Rose Ann Heslip and the Living Cousins of the Brontës
Today we have a very special guest post here at Brontëana. Without further ado, here is an article written by Kate Bower, to give us all more information on Rose Ann Heslip and the modern descendants of the Irish Brontës- who are not quite so scarce as it seems. (It probably suits the mystique of the Brontes to think of their extended family fading away but such is hardly ever the case). Thank you, Kate, for taking the time to write this for Bronteana.
The commemorative event for Rose Ann was held on 6th October and the sun shone, it turned out to be a glorious day. There was a dinner held at Healds Hall Hotel attended by family members including Rose Anns’ 89 year old great grand daughter Olive Emily, members of the Bronte society and SpenValley Civic Society, and the Deputy Mayor & Mayoress and the Deputy Sheriff of Yorkshire.
“Healds Hall was one of the most fashionable residences in the district when built in 1764. It was the largest house in Spen Valley. The Hall first became famous through links with the Bronte family when it was owned by the Reverend Hammond Roberson, immortalised as the Reverend Matthew Helstone in Charlotte Bronte's novel "Shirley".”
After a very good meal and a ‘photo opportunity’ session, the party (slowly!) made its way to Dewsbury to the church of St Luke with Whitechapel. Flowers were laid on the grave and the local press were there in force – we all felt like minor celebrities for the day! Then into the lovely church for a memorial service (forgive me for saying so, but it has to rate as one of the dullest services I have ever attended). This was followed by a reading of some of Emily Bronte’s poems and a posy was presented to Olive.
Rose Ann was a very special lady I think. She was the kind of indomitable woman beset by tragedy and hardship you often find in a certain kind offiction. She was born in 1821 in Ireland and therefore lived through the famine - she must have seen some terrible things in her life.
Her parents were Sarah (nee Bronte) and Simon Collins and she was the only one of their ten children to marry. She had five (perhaps six) children only to watch them succumb one by one to consumption. Only one daughter, Emily, lived to marry. Emily, and her husband Hugh Bingham emigrated to Scotland where all their five children were born. Then Hugh moved down toYorkshire to take up work as a foreman at a gas works. By this time Emily was sick with consumption herself and her widowed mother aged over 70 came over to nurse her dying daughter.
Together the elderly lady, the sick daughter and five small children made the long and arduous journey by road from Scotland to Yorkshire. Aged just 33 Emily died and was buried at St Lukes with Whitechapel. Rose Ann stayed to look after her son-in-law Hugh and her grandchildren. What a sense of love and duty she must have had to stay in late Victorian industrial Yorkshire after the open spaces and close knit network of family and friends she had left behind in Ireland. It must have been a very grim place indeed.
“Salthorn was a deserted, forlorn place, surrounded by black pit-hills and standing amidst swamps and pools on the rough uncultivated common – at night lighted up by the lurid flames which belch from the furnaces at Low Moor and Bowling.”
Heckmondwike Herald, 24th August 1893
Eventually Rose Ann seems to have developed some kind of dementia and was admitted to the infirmary at the local work house. Full of character to the end, she climbed over the wall and made her way back home on the back of a cart on at least two occasions, according to family tradition. She lived to94. I would have loved to have known her.
Her eldest grand daughter, Mary Jane – my great grandma also died in her thirties of breast cancer, leaving three children – Leonard, Ernest andOlive Emily. But the younger grand daughter Elizabeth Anne lived to a grand old age, and I can just about remember her as a very old lady who smoked imaginary cigarettes (having been banned them by the doctor) and who frightened me very much when she once threw the ‘stub’ into the grate and asked me “Did it go in?”. I wasn’t used to grown ups behaving like this and I had absolutely no idea what to say to her! This aside, my mother and aunt tell me that she was a lovely lady, and ‘Aunty Annies’ sponge cake’ is a recipe which is still used in the family.
I have known that we had a Bronte connection for as long as I can remember. When I was around 16 I wrote to the Bronte Society to try and confirm this particular family tradition. Sadly, they were not really very helpful. They confirmed that Emily Heslip had married Hugh Bingham, but stated that they had no record of any children of the union. It was clear from the tone of their letter that, as far as they were concerned, the matter was closed.
It was only this year, when Imelda Marsden of the present day Bronte Society, ‘found’ us as the present day descendents of Rose Ann. She is researching a book on the relations of the Brontes and she is particularly interested in Rose Ann. This provided the first concrete proof that we did have a blood connection with the Brontes. After the brush off I had previously received, I wondered if Mary Jane and the others were perhaps Hugh’s children from a previous or subsequent marriage.
