Thursday 30 November 2023

Napoleon relic that Charlotte Brontë picked up in Brussels

When Charlotte Brontë was in Brussels perfecting her French in the mid-1840s, she was gifted a Napoleonic relic — a fragment of Napoleon’s coffin that her tutor Constantin Heger gave her.

In an article in The Brussels Times Magazine, Helen MacEwan tells the story of one of the most curious items in the Brontë Parsonage Museum.

©Brontë Society 

Monday 13 November 2023

Emily and Charlotte and … 48 teenagers from Asse

This summer we received a special request in our mailbox: a teacher at a Flemish secondary school, GO Atheneum Vijverbeek Asse, contacted us because they were interested in taking one of our guided walks about Charlotte and Emily in Brussels with 48 of their final-year students. 

Sunday 22 October 2023

Reappraising Emily Brontë

Claire O’Callaghan is on a mission to rehabilitate Emily Brontë. 

The author of Wuthering Heights has been an elusive and enigmatic figure ever since the publication of her one novel in 1847. Due in no small part to her sister Charlotte’s efforts to explain the conception of such a sui generis work, Emily has been seen as introverted and unsociable, almost misanthropic. Certainly somewhat mystical.

Thursday 19 October 2023

Wonderful, Weird, Wuthering

Wuthering Heights has perplexed readers ever since it was first published in 1847. Justine Pizzo, lecturer at Southampton University, explored what it is about Emily Brontë’s novel that continues to puzzle readers today, in a talk to the Brussels Brontë Group on Saturday 14 October 2023. 

Tuesday 17 October 2023

Michael Stewart on walking to Liverpool

Award-winning writer Michael Stewart gave the Brussels Brontë Group a delightful talk on Friday 13 October 2023 about his journey into “Brontë nerd-dom.”

Dr Stewart is the author of “Walking the Invisible: Following in the Brontës’ Footsteps” – about hikes across the Yorkshire moors and other Brontë places in the north of England – and the novel “Ill Will” – about what Heathcliff was up to in those three missing years in Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights.” He is also the creator of the Brontë Stones project, which celebrates the Brontës on the moors that they loved. 

Wednesday 21 June 2023

Report on Brontë members meeting in Haworth June 2023

As the Brontë Society in Haworth has stopped organising the June AGM weekend, an “unofficial” June weekend was organised (for the second time) for Brontë Society members interested in meeting up in Haworth. Val Wiseman and Margaret McCarthy from the London and South East BS branch took the initiative in cooperation with others including Helen MacEwan from the Brussels Brontë Group. 

Sunday 18 June 2023

‘Emily’ — taking liberties

I always find it jarring when the film concentrates on the director's interpretation rather than making the the film believable. People, manners and social behaviour were different back then. 

In the film Emily, Emily Brontë was romping around the moors and barns in a very unvictorian way! If nothing else, the weather in Haworth would make you think twice – and it took so long for them to unbutton all their clothes in the barn, I was left worrying about how on earth they would get Emily back in a neat enough manner to walk back to the Parsonage! 

Saturday 10 June 2023

Guided walk in area near Bozar with Dr Christophe Loir

The Brontë-related area around the Bozar was the subject of a fascinating guided walk by Dr Christophe Loir from the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) on Saturday 3 June 2023. In this walk, devised specially for the Brussels Brontë Group, Dr Loir talked about the rue Isabelle and its environs and the redevelopment of the area in the first half of the 20th century. 

Dr Loir conjured up the area as it was in the 1840s when the Brontë sisters were there, with the help of street plans of the period, travel guides, engravings, early photographs and press articles. 

Tuesday 6 June 2023

Just a few questions about 'Emily'

Once I saw a beautiful film about the French writer Colette. So beautiful that I watched it again when it was on television. I knew and still know very little about Colette, so I could enjoy the movie without thinking about the historical facts of her life or the international reception of her books. 

Now there is Frances O’Connor’s film Emily about Emily Brontë, a writer of whom I like to think I know a lot more. This is also a beautiful film. But I have a few questions. 

Thursday 1 June 2023

'Emily' and Top Withens

For a special reason, I viewed Frances O’Connor’s film ‘Emily’ not once but three times. It was inevitable that I should see this movie. I first read Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights more than half a century ago. But it wasn’t until 53 years after reading the book that I visited Haworth for the first time. 

Jean de Wolf with his model of Top Withens

Saturday 27 May 2023

Brussels Brontë Group and Matrimony Days

The Heritage Days have a firm reputation in Brussels, but recently there has been an addition to the program which focuses specifically on the women-centered heritage and history of our city. Since 2019, the non-profit organization L’architecture qui dégenre, has started organizing the Journées du Matrimoine (Matrimony Days), with ‘Matrimony’ signifying a ‘tangible or intangible good of artistic or historical importance inherited from women.’ 

Especially for the Matrimony Days, we have developed a guided walk in the city center that focuses on the feminist elements in the work of the Brontë sisters. 

Tuesday 23 May 2023

Frances O’Connor’s ‘Emily’ and the French connection

Frances O’Connor’s film Emily is full of surprises. This is perhaps only to be expected in a movie that the writer-director herself describes as a story inspired by the Brontës’ lives, not factually based on them – a fictional story inspired by real-life people. 

For me, one of the film’s more agreeable surprises is how much French there is in it. Not only are we startled to find Patrick’s curate William Weightman, with some difficulty, unlacing Emily Brontë’s corset in a scene of passion as they embark on a love affair; we are also taken aback to find him tutoring her in French in a deserted Haworth schoolroom. 

Saturday 13 May 2023

Review: Frances O’Connor's 'Emily'

The new film Emily is often described as “a part-fictional” portrait of Emily Brontë. When I saw it recently, I found it only partly satisfying. 

The film is directed by Frances O’Connor who, more than twenty years ago, starred as Fanny Price in a creative Mansfield Park adaptation, which departed from the novel in many ways and transformed the least popular Jane Austen heroine into a more spirited and almost feisty character while including feminist and post-colonial themes as well. 

Frances O'Connor and Emma Mackey

Wednesday 10 May 2023

Brontë Sisters Square in Koekelberg comes a step nearer!

Three years ago we reported a proposal for a square in Koekelberg to be named after the Brontë sisters. It’s an initiative of Koekelberg councillor Robert Delathouwer, a member of the social-democratic political party Vooruit, as part of the Brussels authorities’ move to have more streets named after women (the ‘feminisation’ of street names). 

The Brontë square has now moved a step nearer. On 17 April 2023 the commune’s council approved the initiative in principle, as well as proposals for three other streets in the commune to be named after women. What is proposed is for part of the Dapperenstraat/Rue des Braves (numbers 1 to 20) to be renamed Gezusters Brontëplein/Place des Soeurs Brontë. 

Friday 28 April 2023

Monica Wallace: The Irish relations of the Brontë family

Monica Wallace, a former member of the Brussels Brontë Group who has moved back to Ireland, gave the group a fascinating glimpse into the lives of some of the Irish relatives of the Brontë sisters. 

Monica’s interest in the subject was kindled when she discovered that an elderly neighbor in Ireland was a descendant of William Brontë, the Reverend Patrick Brontë’s brother, and had a carton of “silly old family stuff” in her attic. Monica dove in and so began an “amazing journey of research and discovery about the Irish Brontë cousins.” 

Wednesday 26 April 2023

Robert Logan: ‘Ireland and the Moulding of Patrick Brontë’

Robert Logan, chair of the Irish section of the Brontë Society, gave the Brussels Brontë Group an absorbing overview of the Irish heritage of the Brontë family, focusing on the experiences of Patrick Brontë before he moved to England in 1802 and how these in turn reflected on the lives of his literary children. 

The detailed discussion on Saturday 22 April 2023 included several providential relationships, a family story about a swarthy orphan and the seminal impact of the Irish Rebellion of the late 1790s on Patrick’s views and outlook.

Wednesday 1 March 2023

Interior Design in Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Belgian Novels’

Dawn Robey, a former Brussels Brontë Group committee member who now lives in France, returned to Brussels to give a talk to the group on ‘Interior Design in Charlotte Brontë’s “Belgian novels” – The Professor and Villette. In her presentation on Saturday 11 February 2023, Dawn explained how Charlotte uses descriptions of rooms to provide insights into the characters with whom they are associated. 

Through readings and commentary on numerous extracts from The Professor and Villette, Dawn highlighted the details in Charlotte’s descriptions of settings that give clues to character – contrasting, for example, the glitter and gilt of Zoraïde Reuter’s parlour with Frances Henri’s much plainer lodgings. 

Friday 17 February 2023

Roel Jacobs: Brussels in the Brontës’ time

Roel Jacobs, a leading Belgian historian, provided a great overview of the city of Brussels as Charlotte Brontë would have known it during her stay in the city between 1842 and 1844. Roel Jacobs is one of the specialists on this subject and his enthusiasm was only exceeded by the passion of Myriam’s introduction for his talk on Saturday 11 February 2023.