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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Hardcover JE Reviews and An Up Coming Production of Jane Eyre the Musical

In a previous post, I directed those interested in buying an edition of Jane Eyre to a post at another blog. The same blog also has a review of hard cover editions of JE, which can be found here.

And just a reminder, Jane Eyre the Musical is soon to open at Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas.

Winter Dinner Theatre:Jane Eyre
Book and additional lyrics by John CairdLyrics and Music by Paul GordonBased on the classic novel by Charlotte Brontë

This sweeping story of love and suspense, with universal and timeless themes, is a musical feast your heart will never forget. Faithful to the cherished novel, Jane Eyre is thrilling from the start to the tearful, triumphant ending. A recent Broadway favorite, the musical features songs such as "Forgiveness," "In the Light of the Virgin Morning" and "Brave Enough for Love." Don't miss this inspiring family treat.

Feb. 16-18, 24-25, March 3-4, 2006
Fulks Theatre
For tickets, call 325-674-ARTS (2787)

Googling for Brontes

I stumbled upon this website this evening. It is called Googlism. You type something into the search engine and instead of getting a list of websites, it tells who what your query "is". I am sad to report that there are not enough websites about Anne and Branwell to bring up anything whatsoever, but here are some interesting and sometimes hysterical things I dug up (read to the end, and tell me you didn't laugh out loud at the last one!):

Emily Bronte is...

emily bronte is imho the greatest poetess who ever lived
emily bronte is very concise
emily bronte is a perfect little "spinster"
emily bronte is discovered by a policeman and brontefan
emily bronte is one of many victorian novelists to revere the dog
emily bronte is an almost indescribable person
emily bronte is a “peat person
emily bronte is the story of catherine earnshaw and heathcliff
emily bronte is a copy cat
emily bronte is not mine and is used without permission
emily bronte is doing the twist with kipling
emily bronte is laid out on the sofa in a light doze
emily bronte is heathcliff

Charlotte Bronte is...

charlotte bronte is a dog
charlotte bronte is truly one of the greatest writers who ever put a pen to the page
charlotte bronte is a fine example of how a person can rise amidst turmoil and personal tragedies
charlotte bronte is sheer genius especially with the work jane eyre
charlotte bronte is a better writer than our entire honors class combined
charlotte bronte is slaughtered in this cold
charlotte bronte is the 1970 edition which follows the original
charlotte bronte is mentioned often here
charlotte bronte is undistinguished
charlotte bronte is my all

Jane Eyre is...

jane eyre is more concentrated than baa baa black sheep
jane eyre is sometimes available for bookings on short notice
jane eyre is a story of hunger
jane eyre is the ultimate poisoned chalice
jane eyre is perfect but she is fictional
jane eyre is representative of the western civilization
jane eyre is not a byron
jane eyre is a past version of supermarket romance novels
jane eyre is a psychological romance

Mr Rochester is...

mr rochester is older
mr rochester is sponsored by the royal victoria and bull hotel
mr rochester is still married to mr mason's mad sister
mr rochester is sharp and witty

And now for my personal favourites...

Heathcliff is...

heathcliff is marked by her characteristic flippant indifference
heathcliff is a boy or a girl but he definitely has a young family
heathcliff is an irc operator
heathcliff is not a disaster in the league of bernadette or the fields of ambrosia
heathcliff is sent to an obedience school
heathcliff is now a recovered rabbit and back to his usual bunny habits

A New Year Full of Bronte

As we prepare for the new year, it seems that more than a few people are turning their attention to the Brontes, in particular to Jane Eyre but also Wuthering Heights. Several bookish bloggers have prepared, instead of a list of resolutions for the new year, a reading list. Several of these include JE and WH. Others have chalked up the Brontes on their list of books read in 2005. Still others take this liminal time to reflect on change, and this brings to mind Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. I can certainly see why the novel would be fit for such reflection although it had never occurred to me before. Although many many people are apt to forget it, JE is not only a romance. I recomend reading Eva's post, New Year, New Meaning?

Also, we should not forget that there is quite a lot for us to look forward to in the new year!

-A possible new BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre starts production?
-Release after more than thirty years of the BBC's 1973 version of Jane Eyre.
-Release of Anne Bronte's Tenant of Wildfell Hall on DVD.
-Biopic 'Bronte' possibly to begin production?
-University courses.

And, quite exciting for me: Publication of 'Jane Eyre'on Stage, 1848-1882: an Edition of Eight Victorian Plays Based on Charlotte Bronte's Novel

Looking for a New Copy of Jane Eyre?

I know that you all have a copy of Jane Eyre already, right, but you can never have too many editions. Or maybe you don't have a copy after all, and don't know which one is right for you. This post is just what you need to sort out the difficulty. Four editions of Jane Eyre are examined from the type face and paper texture down to the critical goodies. The editions are the Norton Critical Edition, Penguin, Oxford World Classics, and Modern Library. I do agree with her conclusion- the Norton edition is superb as is the Oxford World Classics edition. Admittedly I don't have the other two for comparison. I have many many others, however, and I enjoy the Norton for its 'critical goodies.' It is also the only book I own in which I write- I am slowly trying to overcome a horror of writing in books. This one already had writing in it, so I feel less terrible about jotting down notes.

I am not in a position to review the other Bronte novels in this way, as much as I would like to. If anyone else wishes to do so, let me know if you would like to write a post. Otherwise you might have to wait until I can ransack the university library.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Too Bronte, not Bronte enough!

What [sweet] madness is this? This year has been ridiculous for reviews criticising films and plays for being too Bronte or not Bronte enough, when in fact the Brontes have nothing at all to do with it.

Jasper Fforde has a unique explaination for where Heathcliff acquired his fortune: he made in starring in Hollywood films. Somehow, I don't think this is what he meant. Yes, this time, King Kong has been Bronteised... I don't mean the film, I mean the giant gorrilla. Apparently he gives off a faux air of Heathcliff. I haven't seen the movie but, I... this is just silly! (surely? ...)

Much ado was made over the excess of 'Bronte' in the recent film of Pride and Prejudice. I would like to say that it isn't Bronte- it's Romanticism. And yes, Romanticism and Jane Austen ne'er should mix. I did see this film, and I was at least pleased that Mr Darcy didn't propose to Elizabeth under one of the elms- which I feared would happen. That said, I really did just write 'Heathcliff' instead of 'Mr Darcy' so perhaps it was subliminal Bronte after all! To those who say he's just Mr Rochester is disguise, I ask you when you've ever seen Mr Rochester walking around outside without a cravat, hm? Shameless...