Because of this I can trace an unbroken maternal line back almost 250 years to Eleanor (Alice) McClory, born around 1759/60, the mother of Patrick and Sarah and the grandmother of the Bronte sisters and Rose Ann. Since I have a particular interest in womens’ history, and tracing a female line is usually quite difficult, this has been a source of special satisfaction to me - even without having famous cousins.
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Rose Ann Heslip and the Living Cousins of the Brontës
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
It is always a good idea to write things down once you have thought of something. It has taken me many years to get over my horror of writing in books. It still horrifies me, but now I have certain copies devoted to scribbling my observations in. It is hard to lose track of them this way. Previously I wrote my commentaries on separate sheets. I have lost most of these, and other times the notes loose their meaning. I often draw pictures of what I want to express in my essay as well. These are also very... interesting afterwards.
I came across an interesting note, which would have been completely forgotten if not for a quirkly turn of events last semester- and indeed, this one. The publisher I study with invited us to write poetry for a book we are publishing. The bulk of the manuscript is from another class, and it is not necessary for us to write something ourselves. I had decided not to give it a try, but today he passed around a book of photographs which inspired me so strongly that I went home and wrote two and a half drafts. I wrote them in a certain notebook I have. The first time I used it was last semester. After I took a class on the Brontes, the following semester I studied Restoration literature including a work by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. The coursework demanded a 10 research paper. At that point in the year I did not feel that I had another research paper in me. Something prompted me to suggest an alternative. I ended up writing the research paper in verse.
I had forgotten that I also jotted notes down in the process of writing the poem. When I finished writing today, I flipped back and found them tucked in the back of the poem (perhaps it was for revision? I don't remember why I wrote it). Anyway, the interesting point is the last:
'Rochester's seduction of Anne Temple'
This is puzzling for more than one reason! Not only did I not write about Miss Temple, it further deepens the mystery of just what is going on between Wilmot and Mr Rochester. Sadly, I have no more notes- or at least I cannot find them! I recall reading about her, but I cannot remember any of the details of their relationship.
Another Brontean note about this notebook of mine? I've written a few inspirational notes on the inside covers. On the back I've inscribed the 'lamps' of Monsieur Heger, although I have never given them a try. I ought to someday!
Sunday, November 20, 2005
It occurred to me that although some people have already heard of Jasper Fforde and his novel, The Eyre Affair, perhaps not many are aware that the other books in the series are likewise Bronte-infused, although not to the same degree. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, why here is the back cover copy from the British/Canadian edition of The Eyre Affair I have right here:
There is another 1985, somewhere in the could-have-been, where Thursday Next is a literary detective without equal, fear, or boyfriend. Thursday is on the trail of the villainous Acheron Hades who has been kidnapping characters from works of fiction and holding them to ransom. Jane Eyre herself has been plucked from the novel of the same name, and Thursday must find a way into the book to repair the damage.
She also has to find time to halt the Crimean conflict, persuade the man she loves to marry her, rescue her aunt from inside a Wordsworth poem and figure out who really wrote Shakespeare's plays. Aided and abetted by a cast of characters that includes her time-travelling father, Jack Schitt of the all-powerful Goliath Corporation, a pet dodo named Pickwick and Edward Rochester himself, Thursday embarks on an adventure that will take your breath away.
It's a truly delightful book. Just a lot of fun, especially for someone like me who loves intertextuality. Fforde has created, in the 'Thursday Next' series, a world where the world of fiction is as real as anything else. Where 'backstories' are created and sold in 'the well of lost plots' inside 'the book world' (our world is the 'Outland'). When these two worlds collide, Mr Rochester can save the day in more ways than one, fictional characters can try to take over England, and... platypodes (-pi, if you like) are revealled to be fictional. Escapees, you know- 'pagerunners'. Nothing that silly looking can possibly be natural.
There are three other books in the series: Lost in a Good Book, Well of Lost Plots, and Something Rotten. If memory serves, there's something in all but the last book to delight Bronte fans. Even small references are enough to make me smile (just a hint, keep a sharp eye for the Gondal reference!). You'll get no spoilers here, you'll simply have to read the books yourself!
Oh, but that's not all! The books have inspired some fan tributes at Jasper Fforde's website. One of these is a cute little tale called 'The Brontes at Home' by Jon Brierley.
Posted by Brontëana at 7:03 PM
Everyone has heard of the short hand textspeak version of Jane Eyre by now- it has been reported on several times at bronteblog for instance and google news is full of nothing else (when it comes to Bronte news). However... why hasn't anyone else caught this yet?
PlainOrfanJaneBcumsGuvunes"Thornfield. J&MrRochster(eventuly)Fal4EachOtha. Bt,DayOfWedin,ItTurnsOutHeAlredyHasAWyfInThAtikHuIsMad. MadWyfSetsFyr2Haus. YrsL8aJFyndsMrR-Blind&WidowdAftaFyr. TheyGetMaryd .
Jane returns about a year after she left Thornfield- not "years later" (for those who stumble over the elegance that is textspeak).
This took me awhile to find. It is the product of a form online which will turn any text into textspeak. (NB: 'OMG' = 'oh my god', 'LOL' = 'Laughs out loud', and 'WTF' = 'what the f*ck'. Ye be warned!). I had tried to bury it in the deepest oblivion, but it survived somehow:
"DO U THINK I CAN STAY 2 BCOM3 NOTHNG 2 U?!????? OMG LOL DO U IM AN AU2MA2N-A??!!?? OMG WTF LOL MACHIEN WITHOUT FELNGS?!??!!!!? OMG WTF LOL AND CAN BAR2 HAEV MAH MORSEL OF BRAAD SNATCH3D FROM MAH LIPS AND MAH DROP OFLIVNG W8R DASHED FROM MAH CUP??!?? LOL DO U THINK B/C IM POROBSCURA PLANE AND LITLE IM SUL3S AND H3ARTLES?!?!??!! WTF LOL U THINKWRONG-I1!!1 OMG WTF HAEV AS MUCH SU AS U FUL AS MUCH HEART!!111111 OMG WTF LOL AND IFGOD HAD GIFTAD M3 WIT SOME BAUTY AND MUCH W3ALTH I SHUD HAEVMAED IT AS HARD FOR U 2 LAAEV MA AS IT IS NOW FOR M3 2 U1!!1!1 LOL IM NOT TOKNG 2 U NOW THROUGH DA MEDIUM OF CUS2MCONV3NTIONALITEIS NOR 3VEN OF MORTAL FL3SH-IT IS MAH SPIRIT TAHTADRASAS UR SPIRIT JUST AS IF BOTH HAD PASED THROUGH DA GRAEVAND WA S2D AT GODS FET EQUAL-AS WE AER!1!! WTF LOL"
*This was actually posted early this morning (about 1 AM) but for some strange reason it disrupted formatting on Bronteana.
Posted by Brontëana at 9:51 AM
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Brontë Sisters Links
This resource is truly amazing- a labour of love comprising aproximately 3 000 links to websites, articles, etc. all about the Brontës. The list dates all the way back to March 15th, 2005! And I see that there have been 337 links added this week alone. For easy reference here, I've listed them according to their subdivisions but (as soon as I work up the courage to tamper with my links list again- doing so has deleted posts on Brontëana in the past!) the group's main page will recieve its own place of honour on the Brontëana links list.
About the Victorian Era (570 links)
About the Brontes (1230 links)
Rev. Patrick Bronte
Maria and Elizabeth Bronte
Branwell Bronte (Patrick Branwell Bronte)
Emily Bronte (Emily Jane Bronte)
Relations of the Brontes
Rev. Arthur Bell Nicholls
Friends of the Brontes
Photo is of the Bronte waterfall, taken by Martha, the list owner. I've scare seen anything more lovely! Thank you for sharing this treasure with us! :)
Friday, November 18, 2005
'Cottage Poems' by Patrick Brontë
At last! The Cottage Poems have been published by Project Gutenburg! Click here to read the full texts. They were released on november 16th. Could 'Maid of Killarney' be far behind? How very exciting! Other Bronte texts available through the Project include:
A, C, and E Brontë: Poems by Currer, Ellis and, Acton Bell
Anne Brontë: Agnes Grey, Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Charlotte Brontë: Jane Eyre, Villette, The Professor.
Il y a <<Jane Eyre ou Les mémoires d'une institutrice>>, le roman en Francais aussi. Je ne sais pas qu'est le traducteur de cet roman. C'est tres intéressante. Je pense qu'il est comme lire la roman encore- pour le premier fois. Il a un peu plus ...de melodrame. Ou plus de poésie, peut-etre. D'accord. Chacun langue chante son poésie. And, no, there is no text for Shirley! Shame, shame! (Nothing for Branwell either).
Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights.
Also: Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell: The Life of Charlotte Brontë volume one and two.
A friend of mine is responsible for Really Slow productions of Shakespeare. People volunteer to record their lines, and then this is all pasted together with the magic of the internet into... a really slow production of Shakespeare. Some of my other friends and I were then inspired to try a really slow production of Jane Eyre the Musical. The trouble here was that all of my friends are ladies (the ones who sing, at any rate). And so, we had a soprano Rochester and myself who plays St.John Rivers (also a soprano, although I can sing alto as well). I forget how Brocklehurst came out... Our Jane was a certain classicist from Nova Scotia. Alas, before we ever even took our little horrendous productioni seriously, she ran away to a religious order.
And now, she's back! And she's not a nun. She found true love... in the religious order. I am astounded and amazed, and it is beautiful. She is no longer my soon-to be nun friend who despaired of leaving behind her copy of Villette. I now have a deliriously happy non-nun friend who can have as many books as she likes- and the true love thing is rather nice too.
ps. Don't worry, Martha- I got your email! I think this deserves a post of its own :)
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
The Stratford Playscripts
I am not sure when these two plays, both by Reg Mitchell were written, but for those interested in perhaps staging a Brontëan play, information regarding obtaining reading copies of the scripts and performance rights can be found here. From the same source, here are their brief synopses:
The Thorp Green Scandal
The Brontë children were, for different reasons, unable to hold down any job. Charlotte failed as a governess, Emily as a school teacher and Branwell wasted his talents in several positions. The exception was Anne, the youngest of the family, who managed to retain her second appointment as Governess to the daughters of the Robinson family. She joined them at Thorp Green, near York in the summer of 1840. Returning home to the Haworth parsonage, Anne fell under the spell of the new curate, William Weightman, who had something of a reputation with the ladies. He died of cholera. Two years later, Branwell joined his sister as tutor to the young Edmund Roninson, but became besotted with Mrs Lydia Robinson, seventeen years his senior. They had a three-year affair before Branwell was dismissed by her husband. Anne resigned her post, writing that she had some very unpleasant and undreamt-of experiences of human nature during her five years at Thorp Green. Branwell took to drugs and drink, fell into a decline, eventually drinking himself to death at the age of thirty-one. He died in his fathers arms.
The Bell Brothers
The Brontë children were unemployed. Charlotte had returned chastened from her teaching post in Brussels, Emily had left her teaching post in Halifax, and Anne had resigned her position as Governess to the Robinson's daughters. All except Emily had suffered the pangs of unrequited love. When Charlotte came across Emily's poems she had the idea of publishing a selection of their poetry, which they did under the pen name of the Bell Brothers. Although a failure, their three novels became instant successes, taking the literary scene by storm. But success was followed by tragedy with the death of Emily from tuberculosis. Anne also fell to the disease a few months later leaving Charlotte the only surviving child of the Rev Patrick. During the publication of three more novels, she became the toast of the London literati, whilst her relationship with her young publisher blossomed, only to be later doomed to failure. Against her fathers wishes, Charlotte married his curate, Arthur Nichols.
Monday, November 14, 2005
The Phantoms of the Royal Alex?
In my ongoing quest for material on the early versions of Jane Eyre the Musical when it played at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto for its world premiere, I ran into this interesting website. Apparently some people believe the theatre may be haunted by ghosts. However, the team of investigators were only able to find one shiny thing near the stage, and a few reflections from the lamps. Thinking the theatre was haunted might make a performance of Jane Eyre quite interactive! To the right is a picture of the theatre circa 1906.
Another Janian connection- Orson Welles once appeared upon the boards there. An excerpt from their brief (and seemingly credible) history of the theatre:
Designed by John M. Lyle and commissioned in 1906 by on of the richest millionaires of the time, 21 year old Cawthra Mulock , the Royal Alexandra Theatre was to be Mulock's grand vision as the "finest theatre on the continent". Mulock purchased the King Street lot on May 8, 1906 and wasted no time in utilizing the talents of John M. Lyle telling Lyle that no expense was to be spared in the building and detailed completion of the theatre. Taking Mulock for his word, Lyle was to find the best of the best to install in the theatre. Such elegance as fine marble, hand-carved hard woods, silken wall coverings and crystal chandeliers were purchased for the project. A little over one year later in August 1907 the Royal Alexandra opened her doors to the public.
