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. 

She went into the subject of unreliable memoirs, in which biographers take for the gospel truth what their predecessors might have made up out of whole cloth. I'm reminded of the famous line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, directed by John Ford in 1962: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

Monica also showed due diligence in researching whether Charlotte & Co. travelled from Ostend to Brussels by coach in 1842 or in one of those then new-fangled Iron Horses. 

Our second speaker of the day, local-hero journalist Derek Blyth, took us on a free-style "Brontë Ramble" through mid-19th-century Brussels. 

I made a special note concerning the Lord Byron cocktail bar (Rue des Chartreux), which might prove to be of "essential historical research" interest. 

He also made mention of the fact that Brussels was once considered to be the most boring place in Europe, the poverty-stricken person's Paris, and perhaps even the last refuge of a scoundrel. 

Thanks to Derek, I now know that Charlotte and Emily are listed in the Belgian census of 1842. We learn something new at every Brontë Group talk!

Graham Andrews

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