(for much and more raillery besides, drop by Austenblog).

The list goes on and on... Previously on Bronteana I responded to claims that Memoirs of a Geisha was like Jane Eyre, and now the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical 'Woman in White' has been railled against for not being Bronte enough.

I would like to think I know something about the Brontes, and yet, I have no idea what is meant by a film being 'too Bronte' or 'not Bronte enough'. Do they mean Romantic, or Gothic? Why not just say 'Gothic'? I suppose that 'Romantic' is too much associated with 'romantic' to be of any use. Is Bronte, then, a modern short-hand for Romantic? (I've never heard someone say a work is 'too Wordsworth!'

Thursday, December 29, 2005

'The Circle of Affection' and Duncan Campbell Scott

Duncan Campbell Scott,1862-1947, was born in Ottawa, Ontario Canada. He was educated in various schools in Ontario and Quebec and at Stanstead College, Quebec. He was a civil servant in the department of Indian affairs (1879-1932). He became a clerk at the age of seventeen. He was Deputy Superintendent from 1913, until 1923, when he became Deputy Superintendent General for the Federal Government. His responsibilities included representing the Federal Government in intergovernmental negotiations with the aboriginal peoples in landholding agreements and establishing treaty settlements.


Duncan Campbell Scott was also a Canadian author of poetry and fiction, and published many volumes of each, he along with Archibald Lampman, Sir Charles G.D. Roberts and Bliss Carman, is considered one of the Confederation Poets. At the age of 31 Scott began publication with “The Magic House and Other Poems” in 1893 also “New World Lyrics and Ballads” in 1905, “The Green Cloister” in 1935. Much of his discussion revolves around Scott’s sympathetic Poetic treatment of Native Culture versus the severe policies of the department he headed. Many of his narrative poems, such as “The forsaken,” deal with Native American life. Scott is also known for his devotion to the career of his friend, Archibald Lampman. Scott was involved in the publication of several of Lampman’s books. He also wrote short stories.

-from a biography.

He also loved Emily Bronte.

In his work 'Wayfarers' he visits places where authors lived who made deep impressions upon him. The opening lines declare his love for his subject:

I PROPOSE TO ASK THE READER to visit, with two wanderers, a few of the places that interested them, where the associations are with spirits that can never die, with minds that are as vital as life itself. The sense of obligation lends to these scenes the desire to acknowledge a debt that can never be paid.

In part five he visits Haworth:

Let those who come to Haworth, the home of the Brontes, come to it through sunshine. Let them leave the plain of East Yorkshire from magnificent York and go toward the higher plateau at Harrowgate. If the gods are kind to them they will have brilliant sunshine and be reminded of the clarity of Canadian skies and the rolling, unconfined fields of North Sasketchewan where the wheat is ripening. At Knaresborough they will find nothing to remind them of the West. Over the deep glen through which the river Nidd flows, dark and silent, under the ruins of John of Gaunt’s Castle a change has come into the sunlight. It may be just as bright but it falls on a landscape which takes its interest from associations that crowd out any thought of a country innocent of events greater than sowing and reaping.

He has come for one reason- Emily:

One is prone to think of Haworth as always in shadow and mist, the very center of storm. The accent of much of the Bronte literature is on that aspect of nature. Even on this day in August the clouds press down on the moors and the vista is diminished to a glimpse of Keighley through mist and its own smoke. These two visitors come to the home of Emily Bronte; others may think of the three sisters and pay due homage; to us Emily alone is the source of the faithful wonder and admiration which leads us to her shrine.

Yet he cannot escape another Emily, the other 'great woman poet'- Emily Dickinson:

Thinking of her genius one inevitably thinks of that other Emily, Emily Dickinson, and our two great women poets are joined in thought, so dissimilar yet so in spirit akin and almost “equal in renown.”

I cannot refrain from comparing this dour landscape with the little, gentle space of earth that Emily Dickinson looked upon in 1848, the year of Emily Bronte’s death. There the fruitful fields of Massachusetts were outspread holding the village of Amherst, and at the center of Amherst life was the spacious dwelling of the Dickinsons. It was planned on the generous New England scale and today it maintains that tradition of dignity in domestic architecture. Around the house was an intimate garden, farther away were fields which could give Emily the feeling of an estate, and the countryside was familiar to her. But when she was in the early power of understanding and interpreting the larger scene, the world was drawn close about her by her own will; her outlook was restricted to the trees, the paths and the flowers of this garden. In 1870 she could reply to an invitation by the refusal absolute, “I do not cross my father’s ground to any house or town.” In Massachusetts violent storms break and there is deep cold and heavy snow; the reader traces these changes in Emily Dickinson’s letters and poems; they play only a small part in the general fruitful serenity of the State. In 1886, the year of her death Amherst could still be called a ‘village’ and the farms came to its margin. When I visited it in 1929 and 1930, forty-three years had made it more than a town. The house and garden had not changed; flowers from this soil and these trees had been companions, one source of her deepest thought on life and nature. I recalled her admiration of Emily Bronte, ‘magnificent’ among all the modern writers she was familiar with, and remembered the words of that immortal poem of hers read by Col. Higginson at the funeral. Both my visits to Amherst were made in the full sunshine of July and September, and in the summer there was a vireo hidden in the garden preaching to a heedless congregation of leaves. How then could I refrain from comparison between that light and song with this shadow that is soundless.

The rest of the work can be read here: Circle of Affection and Other Pieces in Prose and Verse.

Graduate Seminar in Brontë Disseminations

It is too late for me, at any rate, but perhaps it will be useful to those like myself who are desperately seeking study of the Brontës. The University of Dalhousie in Halifax, Nova Scotia are running a graduate seminar this year (2005-2006) called Brontë Disseminations. If only I did not have to stay here this last year... this would have suited me exactly! But it was not to be. Still, it looks like this university's English department has more Brontë study than anywhere else in Canada. Be sure that I will be applying there shortly!

There is so little on the Brontë front in Canada that I really must leave that there. However, I admit that it seems appropriate to me that it is Halifax that seems to be the hub of Brontë studies. I believe in coincidence. I will take the liberty of telling this digressive story because it illustrates the very real aspect of the coincidence quite nicely and in a vaguely Janian manner, coincidences being one of the major 'flaws' of the text, and this story being all about finding cousins in incredible circumstances.

Several years ago, I began some serious research into my family history. I traced one branch back to Nova Scotia, where they were settled by the British government in the 1750s. They arrived first in Halifax, then went on to found the city of Lunenburg nearby. They are by no means numerous or famous, just one of many old families. And so, I went to Nova Scotia in order to gain more information and to see some of the places connected with them. I had never set foot in the province before, and knew no one but my mother demanded that I find actual relatives and not only graves and names on paper.

No problem, right? One week, in a strange land? Of course I can find relatives. I ignored the imperative and went on with my studies. At the provincial archives, on the first visit, I met someone in the elevator. She later helped me figure out their catalogues. When she heard that the name I was researching was Boutilier she told me that a book was just published on local families, including mine and moreover that the book signing was the following day, and she gave me directions to someone's house.

So, we turned off the highway and up a long gravel road running into dense forest. We didn't get far before a couple leaped out of the forest and stopped our car. "Oh, we thought you were someone else" they said. It was the place, though. We walked over but no one came to the door. "Hello!" I shouted. A voice from the other end of the house told us to come in. I walked into the livingroom and saw an elderly woman sitting on a sofa, drinking tea- a guest for the book signing. She looked up and smiled at me. "Hello," I said. "I'm a Boutilier." "So am I." She said. She proved it in the course of our talk by referring to my great great great grandparents Serena Charlotte and William as 'Aunt 'Rena and uncle Billy'.

To make a longer story shorter, we travelled on to Lunenburg where I saw the church where my ancestors were married in 1760 (my friends tease me because it is called St.John's...). When I saw it, the most recent renovations were from the 1850s I believe. Within two months it was burned to the ground by arsonists.

In Halifax itself, there are two streets and a suburbed named after my family. And now, the university there is only one with a vibrant study of the Brontës! I suppose I should have known. ;)

Brontë gifts and Random Acts of Brontë

What do you get for the Brontë enthusiast who has everything? How about a reconstituted marble or bronze resin portrait medallion of Charlotte Brontë?
I think Charlotte would be amused at her portrait looking so fiercely across at that of Byron (where's Thackeray, hum? ...Or is he too ugly to have his face up on someone's faux marble wall decoration?). I'm not sure what I would do with a reconstituted marble or bronze resin portrait medallion of Charlotte. Strangely, enough, the idea of surreptitiously affixing them to the local libraries comes to mind (they have such things for Dickens and several American authors, I've noticed...). When I was an art major they would call such acts 'guerrila art'. I prefer random acts of Bronte. Now, there's an idea! ;)

Now I definately have to initiate official 'Random acts of Bronte' in my hometown to aid in the struggle to raise their profile here. Several local poets are involved in a similar Canada-wide project at the moment. I took part in it, randomly which is the point more or less. It is called Random Acts of Poetry. Poets travel the land, stopping random people they meet and reciting poetry to them. I had a poet recite a poem to me, and then recieved a signed book of poems for being such a good sport. Why not go, all of you- all of us, and do the same with your favourite passages from the Bronte novels? With entire poems? I really must do this- it is my calling I think ;) I feel a website coming on- I can see it now...

Got a little off topic there. I also bring to your attention this lovely CD with music from The Brontës ballet! You can order it directly from this link!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Northern Ballet Theatre's Wuthering Heights

Another post about a Brontean production from a few years past- and another dance production! This time we have Wuthering Heights, starring Charlotte Talbot as Cathy and Jonathan Ollivier as Heathcliff, produced by the Northern Ballet Theatre. This is the first time I have heard of Emily Bronte's novel being produced as a ballet but, I never can tell. Often something even older turns up. Unlike other productions, this one still has an active website with a fair bit of information, including a long synopsis, reviews, an e-flyer (with probably even more great finds), and even wallpaper for your computer desktop (in two different sizes: 800 x 600 and 1024 x 768) , as well as many colour and black and white photographs! Here is one of the reviews, to give you a sense of the show's reception:


"Nixon has created a narrative ballet where the story is clear, the characters come through the choreography (which doesn't shun emotional values), the music sets a mood (it's tuneful as well) and the dancers have some difficult work to do establishing their roles as Nixon challenges them at every turn. Jonathan Ollivier expertly expresses the glowering moods of Heathcliff....I particularly enjoyed Desiré Samaai's empty-headed Isabella...The scene where she eventually catches Heathcliff's eye - is quite erotic in its intensity. ..What makes this two-acter so palatable is the dramaturgy of Patricia Doyle, the pleasant windswept score of Claude-Michel Schönberg, complemented by Nixon's choreographic structure.....NBT has a winner"

Jane Eyre in the world of Modern Dance

I could not find much about this production of Jane Eyre from the Axis Dance Company, other than a brief description and a video clip, both from the Axis Dance Company website. The company "has created an exciting body of work developed by dancers with and without disabilities. They are in the forefront of paving the way for a powerful and inclusive dance form, “physically integrated dance”. The piece called "Jane Eyre" (1999) lasts 25 minutes. Choreography by Joe Goode, music by John Lurie, Simon Fisher Turner, Philipp Schatz. It is described this:

Two standing female dancers dressed in white nightgowns stand on the backs of the wheelchairs of two dancers dressed in evening coats. They move slowly, naturally and quietly around each other in the space. There are many leans and lovely lines made with the chair dancers and the two ladies in nightgowns. Pastoral feel.

A video clip is available for viewing and downloading here. (I believe you can save it by right clicking this link). The clip shows not four but five dancers. There are about three main movement sequences, all of which are very interesting to consider. Modern dance is one of the most poetic and ambiguous media we have today- and often the most deeply layered. These are merely my first impressions on the work.

The music- from which the 'pastoral feel' comes is mostly a soundtrack of birdsong. In the first movement, the 'two ladies in nightgowns' (who might encourage comparisons with Jane and Bertha although not necessarily), climb onto the top of the wheelchairs of two men- to rest nearly on their heads.

The pose is abruptly dropped- one of the women moves away briefly before returning. Her partner leans forward, resting his head into her lap. The other woman, meanwhile, has knocked over her partner's wheelchair and is dragging it (and him) across the stage, from a crawling position. This sequence ends with the first woman leaving once more, and the second woman laying down near her partner's head.

The third dancer arrives. The third dancer pairs up with the 2nd woman, and all move backwards in symetrical formation to recreate poses similar to the first movement, only this time with the ladies leaning together away from and dancers in wheelchairs leaning towards the fallen partner who has stopped moving entirely. At this point intrumental music comes in- a slow woodwind.

For the last moment of the clip, the ladies drop to the stage and all turn to face the fallen partner. There's still nearly half an hour of the dance still to go- I cannot imagine how it would play out, and what it all means. There is no news on the piece being performed recently, but perhaps news of it will turn up and then we can take a better look!

This is not the only Brontean dance piece; there has also been a ballet about the lives of the Brontes (a post about which is coming up shortly).

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Jane Eyre Graphic novels? Or "Up, up, and away!"

As promised, here are a few scans of some of the Jane Eyre comic books I have. Most of them are questionable, as I said. This is the first page of the Classics Illustrated edition- which is by far the most widely known and appreciated one. However, I hope that something seems amiss to you, dear reader... Never fear, this edition I have comes with a brief 'notes' section in the back where it explains that, yes, Jane and Mr Rochester are a little glamorised. It doesn't explain Jane's super powers though:

To the right we see Jane- barefoot on the beach with St. John Rivers. Clearly seen is her super Jane cape and she is apparently leaping into flight. It isn't a very good illustration, none of the Classics Illustrated illustrations are very skillful or interesting, but it is one of my favourites just because of how silly it looks.

The runner up for most silly Jane Eyre illustration is, I think, the Mr Rochester doing a Grinch Who Stole Christmas impersonation, from a brief French introduction to the novel:

Above: Mr Rochester (left), Grinch (right).

My own adaptation of the novel was interesting in that the characters all had minimal facial features. Mr Rochester's large black eyes were tiny indeed, and yet people still remarked on how large and black they were! Also, very very early on someone noticed that my drawings of Mr Rochester all seemed to take on the appearance of actors who had played him in productions I had seen! I was even able to take illustrations and match them up to photographs. It was eerie... I do have a visual sort of memory, being an artist. So I must have stored them all in my head! ;) I am still trying to find it, but here, in any case is what Mr Rochester and Jane ended up looking like:

Monday, December 26, 2005

Jane's Journey Part Two

More transcripts! This time, I bring you the Broadway Beat 2000 interview with Paul Gordon, composer of the Jane Eyre musical. Part one can be read here- Broadway Beat interview with John Caird (lyrics and co-director for Jane Eyre).

Paul Gordon (composer): It began ten years ago for me. An I was looking for a project to musicalise. And I came across the novel in a bookstore and just decided that I was going to read it. And I got into about page twn and I was in tears and I knew that this was the project that I wanted to do. Then it was just the challenge of waiting until I finished the book before I'd start writing because I was so eager to write.

Richard Ridge: What did you love about the book initially when you read it? I'm sure there are millions of things...

Paul Gordon: There are a lot of things but I was initially attracted to Jane's journey-Jane's spiritual journey, the idea of forgiveness- that message. And that, even though it had a lot of darkness to it, and it gets very complicated and very deep in a lot of places, ultimately it is an uplifting journey, an uplifting tale. I was very attracted to that.

Richard Ridge: So, how has the music and lyrics changed since your initial readings at Manhattan Theater Club, to La Jolla, and now to here?

Paul Gordon: It's changed quite a bit. John Caird has come in and done so much work with me and together, since he became the book writer, he's really taken it several levels above where I initially started. And I've learned so much from him. And, you know, our Toronto production was sort of one concept and it was almost composed-through, not sung-through. And when we went to La Jolla we took a lot of the music, of the underscoring out and the songs sort of stood on their own as songs. So the musical's been developing in ways like that as we go about our journey.

Clockwise (from left): James Barbour (Mr Rochester), Paul Goron (composer), John Caird (lyrics), Marla Schaffel (Jane Eyre).

You can sample and check out Paul Gordon's latest work at his website, http://indieclectic.com. His current projects include a musicalisation of Emma, which should be very interesting!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Villette the Comic Book

It seems fitting that today's post should be about this little project of mine. It was begun nearly one year ago. It is the second work of the Brontes that I have attempted to illustrate in this way- the first was Jane Eyre which is complete. The Jane Eyre comic book was only published once online but has since disappeared after I became aware of how easily it could be pirated. Jane Eyre has been used as the subject for many comic books. I have a few of these, all are of questionable quality- one features a likeness of Mr Rochester which I swear is the Grinch who stole Christmas- only less green. Another has the novel packed with beautiful people, and Jane appears to fly at one point (my favourite part). In the frame directly following 'the voice across the moors' she cries "I'm coming!" as she leaps into the air, Wonderwoman-like, her blond hair waving in the wind and her blue super-Jane cape streaming behind her! I will have to scan this, for I don't think my words do it justice... In any case, I have not been able to find a comic book of Villette. It is possible that mine is the first but rather unlikely. If anyone has heard of another, please drop me a line either in the comments or send me an email at bronteana.blogATgmailDOTcom!

I intend to try publishing these as one book, once I have finished illustrating all of the Bronte novels. I began Jane Eyre on a whim late one night when I was tired and silly after studying for too long again. It was posted for my close friends but soon drew the attention of others. Someone suggested that I offer it to the Bronte Society but it is far too long for publication there, I think. Villette has been far less popular although those who do follow it are very enthusiastic (and cheer on their favourites, mostly Monsieur Paul and... Alfred deHamal! But only because he looks very cute as a line drawing- lots of snarky vows of admiration worthy of Miss Snowe herself). So far my reward is in forcing my friends to go out and read more of the Bronte novels. One of these had refused to try them, thinking they would be 'Victorian and dull' but after getting about a third into the Jane Eyre comic book, I recieved the instant message that it was 'all my fault' that she had gone to the library and is now completely conquered. I have complained long about how little known the Brontes are where I live. And it is nice to know that, even in my limited capacity, I am doing my part in changing things.

More Bronte-like?

It seems like a lot of current films and novels are being heralded as similar in style to the workds of the Brontes. This time, it is the debut novel of a Yorkshire French teacher. The novel is called The Thirteenth Tale, and the author is Diane Setterfield.

The novel tells the story of a reclusive novelist who recounts the events of her strange life to the young woman she has selected to be her biographer.

It is written in a mysterious, gothic style with resonances of works by the Brontës, Daphne du Maurier and Wilkie Collins, as well as contemporary novels such as Sarah Waters' Fingersmith and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

The book marks "a return to that rich mine of storytelling that our parents loved and we loved as children", said Jane Wood, Orion's editor-in-chief, who has already sold rights to Germany, Holland, Italy, France, Norway and Brazil. "It also satisfies the appetite for narrative-driven fiction that has beginnings, middles and endings, like the great novels of the 19th century. She creates a wonderful fictional world."

The entire article can be read here.

Friday, December 23, 2005

'The Red Queen' by Margaret Drabble

I was just speaking of eastern settings for stories with Brontëan resonances (it has certainly been a very exciting 48 hours for Brontëana). This novel has really caught my attention! The review, which can be read here, is also very thoughtful and engaging (except for the odd remark that the book somehow encompasses nearly all literary theories). If the book lives up to these claims, it should certainly be appearing in an intertextual study sometime soon! (please?) Just at a glance I can see a trace of an inverted Bertha/Rochester thread.

From 'Marrying the Madness of Prince Sado', an article by Jennifer Anne Waring:

The story of the 18th century Korean crown princess and her marriage at the age of 10 to the insane Prince Sado is a testimony to Korea's diverse and interesting culture. Based on the princess's original diaries, "The Red Queen" charts Prince Sado's descent into debauchery, murder and finally death. The Korean princess's tale culminates with Prince Sado's slow and torturous end, at the hands of his own father. Shakespeare himself would have struggled to invent a more dramatic and psychological grueling tale.

The crown princess's story is juxtaposed with the modern day story of Dr Barbara Halliwell, a medical professor, who happens to read the princess's diaries on her way to South Korea to speak at a conference. Inspired by the princess, Barbara's narrative continues the themes of insanity, gender and sickness. It moves between memories of her own suicidal ex-husband; her exploration of the princess's former palaces; modern day Seoul and a last minute love affair with a dying man.

[...] This way of examining the text [having the Queen recreated as a ghost who comments upon her own narrative from a modern, objective viewpoint] is both humorous and thought provoking. It also allows the reader to draw certain parallels between Korea and the Western world through the ages. For example, the Korean princess's treatment of women, space and illness calls to mind clear similarities between more recent writers such as the Brontes and even Virginia Woolf. It is truly amazing how modern and forward thinking the princess actually was. It also gives the Western reader a valuable link into Korean society.

The princess' diaries are available in this edition from Amazon.com: The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth Century Korea

ETA: Here is the synopsis of the memoirs from Amazon.com:

Lady Hyegyong's memoirs, which recount the chilling murder of her husband by his father, is one of the best known and most popular classics of Korean literature. From 1795 until 1805 Lady Hyegyong composed this masterpiece, which depicts a court life whose drama and pathos is of Shakespearean proportions. Presented in its social, cultural, and historical contexts, this first complete English translation opens a door into a world teeming with conflicting passions, political intrigue, and the daily preoccupations of a deeply intelligent and articulate woman. JaHyun Kim Haboush's accurate, fluid translation captures the intimate and expressive voice of this consummate storyteller. The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong is a unique exploration of Korean selfhood and of how the genre of autobiography fared in premodern times.

...Can I get dibs on writing a paper about this book? No, I thought not.

Memoirs of a Geisha... and Jane Eyre?

Not an obvious comparison in my mind, but one which I have seen come up twice this week, and therefore, deserving of coverage here on Brontëana. Memoirs of a Geisha written by Arthur Golden is the basis for the film currently in theatres.

From imdb.com:

Based upon the beloved novel by Arthur Golden, director Rob Marshall's Memoirs of a Geisha is in theaters now. Ziyi Zhang plays Chiyo, a girl torn from her destitute family who seems fated to live the life of a lowly servant. In spite of her station, Chiyo's great beauty threatens the treacherous, jealous Hatsumomo (Li Gong); it's all the reason she needs to treat her cruelly. Chiyo is aided, however, by Mameha (Michelle Yeoh), who teaches her in the art of being a geisha. Under Mameha's tutelage, Chiyo is transformed into the beautiful geisha Sayuri. Sayuri is desired by countless men but her heart is pledged to "The Chairman" (Ken Watanabe), a man whom she cannot have.

Ziyi Zhang compares her character's story to several sweeping tales of women making their way in the world, including Jane Eyre:

The adult Sayuri is played by Ziyi Zhang. She is eventually sponsored by the famed geisha Mameha, played by Michelle Yeoh. The end of World War II brings the Americans to Japan and eventually the end of geisha as an art form. Zhang compares the story to "Jane Eyre" (poverty to respectability), "Gone With the Wind" (the destruction of one society after defeat in war), "Cinderella" and "Pygmalion" (rags-to-riches fantasies).

The full review of the film, including this reference to Jane Eyre can be found here.

Jane Eyre 1973 Released May 8th, 2006?

First Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and now this! More news on the up coming release of the BBC's 1973 mini-series of Jane Eyre starring Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston. As previously reported on Brontëana, the 5 part mini-series is reportedly to be released by Acorn Media sometime in 2006. Now we have a date! It looks like 2006 will be a very good year for Brontëana- May for Jane Eyre, March for Tenant! Maybe the silent version of Wuthering Heights that the Brontë Parsonage is looking for will turn up as well, and perhaps Brontë will begin filming!

ETA: Just in, some new hints regarding this 'new' film of Jane Eyre mentioned in passing by Newsweek in an article about period films. I had written to the editor to confirm his information regarding this production but have recieved no reply. Brontëblog has been able to turn up the CV of the director of what appears to be a new BBC production slated for production in 2006. The writer is Sandy Welch, the producer is Diederick Santer.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Tenant of Wildfell Hall to be Released on DVD

Many thanks to Sarah Barrett for the news! Anne Brontë's Tenant of Wildfell Hall will soon be out on DVD at last! Details on the region 2 DVD can be found here. This is indeed the 1996 version with Tara Fitzgerald as Helen Graham.

List Price: £15.99 Our Price: £11.99 You Save: £4.00 (25%)
Release date: March 13, 2006.
Not yet available: you may still order this title. We will dispatch it to you when it is released by the studio.
Edition Details: • Region 2 encoding (Europe, Japan, South Africa and the Middle East including Egypt). Read more about DVD formats.• PAL•
Catalogue Number: BBCDVD1922

ETA: Here is the DVD's synopsis:

Synopsis: Based on a little known 1848 novel by Anne Bronte, Tara Fitzgerald stars as an enigmatic young woman who moves to 19th Century Yorkshire with a young son. Distancing herself from everyone in the village and their prying questions, she remains totally aloof until a charming neighbor farmer gets her to reveal her past through his persistence. Only then does she reveal she is hiding away from a womanizing, belittling husband. - This three-part BBC adaptation of author Anne Brontë's novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall features Tara Fitzgerald as Helen Graham, a pensive woman seeking a way out of her miserable marriage to Arthur Huntingdon (Rupert Graves), a rakish alcoholic who tricked Helen into marrying him before his bad behavior became outwardly evident. Meanwhile, farmer Gilbert Markham (Toby Stephens) becomes increasingly attracted to Helen, whom he is led to believe is a widow.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Branwell: A Novel of the Bronte Brother

Last night, quite unexpectedly, I recieved an email from Mr Richard Nash, publisher from the Soft Skull Press in Brooklyn, announcing the publication of Branwell: A Novel of the Bronte Brother by Douglas A. Martin. In addition, I have some news about the Canadian distribution of the novel. Mr. Nash informs me that Torontonians should look to This Ain’t The Rosedale Library for plenty of copies, and for those interested in the latest, look out for a review in the Eye Weekly.

I was more surprised to find a lengthy excerpt attached to the email- the first 24 pages of 'Branwell'. Although it does appear to be the first 24 pages, I cannot believe that this is so. It is a strange excerpt and rather difficult to describe. It is not the beginning of a novel, it is not the introduction to one, and it is not a synopsis but it appears to be something leaning towards all and none of these things. I believe it is a rough work, whatever it may be. I suspect that I may have been sent something else by mistake. It resembles a verbal depiction of images in a trailer for a film, more than anything else.

From what I can tell from this, the novel should wrestle with the fill spectrum of Branwell's history. I cannot say much more than this. The text is a series of observations, in various tenses and sometimes bad grammar (hense my belief that this is not actually the finished work). The sections nearer to Branwell's adulthood seem to become quite interesting. Overall, there's not much to glean from this. I do have one comment to make, however, and it is a troubling one. It appears that Anne comes in for some rough treatment of some kind or another. She is mentioned twice, I believe, and both times it is only to mention her 'lisp' or 'lisping' and 'trying to catch up' to Branwell and Charlotte:

Ah, now all seriousness would disappear from the magazine now that Charlotte's taken over. They'll have smiling faces everywhere.
She says it's not true.
Charlotte is going to write a story about the Little King.
He is spoilt and lazy, imperious, unreliable.
He commits violent, unpredictable acts.
And Branwell leaves his shirt open at the neck, to show how he's a poet. Anne only lisps and stutters trying to keep up with him and Charlotte and the fights they have over their little Town.

The text excerpt ends, in fact:

Young Soult could be melodramatic, like Byron, Charlotte says.
Branwell and Charlotte love Byron. And Emily loves him, too.
He drinks too much. And he gambles.
Captain Budd gambles, and it would be the end of his brilliant career.
The Glass Town poet's clothes hung off him, his socks had holes, his shoes were all worn out.
Does Branwell know how to spell the lisp Anne talks with. [sic]
Does he have any idea. [sic]

I am definately interested in seeing what comes of all of this, but I cannot believe that this is actually the way the novel is written.

Monday, December 19, 2005

La Jolla Jane Eyre Part Two

And here's the rest of the show! I hope you all enjoy it.

Disc Two

track 1
track 2
track 3
track 4
track 5
track 6
track 7
track 8
track 9
track 10
track 11
track 12
track 13
track 14
track 15
track 16
track 17


Disc Three*

track 1
track 2
track 3

*I remember one of my friends trimmed a few tracks so that the whole thing fit onto 2 discs. If anyone would like the trimmed version let me know. I think it cut off the applause and things like that.

La Jolla Jane Eyre

Happy Holidays to all! Just in time for Christmas, and thanks to Lillie, Santa's special Jewish helper, I bring you one of my favourite recordings of the Jane Eyre musical. Well, disc one so far. There are two in all. This comes from roughly half-way through it's professional growing pains and just before the Broadway version (confused?). Just enjoy it. It has come to my attention that this has been for sale on ebay recently. My personal feelings on selling these unofficial recordings is that it's not on. I think if they were not professionally released then they should only be shared, as I am doing. It seems only fair, and it helps to spread appreciation for the show. This recording features Marla Schaffel as Jane Eyre and James Barbour as Mr Rochester. The show is substantially different from the earlier Toronto version and the Broadway version, although there are also a lot of material shared between all three. For example, 'The Governess' is a hold over from Toronto, but 'Adele's Opera' is now a spoken scene which continued into Broadway. And lastly, there are parts which are unique only to this recording, such as the song 'Child in the Attic', and the ...terrible 'The Chestnut Tree'. One last note, this recording was made from the sound boards so the effects are very loud and sometimes strange to the ear.

As always, these will be available for a week only.

Disc one

track 1
track 2
track 3
track 4
track 5
track 6
track 7
track 8
track 9
track 10
track 11
track 12
track 13
track 14
track 15
track 16
track 17
track 18
track 19
track 20
track 21
track 22
track 23

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Lamps of Monsieur Heger

This summer a friend helped me buy a copy of The Belgian Essays, edited and translated by Sue Lonoff. I intended to write a paper about the 'Athens Saved by Poetry' devoir written by Charlotte, to be submitted for a Classics conference but I never got around to it. The book is very well arranged with the English translation followed by the original French on the facing page. The notes and corrections of Charlotte, Emily, or M.Heger are also shown. There is also a brief discussion of each devoir (essay) and some information about Heger's method of teaching.

In the course of the book the most favourite sayings of M.Heger are recalled by a former student of his from some time after Charlotte and Emily had returned home from their stay at his school. These sayings were called his 'lanterns'. Before writing, his student claims that he would begin by having them 'put off the shoes' by having a student speak the following:

Spirit of Wisdom, guide us: Spirit of Truthfulness, teach us: Spirit of Charity, invigorate us: Spirit of Prudence, preserve us: Spirit of Strength, defend us: Spirit of Justice, enlighten us: Comforting Spirit, soothe us.

The remainder of the 'lanterns' are more straightforward advice about writing. This first one is preparation for entering into a solemn act- writing. Some of them seem to require a little more explaination:

One must give one's soul as many forms as possible.

One must never employ, nor tolerate the employment of, a literary image as an argument. The purpose of a literary image if to illuminate as a vision, and to interpret as a parable. An image that does not serve both these purposes is a fault in style.

One must not fight with a difficult sentence; but take it for a walk with one; or sleep with the thought of it in one's mind; and let the difficulty arrange itself whilst one looks on.

One should not read, before sitting down to write, a great stylist with a marked manner of his own; unless this manner happens to resemble one's own.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Another Audio Adaptation of Jane Eyre

Yes, I am still here. I have not had a minute to do any transcribing since my last post but I will soon have all the free time I can handle, certainly more than you can shake a stick at if you'd want to try doing something like that. It's finals time, the holidays, and time for the family business to go bankrupt. But the Brontës go on.

Here, for example, is what has been termed 'anything but a decent adaptation' of Jane Eyre, brought to you by Biedroneczka from LERO, who has also provided us with at least two or three other audio adaptations! This time we have Sophie Thompson as Jane Eyre, and Ciaran Hinds as Mr Rochester. I did listen to part one of this when it aired on the BBC. It was awful indeed, but as for the rest, I cannot say. ;) I think I heard once that this production predates Mr. Hinds' stint as Mr Rochester in the A&E adaptation. I am bound to express myself... I think his portrayal is terrible but I cannot tell how much blame goes to the director. There is a scene where he actually drags Jane down the stairs after he tries to blame her for the whole thing ("I was prepared to committ bigamy for you because I knew that marriage was important to you!"). Notwithstanding, he still seems to strut and shout his way through nearly all of his scenes without much variation. He reminds me of the kind of Mr Rochester Charlotte feared she might see on the stage, actually. All grimaces and strutting.

Jane Eyre with Sophie Thompson and Ciaran Hinds

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

As always, these will only be available for about a week. I wish I had a copy of their adaptation of Shirley. That one really made me laugh. In fact, I couldn't help writing a parody of each installment! The accent of Mr Moore was very amusing.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Jane's Journey, Part one...

I have begun the laborious task of transcribing several items relavant to the Jane Eyre musical. So far I have finished one interview with John Caird, which I believe has not been made available online before. It is only one segment of a program which covered the pre-Broadway opening rehearsals. The interviews include John Caird (most famous for his work on Les Miserables), Paul Gordon, Marla Schaffel (Jane Eyre), James Barbour (Mr Rochester), Mary Stout (Mrs. Fairfax), and Elizabeth de Grazia (Blanche). (Incidentally, these internet broadway database pages are in serious need of updating!).

Broadway Beat 2000 (sometime in 2000, before December 3rd).

John Caird (Additional lyrics, book, co-director): Well it is a- it is very much a woman's work. It's written by a woman about a woman writing the story of her own life. And so it's- it's a multi layered piece of work. But it is almost entirely seen from the female point of view. And, indeed, our version of it is rare in the respect that it has nine women in the cast and only five men- which is extraordinary for a Broadway musical. Ane, really, there are only two or three important male characters in the work and there are ten or twelve important female characters in the work. And Charlotte Bronte's world is very woman-oriented. You know, she sees the world through a woman's eyes. And as well as Jane you have Mrs Reed, Mrs Fairfax, you have Blanche Ingram the beautiful aristocrat, you have the mad woman in the attic. You know, you've got an extraordinary panoply of female characters to draw from.

Richard Ridge: Why do you think this story is so timeless? I mean, my eleven year old neice just read Jane Eyre. You can ask anybody and they'll say 'Oh yes, I know that book.' Why do you think it has endured so much over the years?

John Caird: I think because Charlotte Bronte was a great literary and philosophical genius. And in Jane Eyre she's written, not the story of one deprived and brutalised little girl and how she grows into a proper human being, but she's told the story of all girls, and how they grow up to be women. It's a quite extreme story, Jane Eyre, but any woman who remembers her childhood- and I suppose all women do- will- has something to associate themselves with Jane Eyre- that's Jane's journey is- Jane's journey from early childhood to maturity as a woman.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Stop that! ...It's silly!

I think this is the first full-length musical parody I've come across. Jane Eyre the Musical 'Decomposed' It's very cute. There have also been many fan fiction parodies of the novel, of course. Some of these have since vanished. The only one I have on hand, in fact, is my own. I think I have mentioned it before. There is a story called 'Whose Lair is it Anyway?' in which all of the various representations of Christine Daae and Erik from Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera appear in the same place at the same time. A friend challenged me to do with same with Jane Eyre- especially since I have seen an obscene number of JE adaptations! Only I know how many.. actually, I don't even know how many. I call it 'Something Betweeny in the County ___shire". Some excerpts from the latest installments:

“Name’s Rochester, Dalton!Rochester.” Nods all around. “I’ve plans of Thornfield Hall on a microfilm in the bronze pin of my cravat.” He removed this item and carefully inserted it into his shoe. It beeped quietly. He continued his speech while he walked over to one of the horses. “There has been a lot of interest lately in biscuits and brandy-” he gingerly tapped the pommel of his horse’s saddle and continued talking while part of the back and haunches of the animal made a smart ‘click’ and flipped up to reveal a row of twinkling indicator lights, a turntable and a monitor.

I must confess that writing for Orson Wells-Rochester was so much fun!

"The what?!" Gasped the deep-chested man, only the gasp betraying his heightened agitation... his eyes already staring as wildly as humanly possible. It was difficult to discern what this outburst portended. Jayston!Rochester certainly didn't know.

"The British Broadcasting Corporation. Sir, why is your cloak still stirring- there's no wind-"

"Never ask about that!" Thundered the staring man, before calming again. "Never... never ask about that. It is too awful."

"Is it?" Jayston!Rochester shook his head after taking one glance at the flapping cloak. "Ah, you're Mr. Welles."

All of them are fun- the Janes as well, especially Bruce-Jane who is "teh crazypants" as they say.

"Nyrrrrrrrrrrraaaaah!" He whirled around just in time to catch Bruce!Jane in mid-air, in mid-pounce. She knocked him to the ground, knocking the wind out of him in the process but he soon recovered. Somehow he managed to meet her attack but not before she had planted a heavy right into him between his head and shoulders.

"Good Lord!" exclaimed Welles!Rochester. "It's Gateshead all over again!" Desperate was the struggle. Several times Hinds!Rochester managed to wrestle her into a bear hug as she muttered something incomprehensible in her rage- something like 'buz-za-puh!'. Once he was whipped in the eye by one of her curls, but lucky for him he had closed his eyes in time.

The others were just as fun to write for, don't get me wrong!

"It's fear- poor man's terrified out of his wits by that titaness yonder- a veritable daughter of Lilith and the most pernicious of primordial giants."

"What a lovely voice you have!"

"I'm from the Shakespearian stage."

Friday, December 02, 2005

A Brontean Dream Vision

One of my friends has brought to my attention a very strange little book published in 1904. It is called Henry Brocken: His Travels and Adventures in the Rich, Strange, Scarce-Imaginable Regions of Romance, by Walter J. de la Mare. I call it a dream vision because it seems to me something akin to this medieval genre. I have not read it all the way through, but at first glance it seems to be a travel log of his journey through various literary 'romances'. How he has taken 'romance' I am not yet certain. Chapter three of this strange book is called 'Jane Eyre'.

In chapter three, Henry has somehow, inexplicably, finds himself at Ferndean- apparently. It is, as he says in the title, 'strange'. I cannot say that I can recognise Mr and Mrs Rochester in his prose. Mr Rochester is something very odd in this book- both hyperbolically transcendent (his guestures at dinner apparently all denote a 'smoldering power' something like 'storms, winds of the equinox, the illimitable night sky'), and yet he speaks of having a 'shell' that he's quite content to stick himself into- while brooding and stumbling around outside... When Jane isn't trying to lock him inside. Yes, she keeps locking him inside- locking the gate and the doors. Her husband asks her why she keeps doing that, and she then enunciates some very fine, very confusing, and totally unhelpful poetry back at him. No wonder he excused himself from dinner to stand outside- until Jane snatched him again.

And the strangeness doesn't end there. Mr Rochester has grown suddenly very touchy about strangers- which he attributes to his blindness. Pilot has also been mentally disturbed, apparently- the poor dog has no feelings it seems but just stares eerily and blankly at Mr.Brocken. In fact, everone at Ferndean MUST speak in elaborate, poetic passages. These are, really, often very nice pieces of poetry but are really obnoxious before long. This is not the same as saying they are melodramatic- as the early stage productions of Jane Eyre.

The strangest part of all, perhaps, occurs when Mr Rochester has left for awhile and Mr Brocken and Jane are alone. She wants to know about what is left of her. What part of herself he has taken from the book. It is unclear whether she is supposed to be the 'real' Jane Eyre living inside the novel- in a sort of Plato's realm of the ideal- or if she is the Brocken's Jane Eyre. Again, there's some interesting, but very cryptic language here. Something disturbs his sleep. And he is soon off on his journey. Here are a few extracts from chapter three:

"It is indeed a strange journey," she replied. "But I fear I cannot in the least direct you. I have never ventured my own self beyond the woods, lest--I should penetrate too far. But you are tired and hungry. Will you please walk on a few steps till you come to a stone seat? My name is Rochester--Jane Rochester"--she glanced up between the hollies with a sigh that was all but laughter--"Jane Eyre, you know."

I went on as she had bidden, and seated myself before an old, white, many-windowed house, squatting, like an owl at noon, beneath its green covert. In a few minutes the great dog with dripping jowl passed almost like reality, and after him his mistress, and on her arm her master, Mr. Rochester.

There seemed a night of darkness in that scarred face, and stars unearthly bright. He peered dimly at me, leaning heavily on Jane's arm, his left hand plunged into the bosom of his coat. And when he was come near, he lifted his hat to me with a kind of Spanish gravity.

"Is this the gentleman, Jane?" he enquired.

"Yes, sir."

"He's young!" he muttered.

"For otherwise he would not be here," she replied.

"Was the gate bolted, then?" he asked.

"Mr. Rochester desires to know if you had the audacity, sir, to scale his garden wall," Jane said, turning sharply on me. "Shall I count the strawberries, sir?" she added over her shoulder."

"Jane, Jane!" he exclaimed testily.

"There! hush now, here he floats; sit still, sit still--I hear his wings. It is my 'Four Evangels,' sir!"

It was a sleek blackbird that had alighted and now set to singing on the topmost twig of a lofty pear-tree near by; and with his first note Jane reappeared. And while we listened, unstirring, to that rich, undaunted voice, I had good opportunity to observe her, and not, I think, without her knowledge, not even without her approval.

This, then, was the face that had returned wrath for wrath, remorse for remorse, passion for passion to that dark egotist Jane in the looking-glass. Yet who, thought I, could be else than beautiful with eyes that seemed to hide in fleeting cloud a flame as pure as amber? The arch simplicity of her gown, her small, narrow hands, the exquisite cleverness of mouth and chin, the lovely courage and sincerity of that yet-childish brow--it seemed even Mr. Rochester's"Four Evangels" out of his urgent rhetoric was summoning with reiterated persuasions, "Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre, Ja ... ne!"

"And am I indeed only like that poor mad thing you thought Jane Eyre?"she said, "or did you read between?"

I answered that it was not her words, not even her thoughts, not even her poetry that was to me Jane Eyre.

"What then is left of me?" she enquired, stooping her eyes over the keys and smiling darkly. "Am I indeed so evanescent, a wintry wraith?"

"Well," I said, "Jane Eyre is left."

She pressed her lips together. "I see," she said brightly. "But then, was I not detestable too? so stubborn, so wilful, so demented, so--vain?"

"You were vain," I answered, "because--"

"Well?" she said, and the melody died out, and the lower voices of her music complained softly on.

"For a barrier," I answered.

"A barrier?" she cried.

"Why, yes," I said, "a barrier against cant, and flummery, and coldness, and pride, and against--why, against your own vanity too."

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Tenant of Wildfell Hall Month!

I am sure I have fallen behind the times, and become neglectful of announcing the LERO Brontë book reading months. I believe Wuthering Heights month has just passed us by- but I am in time to spread the word for Tenant of Wildfell Hall! If you haven't read the novel yet, there is no time like the present. I was introducted to the novel when I enrolled in the Victorian seminar at my university- which happily that year was explusively on the Brontës. We read Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and Shirley in that order. By the end of the course, Tenant had been declared the best of them all by the majority of the class, and a request was made for the instructor to include Agnes Grey as well, and to replace Jane Eyre with Villette the next time the course is taught. I read it with some unfortunate expectations. I was curious to know why Anne is so often treated slightly by academics and critics. She is certainly not the less loved than her sisters are by the readers! It would have been best not to have these ideas at the back of my mind, but I could not help it.

I was baffled. There was nothing lacking, in my opinion, in Tenant. There's a peculiar power which is evidenced in the work of all three sisters. I forget that I am reading sometimes. I intend to read it again as soon as I can find the time (not this month at least. As you have no doubt noticed, I have been quite busy lately). It seems to me that it begins strong, and remains a very engrossing book until near the end. There is something not quite solid about it on first glance. This might not necessarily be a criticism. Often when I stumble over something it more often than not points the way to something deeper happening beneath the surface of the narrative somewhere. A second reading might clear this up. Does anyone else have similar issues with the ending?

Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the only work by Anne Brontë to be adapted for film. In 1996 it was made into a three hour television movie. I believe it is currently out of print, which is a real shame. I have a first edition of 'Charlotte Bronte and her Circle'. The chapter on Anne is really unbelievable in the way it completely discredits her as a writer. I do not have it on hand, but the editor claims, in the introduction (it may even be the first sentence...) that it is a certainly that if it wasn't for her sisters, she and her works would be forgotten. In my humble opinion, an easy test of this claim is to imagine what we truly would have thought of her works if she had not had her sisters' works to compete with. Would they really be so uninteresting, so skilless?

Here is an interesting, although far too brief, article on the Critics of Wildfell Hall by Glen Downey.