The "Royal Alex:" as it has become affectionately known, boasted a seating capacity of 1525, which was later reduced to 1497 when the seats were enlarged. It is the only theatre in North America to be deemed 'royal' by charter of King Edward VII, whose wife, Queen Alexandra; it was named for (the great-grandmother of Elizabeth II).
In my experience, Canadian Edwardiana tends to be not at all mysterious. I grew up in an Edwardian model town built by a gentleman I call 'the Whiskey Baron'. He bought all the land, and was effectively king there for a good while- giving his name to the environs. The main church there is actually named for his wife! he forbade any other churches within his dominions. I digress... the manor house is now a park, and was quite close to my home. I used to hear stories about its secret passageways, and- bestill my heart- a hidden library! I also remember being told about how an insane slayer of children lived in one dark stone building-
it was the church, actually...
It is a sad thing to see a good article go bad, to sink into absurdity. I speak now of 'Canine Familiars of Masculinity in Three Brontë Novels'. Things are going quite well, it seems, until the argument is made that the dogs symbolise male power- always- in all of the novels. The leap from dog as companion to dog as extension of power leads down some very very strange roads indeed... Mr. Ben P. Robertson sites the 'wanning' symbolic masculine power of Pilot- Mr Rochester's dog, and exemplifies this wanning with Jane's assistance with Mr Mason.
Now, if Mr Rochester should call on Pilot to give Mr Mason volatile salts and sponge his wounds... as much as I love Miss Bronte, I would have to agree with the critics saying the novel was 'untrue'!
"Do you need help, Sir?"
"All's right, all's right, Miss Eyre- Pilot has the situation under control."
Oh dear... "Rochester begins to accept Jane as a replacement for Pilot". Okay, so she's clever but can she play fetch? This is the crutial point to be decided in the third volume! Now that's drama... He also implies that Rochester views Pilot as his son. Didn't know things were quite so disturbing at Thornfield, did you?
And it could have been such a good article! It sadly also suffers from one of my academic pet peeves- that of not proving the main point but simply restating it preceeded by some variant of 'clearly,' 'surely,' 'undoubtedly' etc. It is true that the men in the Bronte novels are associated with dogs. And at least in jane Eyre we are encouraged to see this connection- Mr Rochester draws attention to this at least twice, and Jane sometimes refers to him as reminding her of a sheepdog.
Yet another area of interest for me just happens to be the dogs of the Bronte novels, surprise, surprise. This began when a friend pointed out how there seemed to be correspondences between the dog breeds used in films of Jane Eyre, and the relative instability of their masters. Usually the dogs are fearsome creatures when their masters are glaring, striding types who wear capes perpetually flapping in the wind- martial marches blaring as they walk across the lawn... Michael Jayston gets an upgrade from a dog to a wolf-hound; far more impressive looking perhaps but incredibly docile. Mrs. Fairfax leans on him at one point, as though he were a bench, while she talks to Jane. At the end of the film, as he gets up to greet Jane, he takes some of the carpet with him. Never utters a sound. There is also this:
That's Mr Rochester on the left. I wonder if Pilot is brooding too. Hard to tell.
Some more ...shall we say, pertinent observations can be made, in the case of Pilot for example. Charlotte is very clear that he is a Newfoundland dog. Being from Canada, I'm familiar with these and with their immanent identity as a breed. Newfoundland dogs are immediately associated with rescue. They have a peculiar desire to assist people- especially people drowing at sea. This association goes back at least to the period of the Brontes when paintings of black and white Newfoundland dogs- in particular- were so commonly painted by the painter Lanseer that the dogs of this colouring are now known as Lanseers. Pilot is a black and white Newfoundland. Other characteristics that are significant are that they often exhibit exactly the behaviour we see of Pilot in the novel- when unable to assist (ie, Hay Lane) they instinctually seek help from others (Jane).
From my perspective the most interesting aspects are that they demand a certain type of master. They are not easy to train- they are sensitive dogs and need to be won over to a degree. They are especially sensitive to tones of human voices. It takes a great deal of sensitivity and care to gain the loyalty of a Newfoundland. Once you have their trust, they are extremely loyal companions. In the Victorian era they were also considered ideal companion dogs for children, despite their imposing size. It does debunk, in a subtle way, the idea that Rochester is a cruel man- a view sadly common in articles I've come by.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester film to be released in North America.
This post from Brontëblog reminded me that there is soon to be a film released that marginally pertains to Brontë studies. The film is called The Libertine, starring Johnny Depp as John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. The film itself was made sometime last year, I believe, but until now it has been very difficult to track down and hasn't been released in the theatres in North America at least.
Briefly, there is much to be discussed regarding to what extent Lord Rochester provided material for the character of Edward Rochester. Clearly, the relationship isn't as profound as that of a model per se, at the very least he is his namesake. There are several important similarities, however, which do indicate a conscious decision to utilise certain aspects of Wilmot's life. Many of these are symbolic resonances: names, and places in Jane Eyre such as St.John (the name of one of the Earl's relatives), Elizabeth- the ancestress of Mr Rochester- is also idenitifed with one of the Lord's relatives, and the battle in which Mr. Rochester's fictional ancestor Damer de Rochester was slain is the same in which the first Earl of Rochester was created. During this battle (of Marston Moor), one of the generals in the conflict was named Fairfax. Other key elements, a little more profound, are the Lord's penchant for 'drawing out' ladies while in disguise, his poetry (he is best known for being a poet, and a rakehell) is often bittingly cynical about the human race- in his Satyr on Reason and Mankind, he refers to Reason as being an ignis fatuus leading into error- a motif appropriate for Jane Eyre in which he is lead into error (and much is made, of course, of the similarity between 'eyre' and 'err').
Not much work has been done on this subject so far, but it will certainly be rewarding. I've already written on it, and there really is more to it I'm sure (If I had but time!). We must alo keep in mind what Charlotte had to say in Mr Rochester's defense:
Mr. Rochester has a thoughtful nature and a very feeling heart; he is neither selfish nor self-indulgent; he is ill-educated, misguided; errs, when he does err, through rashness and inexperience: he lives for a time as too many other men live, but being radically better than most men, he does not like that degraded life, and is never happy in it. He is taught the severe lessons of experience and has sense to learn wisdom from them. Years improve him; the effervescence of youth foamed away, what is really good in him still remains. His nature is like wine of a good vintage, time cannot sour, but only mellows him.
One last interesting point is the casting of the film. The plot deals somewhat with the affair between Rochester and his mistress Elizabeth Barry, played by Samantha Morton. For those readers unaware of what is so interesting here, Samantha Morton played the part of Jane Eyre in the latest film (A&E 1997). The picture above shows her and Johnny Depp in a production photo from http://imdb.com
Friday, November 11, 2005
Wow... it's true... (ie, Jane Eyre at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto).
Yes, another post about Jane Eyre the Musical. I have finally been able to download the three CDs of demos and performance audio from its early days. And, well, I think I will be busy for quite a while, despite any notions the U of T might have against studying musicals- I defy them! So there. Besides, I already have spent a year on this. And what a year it has been- very strange indeed. I'm not truly someone who is terribly fond of musicals. I don't follow them, I have never been to a Broadway show. I do enjoy some of them, but it isn't something I normally indulge in- I'm certainly more inclined towards classical music. But this show is different. I think I found out about it when I mentioned in my personal blog how much I enjoy Jane Eyre. A new friend of mine then asked if I had heard of the show. I said something about how I knew of it, and that I should go and see it some day- thinking it was still playing in Toronto! ...When it closed there nearly 10 years ago. She directed me to this website, and so it began.
I believe all musicals tend to go through a wild, chaotic journey on their way to the big stages of the world. It is also my understanding that they never stop changing. Each venue alters, even the most seemingly perfected shows. Again, this show is different... it changed drastically, and often. That first conversation about the show laid the groundwork in my mind for viewing the different versions: the earliest- Toronto- was "like a musical version of a BBC drama" while Broadway was far less comprehensive in scope. This is a positive way to view it. I've read many of the reviews, which tend to be extremely negative: the dense, vibrant Toronto show was nominated 'bloated' and critics complained that it seemed to include 'everything from the novel'. many others simply didn't like Jane Eyre to begin with, and criticised the show on that ground.
I am meandering a little. What I wanted to say is that, now that I have heard most of these early drafts, I guess they ought to be called, I have to agree: it is like a musical BBC drama. In fact, it is better than most dramas, which is remarkable. How difficult it is to compress the novel into a 3 hour production is one thing, but how about with the demands of a live audience and staging concerns? I would think it would be a nightmare, an impossibility. But, it worked... splendidly. More than once! I have far too much to comment on at the moment, but there are a few things I would like to note now, about the Toronto production (with Marla Schaffel as Jane Eyre and Anthony Crivello as Edward Rochester):
The scenes concerning Jane's youth are excellent. It is a shame that these were seriously compressed in the later versions. The pacing is just right, while covering everything it seems: Jane sings of her reading in Bewick's before the Reeds come in, taunt her for being: ugly, poor, dependent, and ungrateful. John strikes her, she fights back and is thrust into the Red Room where she is haunted by fears. Julia Severn is singled out at Lowood- only the second time, in the history of such adaptations I think. There are problems- mostly with sections at Thornfield. By comparison with her earlier life, and her time with the Rivers', Jane's relationship with Rochester is rushed. It also seems like Orson Welles was a model for this early conception of his character- his appearances and lines sometimes are accompanied by loud, rumbling, dramatic cues.
Listen to the Gateshead scene here.
Probably the most surprising element of the production, at least from an audio point of view since this is all I have to go on, is the inclusion of John Eyre as a speaking character. After Jane reads his letter, we hear- at least- him singing:
I had a dream of a child;
tossed in the world, bereft and alone.
I wish to share with this child
the life that I've lived, the fortune I own.
And now, in my twilight years, I long to see her face...
Listen to this scene here.
Several moments made me smile, or surprised me. Mr Rochester's first entrance at Thornfield was delightful. It recalled the passage where Mrs Fairfax explains that they always keep the house in readiness because she had 'observed' that Mr Rochester was 'put out' to find the house swathed up, and a bustle of activity when he arrives. Well... now we get to see what Mr Rochester is like when 'put out':
The master is coming! Quick, air out his room!
Send for the steward, the butler, the groom!
Must I do everything by myself?
[...]open the [sluice?]
the longer he waits, the [...] the excuse!
[...] don't you know?
Look for Adella and see that she's dressed!
Get her out of her pinafore, into her best!
Send for the baker, [...]
Must I do everything by myself-
Mr Rochester: *with byronic fanfare*
THIS HOUSE WILL BE THE DEATH OF ME!!!
WHAT FATE WAS IT MADE ME RETURN to pace this [...] miserable place?
I could be in Paris, or-
And then, I believe, the partially deaf Mrs Fairfax assures him about finding him some pheasant for supper while he tries to get her to understand that he hates pheasant. It is futile. I wonder if she has gone deaf from the dramatic music? But it ends on a subdued, comic note:
[...] Just leave it to me-
I see you appear to have injured your knee!
Mr Rochester: ...My ankle, woman.
Listen to this scene here. Be sure to go to Paul Gordon's website here to hear his latest work!
Another favourite scene of mine... 'why the deuce should you journey so far? What good could it do her?'
ETA: And here is you may listen to the scene with Julia Severn.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Downloads, and more downloads...
My friend thisbeciel has been kind enough to upload the files from our favourite audio version of Jane Eyre- with Megwynn Owen and Patrick Allen.
This is quite a time for downloads! She also bought recordings from the very early days of Jane Eyre the Musical! Links for those will be up shortly as well- but one thing at a time. At the moment, I am listening to clips from a preview in Wichita, Kansas and transcribing as I go. When I finish the transcription I will probably set up a website for it, and others- since there's a lot of matierial that hasn't been transcribed before! Most of it never made it beyond this stage of rough draft, I think. But some of it was surprising. For example:
Female chorus 1: My mother took the same infection from my father and died within a month of him.
Female chorus 4: Thus was I brought as a tiny infant to the house of my uncle-
Male chorus 4: John Reed.
Female chorus 4: At Gateshead Hall.
Female servant: Excuse me sir, but there's a letter for you. And something else that you should know about too.
John Reed Senior: I'm trying to read, could you please be more discreet?
Female Servant: Excuse me, sir but there is someone you should meet...
Chorus: What do we do with her? Never even knew of her! God has forsaken this child! We give to charity with great regularity but why should we take in this child?
Mrs. Reed: How can I cope with this new hungry creature? [With eyes that look] weary and worn?
John Reed Senior: [I hear] she's the poor orphan girl of my sister. My love and protection are sworn.
I haven't yet marked which lines are sung and which are spoken, and at a few points the performers are singing or speaking so quickly that the words are mumbled and hard to make out. I've put my best guesses in square brackets.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Villette Audio Adaptation
Right here: starring Catherine McCormack as Lucy Snowe, James Laurenson as Monsieur Paul Emanuel and Joseph Fiennes as Graham Bretton! Thanks to Biedroneczka! However am I going to study for the Classics midterm now?Life is good, notwithstanding that distressing review of Polly Teale's Bronte. ;)
Saturday, November 05, 2005
Marguerite MacIntyre goes Gothic and a National Tour for Jane Eyre: The Musical?
How frustrating... I somehow managed to delete an entire post wherein I transcribed this very interesting article, sent to me by Esther. For ease of transmission I will transcribe it again, when I get over the disappointment of it all. For now, here is the image itself. Thank you for your contributions, Esther! Details about the early versions of Jane Eyre: The Musical are very difficult to find, so every allusion is significant. I have even had difficulty in finding images to illustrate the text with. I have nearly 2 000 files on Bronte related subjects and only 3 or 4 suitable images.
Marguerite MacIntyre played Bertha Rochester, Miss Scatcherd, and "Claire Dent." From what I can gather from various sources, doubling (or tripling, in this case) seemed to increase with each new version of the show. Originally I believe there were only a few doubled roles, which led to the show having a huge cast (especially since the earliest cast list I have obtained lists just about every character from the novel. Even John Eyre makes an appearance!) The doubling, then, was originally not wholly for the sake of economy. The show is designed to reflect Jane's narrative retrospection. The later versions increase this conception to the point that the show is extremely oeneric. Anyway, regarding doubling, the only positive doubling in the early versions that I know of is that the same actors played Jane's father, and Mr Rochester; and Jane's mother, and Miss Temple. A clue to why this choice was made is Jane's opening speech (sung by members of a chorus as well as Jane- / marks a change in voice.):
"My name is Jane Eyre./ My story begins, gentle audience, a long age ago/ in the home of a poor clergyman/ and his wife;/ my parents./ There is my father, as I now imagine him,/ and there my mother./ And there I am; Jane Eyre, a baby in my father's arms."
Lastly, there seems to be hope that Jane Eyre: The Musical will at last go on its first national tour, according to its creator, Paul Gordon.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
At last! JE 1973 to be released! (and Nanowrimo).
Thisbeciel's work to spread the word on the BBC version of Jane Eyre from 1973 has finally paid off. She recieved this unsolicited email today, which answers all of our hopes:
I’m writing to let you know that Acorn Media is finalizing an agreement with the BBC to release the 1973 adaptation of Jane Eyre on DVD for both North America and the UK. No firm release date has been set as that will depend on the details that are being finalized, but it will most likely happen in 2006.
Director of Program Planning
I am informed that Acorn Media often include extras on their DVDs- dare I hope for such things? Considering how acurate the production is, relative to the text (for example, we finally get to see little Julia Severn at Lowood) and in other respects (Rochester actually rides off from Hay Lane with his injured foot hanging out of the stirrup!) any little bit more would be appreciated. There are two surviving homemade copies of the show- one made in America and one in Canada. The Canadian version includes the first episode which was sliced off of the American broadcast for whatever reason. Part of the dialogue in the Hay Lane scene was also cut (in this production Rochester says 'the deuce' even more than in the novel!). In short, this version makes me giddy and blissful, and this is very very very very very good news.
(The first scene of the American version: "Hitherto I have narrated..." Adult Jane is about to break away from her life at Lowood.)
More information on the 1973 production can be found here, from the Internet Movie Database, and there are lots of images, sound clips, and information at Thisbeciel's website, which is listed on the side bar.
It's that time of year again... nanowrimo: national novel writing month. During the month of Novemeber, thousands of insane people around the world attempt to write a 50 000 word novel. I have attempted to write a "nanovel" twice, and both times I very nearly lost my mind. It caused me to resort to speaking in very short sentences. It is not for the faint of heart... nor anyone who would be pained by writing truly awful prose. This is relevant for the Brontëverse because my last year's attempt was a reworking of The Professor. It didn't get beyond two chapters, but parts of it were pleasing. Strangely my 'OC's (Original Characters) took over the story. One of them was a governess named Miss Smyth(e). She was supposed to be entirely incidental, but the moment I said so, she suddenly stole the plot entirely and I had to send her away into the backstory before she did something crazy like marry one of the main characters (or that tutor... I don't know what he was up to). She wasn't the favourite amongst my readers... It was an interesting experiment because my readers had not read The Professor and didn't know which characters were entirely mine, and which were my imitations of Charlotte's. The favourite character by far ended up being the poor 'shuffling' little spinster Miss Sedler! (I conjured her up to work for Mr.Hunsden).
Is a third attempt in store for me? Will Miss Sedler get her own novel or will Miss Smyth strike again? Well, I'll give it a try. Anyone else up for a Brontë-inspired nanovel? If I can survive until I reach chapter three, I think I will count it a great victory!
Details on Nanowrimo can be found here: http://www.nanowrimo.com