed morning of Brontë talks

The Brussels Brontë Group on Saturday 30 April 2022 could finally get together in a real-life venue instead of on Zoom. What a relief to see each other again, talk to friends, have a coffee and a lovely piece of cake, finally some sort of normality is getting back into our lives.

On the programme we had two talks with a Brussels theme. Very appropriate indeed. 


Saturday, 30 April 2022

'Do you like the truth? The Brontës and my Family.'

Monica Kendall, author of ‘Lies and the Brontës: The Quest for the Jenkins Family,’ was a welcome speaker today at the Brussels Brontë Group for two reasons: this was the first occasion for two years that members of the group was able to meet face to face; and Kendall was introducing us to an area of Brontë research which has been hardly touched.

She is one of an increasing number of researchers who have succeeded in finding original documents relating to the time Charlotte and Emily Brontë spent in Brussels.


Monday, 18 April 2022

'Villette' – A Novel as Unreal as Real Life

Have you ever looked in the mirror and seen one of your parents or grandparents? Or maybe you have glimpsed a stranger, who seemed oddly familiar, and realised that you were looking at a reflection of yourself in a plate-glass window? Such experiences can be oddly unsettling. They suggest we are not “quite with it” – and maybe are starting to lose our grip on reality.  


Gothic novels exploit such moments, along with ghosts and other supernatural events, to undermine rational thought. “Walls between the past and the present … [and] the living and the dead” break down in Gothic fiction, according to Simon Marsden, a senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool.

In his recent talk to the Brussels Brontë Group, In the Dead of Night, I Suddenly Awoke – The Gothic Mode of Villette, Dr Marsden argued that this sense of instability is inherent in Villette because Charlotte Brontë saw it as essential for conveying the experiences of her heroine, Lucy Snowe.

Saturday, 19 March 2022

‘In the dead of night I suddenly awoke’ – The Gothic Mode of ‘Villette’

Simon Marsden, a senior lecturer at Liverpool University and author of Emily Brontë and the Religious Imagination, has in the past explored Gothic elements in Emily Brontë’s work rather than Charlotte’s. At the Brontë Society’s 2018 Emily Brontë conference to celebrate her bicentenary, he spoke on ‘Emily Brontë and Spectrality’. 

But for his Zoom talk to the Brussels Brontë Group on 16 March 2022, Simon turned to Charlotte Brontë and Villette, examining Gothic aspects of Charlotte’s last novel and the book’s relationship to early nineteenth-century Gothic literature. 


Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Some thoughts on a member’s talk

A few years ago, Robynn Colwell was walking home through the beech forest near her house in Brussels, when she stopped to enjoy the autumn colours. She had been puzzling over the role of Charlotte Bartlett, in E.M. Forster's novel A Room with a View. The sight of the trees caught her attention; in a few moments, she resolved the conundrum that had been bothering her. 

Robynn told of what she had learned in a presentation to the Brussels Brontë Group last week. Her talk, Seeing the Wood for the Trees, was beautifully written and delivered, making for a memorable evening.

Friday, 11 February 2022

Secondary Characters That Aren't So Secondary

We should pay more attention to the somewhat minor characters in literature. That's the message from Robynn Colwell in an engaging presentation on secondary characters in nineteenth century literature, the latest of member talk for the Brussels Brontë Group. In her talk on 9 February, Robynn focused on the interesting and important roles of key secondary characters in several 19th-century novels:

A Room With a View by E.M. Forster
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James  
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë