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Monday, January 30, 2006

Miss Mix by Ch-l-tte Br-nte

This just beats all. It is a 'condensed' version of ...a novel by someone whose name resembles Ch-l-tte Br-nte. This parody was written by Bret Harte in 1867 and it is... totally mad. Some excerpts:

Upon her arrival at 'Blunderbore Hall' Miss Mix has just finished her 7th and started her 8th cup of tea when someone jumps in through the library window- shattering the glass:

“Don’t be excited. It’s Mr. Rawjester,—he prefers to come in sometimes in this way. It’s his playfulness, ha! ha! ha!”

“I perceive,” I said calmly. “It’s the unfettered impulse of a lofty soul breaking the tyrannizing bonds of custom.” And I turned toward him.

Mr. Rawjester is very strong indeed, and a little more than 'peculiar':

As he absently tied the poker into hard knots with his nervous fingers, I watched him with some interest.


“Fearful! Call you this fearful? Ha! ha! ha! Look! you wretched little atom, look!” and he dashed forward, and, leaping out of the window, stood like a statue in the pelting storm, with folded arms. He did not stay long, but in a few minutes returned by way of the hall chimney. I saw from the way that he wiped his feet on my dress that he had again forgotten my presence.


“You are a governess. What can you teach?” he asked, suddenly and fiercely thrusting his face in mine.

“Manners!” I replied calmly.

“Ha! teach me!”

“You mistake yourself,” I said, adjusting my mittens. “Your manners require not the artificial restraint of society. You are radically polite; this impetuosity and ferociousness is simply the sincerity which is the basis of a proper deportment. Your instincts are moral; your better nature, I see, is religious. As St. Paul justly remarks—see chap. 6, 8, 9, and 10”—

He seized a heavy candlestick, and threw it at me. I dodged it submissively but firmly.

“Excuse me,” he remarked, as his under jaw slowly relaxed. “Excuse me, Miss Mix—but I can’t stand St. Paul! Enough—you are engaged.”

He's also very romantic:

“So you risked your life to save mine, eh? you canary-colored teacher of infants.”


“You love me, Mary Jane,—don’t deny it! This trembling shows it!” He drew me closely toward him, and said, with his deep voice tenderly modulated,—“How’s her pooty tootens,—did she get her ’ittle tootens wet,—b’ess her?”

There's a giant 'negress' dancing around his bed for awhile- Miss Mix is told this is his 'first' but then he throws his boots at her head and that's an end of that.

And then he robs all of his guests and threatens to kill Jane- I mean Miss Mix if she doesn't help him. They tie everyone up, he lights the house on fire and proposes to Miss Mix in the glow of the flames devouring his THREE crazy wives (and a bunch of other people).

And they all lived happily ever after... except for the crazy wives, servants, Blanche Marabout, the housekeeper, and little French Nina...

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Wuthering Heights by Bernard Taylor

This found me by way of Thisbeciel and Biedroneczka. This is yet another musical. Most of the tracks can be downloaded from Mr.Taylor's website, but there is also a CD which I think includes another 15 songs. I am hoping to coax someone into writing a review for Bronteana. For now, I have some initial reactions to register.

Here is a brief intro to the work:

Taylor's musical was the first stage adaptation of the story to be given the approval of the Brontë Society. The concept album was released by Silva Screen records in 1992, and opera star Lesley Garrett also used two of the songs for one of her best-selling solo albums.

A 1994 amateur performance in the Netherlands was very successful and generated discussions for possible other productions. It has been running in repertoire in Poland since 1996 and Rumania since 1997. It debuted in Australia in 1998.

The show requires a minimum cast of about 15, but can be expanded to include a chorus of 20 or more. Orchestrations are available for a pit orchestra of 12.

This is the second music theatre adaptation of Wuthering Heights that I have come in contact with. I thought, and still do think, that the novel has a lot of potential for both opera and music theatre. Both of these work best when the emotions stretch beyond the imaginative levels of experience to the mythic. This is why characters in music theatre break into song. But the first version of Wuthering Heights that I heard so failed to reflect the mythic level of WH that it left the whole thing as something of a farce. Heathcliff was far too vulnerable and ...well, nice. The music was melodious but lacked depth. I should return to it, because I have only heard some very small selections but these impressions have stuck over repetitions.

This production from 1990 is a different story. I am quite impressed with the sensitivity of the score in particular. On the first listen, I was troubled by some of the lyrics but even then I realised that I was simply biased against the very idea of Heathcliff singing. When I got passed that, on a second and third listen, I heard the Arabic rhythms of his theme. I came to think that IF Heathcliff were to sing, he would sing like this. The exclaimations of 'Cathy!' that troubled me before now seem to rumble in the underscore and force their way through into the melody.

Besides this, the songs are beautiful in their own right. In the Prelude there is beauty and a sadness lurking behind it. I get the impression of beginning a celebration and a tragedy. I think this is fitting.

Two of the songs I've gone over are: Cathy! and I See a Change in You.

In addition to Wuthering Heights, Mr Taylor has adapted several other works of literature to music theatre- with equal sensitivity! He has adapted Pride and Prejudice, which captures the period so nicely in its score. The lyrics also are quite good but there's something... off. I think it is his weakest adaptation of those I have listened to so far. He has also adapted Much Ado About Nothing, which I have to admit is delightful. Again, he has managed to encorporate the scales and rhythms popular in the Renaissance into this work. I will take the liberty of recomending Benedick's song on hearing of Beatrice's passion: Madness, performed by Paul McGann as Benedick.

The work has also been the subject of discussion in the journal formerly known as 'Bronte Society Transactions' but now known as 'Bronte Studies.' Mark Seaward, editor of B.S.T. said of the work: "Bernard J. Taylor’s work marks the first time that the true spirit and drama of Emily Brontë’s masterpiece has been captured in a musical." Taken from this page, also on Mr.Taylor's site.

Critics on Wuthering Heights by Bernard Taylor:

"Bernard J. Taylor's big, sweepingly romantic score sustains a feeling of dark passion entirely appropriate for an adaptation of Emily Bronte's novel concerning the ill-fated love between Cathy and Heathcliff." - Show Music Magazine, USA, Summer, 1992.

"This is what stage music should be - passionate, powerful, melodic . . . If you buy only one album this year, make it this one - Mike Gibb, Masquerade Magazine.

"Every number, whether vocal or instrumental, packs the kind of emotional punch that musical performers and audiences cry out for." - Sarah Hopkins, Beneath the Mask, Summer 1994 issue.
"Something to shiver about!" - House & Garden (British edition), March 1992.

Phew... that's all I can say.

When I came across this from The Observer, I thought at first that the novel mentioned was 'Adele' but that was written by Tennant. No, no this would be much worse:

When, after her death, I went to her house in Clapham and pulled out the drawers of the filing cabinet in which she kept drafts and discards of her work, I hoped to find some unpublished stories, or notes on the novel about Jane Eyre's stepdaughter for which she'd submitted a synopsis: Adele was going to fall in love with a schoolteacher, seduce her own father and watch her mother being guillotined; it was going to play 'some tricks with history ... But then it is a novel'.

What is that supposed to mean? I'm not a professional writer but I have always found the importance of historical accuracy stressed both by other writers and by readers. But... Adele seducing her father? Why do so many adaptations of Brontë novels have to be so ludicrous? I've heard of one in which Mr Rochester's son is older than Mr Rochester- if you do the math but- really, this is a novel so anything can happen I suppose!

And then, the Duke of Wellington appears and...

You may read the rest of the article here. I've never heard of Angela Carter, but I hope she came up with better plots than this.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Public Domain Jane Eyre 1934

Ever wanted to see the first talkie of Jane Eyre but could never find a copy? Well, if your computer can handle it, you can now download the entire film from www.publicdomaintorrents.com

The version available for download (or purchase for $5.00) stars Virginia Bruce as a very blond, very un-quakerish Jane Eyre, and Colin Clive as the meek, soft spoken master of Thornfield- you know? Mr Rochester?

Just about everyone I've talked to about this film hates it, but I find it cute and very interesting. I think it is not so much a film adaptation of the novel as a film adaptation of plays of the novel! When I've read a few more of these plays I will return to this idea to see if it is really supported by the texts.

I won't ruin the pleasure of being surprised by all of the changes, but I would like to point out one thing that alone redeems this production from being a 'guilty pleasure.' I have seen all but one of the extant versions of Jane Eyre- and several that are not supposed to exist. This film, with 1934 talkie before you, is the only film version in which Jane extinguishes the fire in Mr Rochester's room by herself as in the novel. The only other time this happens is in the Gordon/Caird musical- but this film is closer to the text in this regard. Mr Rochester doesn't wake up until the flames are fully extinguished (you can see this scene in one of the frames above- third frame from left, 3rd row from the bottom). Here's a brief run down of the history of this scene- as I remember it:

1934- Jane tears down the burning curtains and smothers the flames with her feet, then she wakes Mr Rochester.
1944- Jane wakes Mr Rochester who vigorously smothers the flames while Jane rushes in with water.
1956- I'm waiting to see, but I hear that the flames and smoke are never shown in the same shot as the actors...
[I don't know if the two 1960s versions are extant- ask the BBC]
1970- Rochester puts out the flames.
1973- The fire is still burning at "Is there a flood?" Jane and Rochester are shown putting the rest of the flames out together.
1983- Mr Rochester puts out the flames while Jane stands by looking scared.
1996- The fire is still burning at "Is there a flood?" Mr Rochester puts the flames out himself, but Jane has cut her hands on roses from a vase she emptied.
1997- Mr Rochester puts out the flames.
2000- (the musical) Mr Rochester wakes up just in time to see the flames go out. Jane smothers some flames on her nightdress hem.

I'm finding it hard to visualise the 1997 and 1970 versions, so I'll have to check them now. ;)

ETA: 1970- Mr Rochester and Jane put out the flames, but Rochester is shown for most of this scene with Jane getting a few shots.
1997- Jane wakes Rochester then watches him put out the flames.

The Brontës Caught up in Scarborough Heritage Row

From the Yorkshire Post Today:

A CORNER of Scarborough's past fired the childhood imagination of Susan Hill and helped turn her into a leading writer – she even used it as a setting for one of her short stories.
Now the children's author and playwright has been horrified by plans to turn the Wood End Natural History Museum, which once belonged to the Sitwell literary family, into a suite of offices from April.


Ms Hill was a frequent visitor to Wood End in the 1940s and has fond memories of the conservatory put up by Sir George Sitwell to house his tropical plants and trees, populated by parrots and canaries, and the goldfish pond in the middle of the house.

Years later she wrote a short story about it, called In the Conservatory, while the Sitwell Room has also played on her creative imagination.

"Scarborough was my growing up town and has haunted my imagination ever since, especially that house and that room," she added.

But comparing the building with the Brontë parsonage in Haworth, West Yorkshire, and calling for a campaign to "save" it, has got her into a "ding-dong" with local conservationists, who argue that the proposed Creative Industries Centre is the only way of preserving the fabric of the structure.

The only concern of Scarborough Civic Society is that some public access is ensured to the Sitwell Room – possibly by having open days.

Society chairman Roger Foster said: "It is all very well mentioning the Brontës, but there are 200,000 visitors a year to the Howarth [sic.] Parsonage and I very much doubt we have 200 visitors a year to Wood End.

See the rest of the article here.

Reader, I Married Him, by Michèle Roberts

I think I will just post the entirety of this review from The Guardian. Commentary just doesn't seem to add anything:

The only thing you can be certain of in this skittish comedy of menopausal lust and Italian cuisine is that the gun taken out of the wardrobe in chapter one will be fired before the heroine thinks of going back to her north London deli in chapter seven. The rest - whether three-times widowed Aurora is the Wife of Bath or a plump, mature Jane Eyre, whether the Brigandine nuns of Padenza are really a front for drug-smuggling, and just how far Michèle Roberts's escapist fantasy can stretch to accommodate knowing literary references - is left tantalisingly open until the final sentence. If you think Jungian synchronicity, then Aurora's journey to visit a radical-feminist-turned-mother-superior, which ends up with her bumping into her nagging stepmother, bedding an Armani-wearing priest and finding a possible fourth husband while eating delicious meals and pondering her Catholic upbringing, makes perfect, amusing sense. But it demands a leap of faith to believe in all the twists in Roberts's absurd plot. There will be plenty of doubting Thomases who take Aurora's line: "Ridiculous ... It's much too neat. Too many coincidences."

Okay, one bit of commentary. Jane Eyre and the Wife of Bath in the same sentence... More information on Michèle Roberts can be found here at her BBC profile. Reader, I Married Him is available here from Amazon.com.

Friday, January 27, 2006

When Wuthering Heights is a Punchline!

I don't usually post every mention of anything Brontë-related, especially when the link is so tenuous as this, but I couldn't resist- it's so cute. This comes from an article on wireless communication! 'Are Wireless Benefits Being Oversold?'

Self-appointed experts need to be brought down to earth by being shown what a " technological benefit" really means at the user level.

For instance, I recently overheard a conversation between two businessmen, one of whom appeared to be staring for a long time at his handheld. The other man asked: "Is that WAP?" The first replied: "No, Wuthering Heights."

Brontë Answered by the Deep South

From a Blogcritics review of the DVD 'Other Voices, Other Rooms.'

There's something about certain depictions of the American South of the 1920s and 30s that reminds me of 19th century gothic/romance novels. I don't know if Brontesque is a word; as in reminding one of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, but the air of mystery and gloom that seems to surround old decrepit plantations certainly can give the moors a run for their money.

The South may lack the fogs and crags for people to get lost in or fall down, but it has its own share of dangers. Mysterious swamps filled with ghosts and spirits ready to steal your soul. Not to mention more down to earth dangers like rattlesnakes whose bite can kill you or bogs that could swallow you whole.

Heat and humidity are every bit as oppressive as cold rains and mists, and poor dissipated Southern gentry can have just as many secrets as their brooding English counterparts. Change the mysterious old faithful servants from white to black, and the brick manor house with drafts to a disintegrating pre-civil war plantation house and the transition is complete.

In the face of overwhelming evidence, 'Brontë' (adj.) along with its variants: 'Brontëan' and 'Brontësque' should be added to the OED.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

In Search of the Brontës, but which ones?

From an obituary for Michael Wharton:

A mainstay of his column was the fantasy world of Stretchford, a town populated by such grotesques as the excruciatingly trendy Bishop Spacely-Trellis, who eternally exhorted his flock to jettison “outdated concepts such as God, the Saints and the Incarnation”; Jack Moron, the boorish Fleet Street drunk whose bellicose refrain was “Wake up Britain!”; an appalling tribe of Hampstead liberals, the Dutt-Paukers; and not least the ridiculous social scientist, Dr Heinz Kiosk, who would conclude his monologues by protesting: “We are all guilty!” In Wharton’s universe, everyone remembers the famous Swedo-Albanian war; the famous fifth Brontë sister, Doreen Brontë; Stretchford’s beleaguered Aztec community; and the huntin’ an’ shootin’ Ernest Hemingway’s decision to move to Britain’s most virile town, Bournemouth.


I thought Doreen was 6th.

In case you were not aware, among the many websites devoted to real actual Brontës there had been at least one which is devoted entirely to fictional ones- a site that sounds like: Brontës R Us. It is sadly no longer with us.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Brontëana is News!

Thanks to 'Curious' for this very curious bit of news! Brontëana has been mentioned, briefly, in the most recent edition of the Brontë Society Gazette:

From the "In Brief" section on page 7:

"Jane Eyre: The Musical closed in Toronto a decade ago, but is still a matter for discussion and dispute in certain circles. The Canadian undergraduate who runs the constantly interesting Bronteana website is currently gathering material on the show, which was panned by local critics for being 'bloated'."

If it wasn't for 'Curious' I would never have known. I am not a member of the society, and I have no idea where I would get a copy of the Gazette otherwise. I should probably thank Mr.Wilcocks at The Bronte Parsonage E-Magazine Blog as well. I have a feeling that he is responsible for this particular honour!

The Thin Place by Kathyrn Davis

The last few months have been full of book and film reviews comparing modern works to the Brontes. Just a few examples from Bronteana alone are: Pride and Prejudice being 'too Bronte', King Kong being too much like Heathcliff, Memoires of a Geisha being rather Janian, and most intriguingly, The Red Queen- a novel based on a Korean classic likened to Jane Eyre (I have dibs on writing a paper on this one! Well, I can try to claim it...). The list goes on. Here is another. The Thin Place, a novel by Kathryn Davis contains at least 'a splash of Emily Bronte':

Three fifth-grade girls go for a walk along a beach and find a dead man. Two of them run for help; the third brings him back to life.

So opens The Thin Place, the sixth novel by Kathryn Davis ("Versailles"), a novelist who has been compared to everybody from Hans Christian Andersen to Franz Kafka.

Partly that's because of the fluid way she ranges from topic to topic, but mostly it's because Davis's writing doesn't boil down neatly into punchy catchphrases. Plot synopses don't do her justice, and adjectives don't really help much, either.

My favorite description of her work comes from a Village Voice critic: "I like to think of Kathryn Davis as the love child of Virginia Woolf and Lewis Carroll, with a splash of Nabokov, Emily Brontë, and Angela Carter in the gene pool." (I'll pause for a moment while you try to wrap your head around that one.)

The rest of the article can be read here. ...I'm not sure I can get my head around that. Then again, I've read two independent reivews claiming King Kong is like Heathcliff, so how difficult should this be to comprehend in light of that?

Jane Eyre at the Lyric Stage, Irving, Texas

I somehow neglected to list this upcoming production of Jane Eyre: The Musical on this post of other productions in the United States (scroll to the bottom of the page). The image is of the Toronto version's poster!

Lyric Stage takes on the area premiere of this Tony-nominated musical take on the Bronte novel. Through May 13 at the Irving Arts Center. $23-$30. (972) 252-2787.

April 28-May 13, 2006
Lyric Stage closes the 2005-2006 season with Paul Gordon and John Caird’s stirring musical adaptation of the Charlotte Bronte classic, JANE EYRE, April 28-May 13, 2006. Filled with soaring melodies and a romantic lyricism uncommon in the modern Broadway musical, JANE EYRE is a sweeping love story, breath-taking in its scope and beauty. April 28, 29, May 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 & 13 @ 8:00 PM and April 30, May 7 & 13 @ 2:30 PM.

Monday, January 23, 2006

JE: The Musical 1960s Review.

In a previous post I claimed that there have already been three shows called 'Jane Eyre: The Musical.' I find that I am mistaken. I have heard that there have been, in fact, dozens but as I cannot prove this claim I will let it pass. I can, however, name five. There's, this, this, this, this, and this. All of them are 'Jane Eyre: The Musical.' Not all of them are fabulous, and only one has ever been on Broadway (although I came across the mere mention of another which was on Broadway in the 1950s- but there has been no further information on that).

I have now heard several songs from the 1960s version ("The Broadway Theatre Production, London" and was written in the 1960s. Lyrics are by Hal Sharper and Roy Harley Lewis. The music is by Monty Stevens. ). the songs themselves are very catchy but what they have to say about the themes and issues of the novel is really strange at times. There's 'Thirty Pounds a Year' where everyone at Lowood suggests she will meet a rich 80 year old who will die off and leave her all of his money, to which Jane gleefully replies: "All of it?!" Her choice is the 80 year old, or the tall handsome one... 'Jane' I have already discussed. It is silly, and begins with Mr Rochester crooning: "I could boot Blanche out, that's easy as pie." But I am getting ahead of myself... There's an odd song for Adele and Jane where Adele is groaning painfully because she is growing: "You've only got-" "Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuaargh!" "You've only got-" "Oooooohhhhhhhugh!" "You've only got grow-ing paaaaaaaaaains!"

However, the strangest part has to be a song called 'The Very Reverend Rivers' wherein Jane gleefully envisions life as Mrs. Rivers. It starts off very grim as she contemplates leaving "England and Edward" but this stops very soon. She switches into, well... if this were a film, she would be tap dancing on a huge set with giant pink flamingoes and Fred Astaire would play St.John. There's ever so little racism in this song as well, with references to 'copper-coloured faces' and a wince-worthy bit where Jane imitates people who speak 'Hindostanee.' Jane is quite off her rocker by the end of the song- if you don't mind me saying so. She thinks St.John is going to keep her busy planning a veranda for their cottage and decorating it with plants? Oh, dear Jane. Dear, sweet, deluded creature. Her madness reaches it's height after she has moved from the lotus leaves on the wall to the hydrangeas, and she muses on someone visiting... maybe someone from Yorkshire... maybe even Edward! This finally snaps her out of it, but the paranoia that somehow Mr Rochester would find her out was just too much after all of that silliness. Still, at least she decides not to go, right?

I look forward to moving on to the Erie Playhouse production. I hear that not only is it an adaptation of the novel Jane Eyre, it is an answer to another musical of Jane Eyre- the Toronto version of the Gordon/Caird show which evolved into the Broadway production (I might call the Toronto version a different show entirely for not only were scenes and songs cut but conceptions of character were radically re-thought).

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Jane Eyre meets Frank Sinatra- I mean, Mr Rochester

I would like to make a request to anyone considering making a musical out of Jane Eyre. Please, do not call it "Jane Eyre: The Musical." There are already three shows by that name, and it makes it very difficult for me to refer to them without confusion! Therefore, I will only refer to the Broadway show as 'Jane Eyre: The Musical' and the others by composer and/or date.

So, this is the 3rd Jane Eyre musical I have mentioned on Bronteana. The other is the rather nice York/Williams production from the early 1990s. This one is from "The Broadway Threatre Production, London" and was written in the 1960s. Lyrics are by Hal Sharper and Roy Harley Lewis. The music is by Monty Stevens. I have only heard one song so far: Mr Rochester's only song, "Jane". I am wondering if this is a good thing- that he only has one song. I don't think it is. It would be difficult to come up with a more terrible song, really. But it's just so funny that I would hate to have to do without it. This sums it up perfectly:

"It's Mr Rochester singing in a bar, dressed up like Frank Sinatra!"

Indeed, my first impression was that it sounds precisely as though Mr Rochester, in an absent moment strolled past the piano and noticing that he was alone, decided to pretend he was a lounge singer- right down to the 'dum-dee-dum' tone of it all and the really bad "Jane, Jane, you're running through my brain' lyrics.

I am assured that 'it gets worse', and since there's a song about a servant in love with someone named 'Gregory', I am not at all surprised!

The CD is available- in a way- from amazon.com, here.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie to Star in Wuthering Heights

This was just brought to my attention by BronteBlog. Read all about it in today's issue of Leeds Today. I cannot say that the pairing has ever ocurred to me, but it has potential.

Hollywood megastars Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie are to star in a Yorkshire blockbuster of Wuthering Heights.

The Emily Bronte 1847 classic, set on the isolated Top Withens area of the Yorkshire Moors above Haworth, is the inspiration behind a new, lavish depiction of the gripping Victorian tale.Film chiefs have told the Yorkshire Evening Post 'off the record' that the deal has been done to bring two of the film industry's biggest stars to Yorkshire. Film scouts are understood to have been combing the Yorkshire area in the last 10 days to find the perfect film locations to film the wild, passionate scenes between two of the world's hottest stars, who will play Heathcliff and Cathy, two of the literary world's greatest romantic figures.

They are rumoured to start filming next year and could be in Yorkshire for six months, along with a huge crew and cast. The lid is being kept on details of the deal. Depp, 42, who is a lover of the Bronte's literary works, once said during an interview: "Am I a romantic? I've seen Wuthering Heights 10 times. I'm a romantic."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Jane's Journey Part Six

The last of the Broadway Beat transcripts from november, featuring Jane Eyre: The Musical. Here is a short interview with Elizabeth DeGrazia (Blanche Ingram).

Richard Ridge: Where did you start with Jane Eyre? Give me your history.

Elizabeth DeGrazia: In Toronto and I did the production in La Jolla as well, and now I'm here.

Richard Ridge: So, tell me about the character you play.

Elizabeth DeGrazia: She's extremely over the top and flamboyant. She's the aristocratic Scarlet O'Hara. She really is. Shes got a good heart but she's all about wealth and status and really wants to marry this guy. And she comes to Thornfield for a couple of nights and needs an engagement ring- she's a a bit desperate!

Richard Ridge: That's the number we saw you do today.

Elizabeth DeGrazia: Yes, she sings really high and tries to be very, very fabulous. And there's a real parallel between Jane Eyre and Blanche. They have a similar size and look- dark eyes, dark hair but very, very different in character. And you see who wins out in the end!

Some Jane Eyre Regional Shows

ABILENE, TX US From 2/16/2006Until 3/4/2006

INDIANAPOLIS, IN US From 3/2/2006Until 3/4/2006

EDMONDS, WA US From 5/19/2006Until 5/21/2006

HOUSTON, TX US From 2/2/2006Until 2/12/2006

DUBLIN, VA US From 2/24/2006Until 3/4/2006

QUINCY, FL US From 2/24/2006Until 3/5/2006

WINNETKA, IL US From 4/28/2006Until 5/13/2006

courtesy of Mrs. Dionysius O'Gall. And thanks to Agnes, here is the link to the Masquerade Theater.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Some Reassuring Notes for North American fans of Jane Eyre 1973

I have retraced the news of the release of this production through the Brontëana archives (which need much re-structuring, I see) and I can tell you that it appears that the release dates for the DVD are:


Back in november, there is this post wherein I quoted a letter from the director of programing at Acorn Media, who stated that the dates at that time were still under discussion but that the production was to be released in North America and the UK. Soon afterwards, in december we have this post wherein I reported the news that the release date was May 8th. Thisbeciel, who recieved the initial notice from the director at Acorn Media, reminded me that the release date was May 8th. It appears now we have dates for the region 1 and 2 editions- although this isn't definate. It seems unlikely that the release date would have been moved up from May to April.

Let me also say, once again, what a great year 2006 will be for Brontë fans! In march Tenant of Wildfell Hall is coming out on DVD, in April and May we have Jane Eyre!

ETA: Somehow I consistently misread the date of the release. There is only one date, and that is MAY 8th, 2006.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Jane's Journey Part Five

Nearing the end of transcribing the November 2000 episode of Broadway Beat featuring Jane Eyre the Musical, we have an interview with Mary Stout (Mrs Fairfax):

Mary Stout: I believed in this from the moment I did it at the Manhattan Theater Club reading. I love what it says, I love how it uplifts people. And I think it's going to be something people remember for a long time. It's a theatre experience where people get to experience emotions on many levels, on many levels. And I think it's going to be uplifting to people. You know, it's a dark story. And that's a given. She has a lot of things to deal with but hopefully I'll provide some of the comedy and some of the lighter moments.

You know, this character that I play- the housekeeper- she's written fairly... she's not a dark character in the book although she does have a darker edge to her because you never really know what she knows is going on in the house. That's a question I have personally answered. But everyone always wonders about this. Is she involved in some way? Is she a part of this? Home much does she know? And they took this character and made her a little more comedic than the book does and made her sort of a Gilbert and Sullivan sort of character which I think is such a brilliant idea- to give her patter songs that move the score along and have some brightness and some comedy. And it's so great that they've allowed that to happen. I think there are other shows that do that too- I think The Full Monty has a character that does the same sort of thing. Sometimes stories and shows need that to lift them up. And he's been incredibly very true to the book in so many ways; very few changes.

Richard Ridge: Tell me about the number that we saw you do today.

Mary Stout: It's called 'A Slip of a Girl' and it takes place after... after the proposal scene- I don't want to give away too much. After the proposal- and, obviously, she's accepted, then suddenly there''s a big storm that happens which I think will be very visually exciting I think. Then out of the blue I come out with little Adele- the little ward, and proclaim my problems with the whole situation.

I'm quoting someone. When we were in that city outside this country [Toronto] we're not supposed to mention that but when we were there, Terrence McNally came to see the show and he's actually seen the show several times but when he saw the show in that city he said it's the perfect song because it takes you through an entire story and you get to see a character really turn a corner and make a realization. And he said it's the perfect song and I thought it is! It really is a lvoely, lovely little piece to character ladies everywhere. I'm very proud to be playing this character.

Jane Eyre 1973 on the Catalogues

As the time draws nearer for the release of the BBC's 1973 mini-series of Jane Eyre with Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston, we're glad to report that the DVD is already appearing on internet catalogues. The UK edition will be available for ordering from this website as of May 8th 2006. Also from the website:

It is listed for £14.99.

Their synopsis: Starring Sorcha Cusack (Tame) and Michael Jayston (Flesh And Blood), this 1973 BBC television adaption of the classics novel follows the fortunes of heroine Jane Eyre who begins her life as an orphan without a penny to her name.

Jane Eyre is a poor orphan, brought up by a wealthy Aunt who is determined she should never forget her impoverished background. Surviving the cruelty of an oppressive boarding school, she becomes the governess of Thornfield Hall, owned by the enigmatic and rarely seen Mr Rochester. When Jane finally meets Mr Rochester in the flesh, she is consumed by an overwhelming attraction towards him that soon becomes mutual, however, their hopes for happiness will soon be jeopardized by a terrible secret.

Technical specifications: Region 2.

Thanks to Aidan for the news!

ETA: The date for release is MAY not April 2006.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Yet Another Jane Eyre in Production?

Hold on to your hats (and bonnets), friends. It appears that not only is the BBC planning a new film of Jane Eyre, but so is Masterpiece theatre!

The news comes at the end of this article about Masterpiece Theatre's production of Charles Dickens' Bleak House:

Upcoming "Masterpiece" productions include the final "Prime Suspect," starring Helen Mirren, and adaptations of "Casanova," "Jane Eyre" and "Sense & Sensibility."

*Photo from the Masterpiece Theatre production of Bleak House.

Jane Eyre Musical (1996)- The Thornfield servants!

This is the missing illustration from the previous post. I am not sure what scene from jane Eyre this is supposed to represent, but I have a feeling these are THE very dancing and singing Thornfield servants we all know and love! How very exciting! Honestly, I want to hear more of this show!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

You Make Your Own Rainbows

I have been having trouble with Blogger today, which explains the delay in posting today. I have not been idle. Firstly, I would like to inform everyone that there is a new Brontë studies blog, Brontë Parsonage E-Magazine. Little did I think, when I started the first Bronte studies blog this past summer that there would be three in such a short time! Here's hoping this is only the beginning!

Since yesterday I have been recieving more and more about this 'other' Jane Eyre musical. I have some facts to back up the initial impressions, a review, and some more thoughts. This show is interesting from a scholarly stand point because it is contemporaneous to the early run of the most famous musical adaptation, the Gordon/Caird production. While their show played in Toronto, this one was running in Utah. The review is interesting in itself for some of its attitudes towards Charlotte Bronte and Jane Eyre:

By intermission, nothing terribly exciting has happened yet, plot-wise (well, except for a devil-coiffed crazy woman who emerges from the attic long enough to set Rochester's bed on fire, but you can't really count that). This is typical of, ahem, "chick plays" (I'm sorry, but there doesn't seem to be a politically correct term that expresses the thought nearly so well): heavy on romance, light on plot. Keep those questions understated. Introduce a possible love triangle. Let the characters pour their hearts out to us, but not to each other.

I'm not criticizing this genre of storytelling; I'm merely reporting how it is. And the fact that such dilly-dallying with the narrative doesn't usually appeal to me any more than, say, reading a Charlotte Bronte novel does, speaks volumes about this play's accessibility and emotional center. Gollaher and Whitlock give their characters such life, realism and heart that it's impossible not to be sucked in to their story, no matter how little a "story" there actually is.

Madwomen and people nearly burning to death in their beds is no exciting enough for this reviewer. I wonder what would be. Not having seen the show, I cannot comment on his comments about 'Chick plays.' The review seems to imply that the performances are what makes Charlotte's rather hum-drum romance into something we would actually be interested in. Yet another reason why these musicals are so interesting is to see how often they are criticised because the reviewer fails to see any value in Charlotte's novel- that the whole idea of making a musical from it is a mistake.

In any case, just ignore the bemused comment about the 'British accents' making the actors say "Sin Gin". Forgive them, for they know not what they say.

Facts about the show: Patricia York, Music by Jerry Williams, based on the novel by Charlotte BronteJuly 1997 - Directed by Rick Mokler, musical direction by David Potter, setting by Patricia Frank, costumes by Janet Freeman, lights by C. Thomson Garey

Lastly, I have transcribed Mr Rochester's part from a song I just heard today thanks to my source. It has changed my previous impression, that this show is more of a 'guilty pleasure' than anything . This song was fun and had me laughing at the right moments. I couldn't make it all out, so forgive me for any errors. I've also removed Jane's interjections, which amount to "Hmm. I feel strange." I've also tried to make it reasonably clear when he is speaking and singing. Enjoy:

Mr Rochester: It's a story of a French opera mistress, by name Celine Varens. For whom I once cherished a 'grande passion'. It was not, however, quite what you may think. To be succinct

no consumate virtue commended her to me,
consumed by my lust: I liked her company.
I liked her perfume, an odor of sanctity.
Amber and musk.
I gave her every comfort and luxury as well-
believe me, in every detail I excelled.
With a stupid exactness I trod the old track
of an idiot bound to ruin and rack.
Then, one evening I waited with quiet delight
in her room as I smoked a cigar by twilight.
Then, hearing her carriage- the one that I gave her-
and seeing her little foot, quickly forgave her
arriving so late-

oh, how I hated to wait!

I leaned on the balcony, bidding a fond: "ah! Mon ange! Mon ange!"

One of those imbecile lover's emotions
that women are 'angels'. Ridiculous notion.

Don't you agree, Miss Eyre? ...Miss Eyre? Hum! Well, here comes the blow, Miss Eyre,

turning the whole affair into a pagent of absurd proportions.
I beheld, and recoiled in angry contortions,

Have you ever felt jealousy, Miss Eyre? No. Mnn. Of course not. You have never felt love. You have both sentiments yet to experience. Your soul sleeps.

You float like a dreamer out far from the shore
not heeding the breakers that broil and roar
through the channels of love that can dash you to pieces
'till it finally kills you... urgh.. or else it decreases.
As was the case in this small impropriety,
the fellow was simply not worth the anxiety.

He was a rival not worth contending with.

He insulted me coarsely, though not with any wit
She was mercenary, heartless- my sweet hypocrite.
Though she did wax quite brilliantly on my defects, I admit.

Ah, but come, Miss Eyre. Come to the curtain.

Where you shall see at last what a fool I was made.
Put your eye there- don't be afraid!
I leaped in the room with a confident air
amid screams, protestations, hysterics and prayers
quite forgotten all mouthed 'a merde!'
She cried: *clears throat, imitates Celine*
"My dearest, my darling, my lover, my pet!
my masculine beauty my taille d'athlete!"

Wherein she differed diametrically from you, Miss Eyre,
Who told me, point blank on the second interview

you did not find me handsome.

I dismissed her,
aquitted her,
offered her my purse.
Then turned, with some pleasure to finally disperse
that brainless rouée, that cavalier cad!
with the chicken wing arms who did beg me and flatter me:
*imitates the vicomte*"Oh! Ah! Oh! S-sp-sp-spare me, Monsieur! Sp-sp-spare me, p-please-se!"

hahahahah!... hem. Well, of course I gratiously forgave all... but not without leaving a nice scar! You must take my word on it, Miss Eyre, it was all satisfactory! The most ridiculous drama one could possibly imagine! But that's love.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Libertine not at Liberty?

Inexplicably, the 'expanded' release of The Libertine, the film about John Wilmot the earl of Rochester has been delayed. Fans report showtimes listed a few days ago and now they are gone without a trace. I have not been able to find any explaination for this. The film was set to 'expand' from release in Los Angeles and New York on the 13th of January. It looks like we may have to wait sometime yet before we get to see what we have heard so much about.

The Moors are A-Callin'!

Someone has sent me another clip from a regional production of Jane Eyre presented as a musical. this is not to be confused with 'Jane Eyre: the Musical' by Paul Gordon and John Caird. This musical is by PatriciaYork and Jerry Williams. I have only heard two songs so far, and it is quite catchy if not entirely atmospherically sound, shall we say. I look forward to hearing the rest of it soon. So far I have heard two songs from the show. The first song is 'She Cannot Charm Him' which is, of course, Jane commenting on Blanche Ingram's failed attempts to woo Mr Rochester. My sources inform me that the show is rather close to the book in plot. All I can say is that it makes me smile in the same way that the 1857 play of Jane Eyre does- and there are a few similarities between that production and this musical. Dancing servants for one. They are featured in this second song, which I will call 'The Moors are A-Callin'' for lack of a better name. The entire production can be purchased on CD from here.

The song is set shortly after Jane has left Thornfield to visit her aunt. Before we get to Gateshead, however, the servants of Thornfield are reacting to some terrible weather by, what else? having a jig and a ol' song 'the Moors are a Callin'. understandibly, Mr Rochester is not impressed. In fact, he's such a wet blanket that they leave him to mope for a bit "what's he on about?" Well, a lot of things. I think the best way to express my first reaction other than "I LOVE IT!" is this little parody I wrote immediately after I listened to it for the first time (I often do this sort of thing. I always parody things I enjoy). I think this also illustrates the dangers of trying to forshadow the voice across the moors:

Servants: ooooooooooh, the moors are a callin'! Callin'! Callin'! Whee-ha! *dance*
Servant: Aye, laddie! Would ye like some dinner?
Mr Rochester: *pout* No. How is dinner going to help with this melancholy? *sniff*
Servants: *get even more cheery* What's wrong with him, eh? La la la!
Mr Rochester: I don't like my house, my soul hurts, my heart cannot trust, and it's raining all the time!
Servants: Wheeha!
Mr Rochester: Can I ever find a heart I can trust? Is there an Eden somewhere? I'm a gonna picket Heaven! That's right, God! I'm gonna sit outside and glower until you come out and feel sad like me! Just because! Rain, rain, rain. That's all we get here. When is the sun coming back? I don't think it ever will, John.
John: Well, sure now-
Mr Rochester: When will it come back? When will she come back? *cries*
Eliza: Mommy's dying! I've done my explication *leaves*
Aunt Reed: I have to EASE MY MIND BEFORE I DIE!
Jane: Hey, letter here, from my uncle, wha?
Aunt Reed: I hated you.
Jane: Oh. ...So, Eliza, how you do miss him. Yes, he is terribly missed.
Eliza: ...'She'. Are you crazy or something?
Jane: Oh?! Heh. No, I um.
Mr Rochester: And my tea is really weak.
Jane: Sorry- where were we?
Mr Rochester: And luke warm. I hate that.
Eliza: You just said my mom was male.
Jane: Oh, I didn't mean to- I
Mr Rochester: Did someone let the fire go out in the next room? I feel a draught.
Jane: It's just that...
Mr Rochester: Aw, Pilot! You've gnawed a hole in this slipper!
Jane: ...He won't ever STOP TALKING IN MY HEART!
Mr Rochester: I could use some soup right about now.
Mr Rochester: Pity, there isn't any. I live such a wretched life.
Jane: STOP!!!! Why won't you stop?!
Eliza: Okay, I'm out of here...
Jane: I fear I will never escape from his CONSTANT WHINNING!
Mr Rochester: I've worn out my moping chair! It was my favourite one too. Figures. *sigh*
Jane: And he'll always be there muttering complaints in my head. He'll always be there muttering complaints
Both: In my head. Where it Eden? I wish it would stop raining. Rain, rain, rain, all the time.
John: Miss Eyre is back! You make your own rainbows, Mr Rochester. YOU MAKE YOUR OWN RAINBOWS!
Mr Rochester: ...whazubuh?

Very silly, cheesy, but a lot of fun all the same!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Infernal Angria

More news on the comic series, Infernal Angria by Craig McKenney. The series is to be a trilogy- at least- and the second issue is expected early sometime this year. Last time I had some cover at to display, and now here's some of the comic itself.

The series is available through Headless Shakespeare Press.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Literary Naming in 19th century America

Thanks to Mrs. Dionysius O'Gall for this very interesting article about 19th century census taking! The Bronte reference comes at the end, but the rest of the article is well worth the read on its own. This article deals with some of the practices of the census officers sent to take a census of Native Americans living on reserves:

American Indian children who attended school nearly always had an English name. George Gans, Horace Greeley, and Miles Standish are examples of names assigned to schoolboys.

In some years, depending often on the whims of the census-taker, every member of the tribe received an English name.

Big Rope's Mother became Martha Big Rope. Dinero became Dora Money. And for a literary touch, Cacje's Widow became Jane Eyre and Chis-chisla became Charles Dickens.

More Video Clips from JE the Musical and Transvestism in CB

This is sure to please Esther! Thanks once again to Thisbeciel for these clips from the Jane Eyre Musical! Some of these are repeats from the last time, but I don't think anyone will mind too much?

An Icy Lane
You examine me
Waking Rochester
I know who heals my life
the Gypsy
the Proposal
Wild Boy/Farewell Good Angel

Thisbeciel also came across this interesting poem, 'Transvestism in the Novels of Charlotte Bronte' by Patricia Beer

1 When reading Villette, Shirley and Jane Eyre,
2 Though never somehow The Professor
3 Which was all too clear,
4 I used to overlook
5 The principal point of each book
6 As it now seems to me: what the characters wore.

7 Mr Rochester dressed up as the old crone
8 That perhaps he should have been,
9 De Hamal as a nun.
10 There was no need
11 For this. Each of them could
12 Have approached his woman without becoming one.

13 Not all heroines were as forthright.
14 Shirley in particular was a cheat.
15 With rakish hat
16 She strode like a man
17 But always down the lane
18 Where the handsome mill-owner lived celibate.

19 Lucy, however, knew just what she was doing.
20 And cast herself as a human being.
21 Strutting and wooing
22 In the school play
23 She put on a man's gilet,
24 Kept her own skirt, for fear of simplifying.

25 Their lonely begetter was both sister and brother.
26 In her dark wood trees do not scan each other
27 Yet foregather,
28 Branched or split,
29 Whichever they are not,
30 Whichever they are, and rise up together.

"Monsieur de Rochester!" and iJane!

Somehow, when I posted about this Florida production of Jane Eyre the Musical awhile ago, I neglected to pick up on a few interesting items in the plot synopsis! But never to fear, Mrs. Dionysus O' Gall has set me straight:

JANE EYRE is a haunting musical retelling of the Charlotte Bronte classic about an orphan girl who grows up to become the governess of Thornfield Hall. There she meets and falls in love with the enigmatic Edward Rochester, an Earl with a dark secret. Having overcome the obstacles brought on by an abusive childhood, the death of a childhood friend and the prejudice inherent in a relationship between two people socially worlds apart, Jane marries Rochester. Her wedding day is marred when she discovers his secret! Filled with soaring melodies and a romantic lyricism uncommon in the modern Broadway musical, Jane Eyre is a sweeping love story, breath-taking in its scope and beauty.

To be fair, there's a lyric from the show's song 'The Gypsy' where we get to hear Rochester's insinuations of his financial shortcomings to Miss Ingram that would might an innocent reviewer astray:

I see a man in your future, my dear!
O, sister!
A penniless snake you mistake for an earl!

In a history lecture I attended this evening, the professor mentioned as an aside how commoners in France often prefixed their surnames with 'de' to sound like aristocracy. In effect, Adele insists on referring to her 'friend' as 'my lord Rochester.' So, can we really complain? Maybe? No?

Aristocratic Rochester has a long history, going right back to the very first film of Jane Eyre (and possible to the Victorian stage adaptations). Mario Caserini produced the first JE film in 1910, and listed in the credits is, lo! "Lord Rochester." (I would have loved to see this! I am quite a Caserini fan. Alas!)

ETA: Sorry- forgot the second half of this post! Esther, one of your fellow readers, has taken four of the mpegs I posted last month or so and converted them to an iPOD format. I know nothing about iPODS, but here's the file!


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Beginning of a Friendship- and Really Bad Films and A really Good One.

Yes, I'm still here! Nothing happened- I just went back to school. ;) In fact, I've been applying to the first of my three graduate programs. So far, so good! i do have some off topic notices for some of my readers, which I will take the privledge of including in this 'public' part of the weblog. If anyone has emailed me in the last little while, be informed that my browser is not allowing me to check my email often- this happened nearly all week. Now that I'm at the university this shouldn't be a problem, but in case you are wondering why I have not written back, this is why. For others, my book was in the press on Monday and I should have a copy of it tomorrow! I'll see about the particulars for those who would like a copy of some really bad poetry.

Speaking of the editing class, I am now taking the Publishing course. We were asked to introduce ourselves and tell the class a few things including what in our opinion is the worst book to film adaptation. I'm ...proud? to say that the Brontes managed to get two out of the 20 bad films mentioned! The first was an unspecified "Withering Heights" (which was once a parody of Wuthering Heights- but I am pretty sure he didn't mean that)and then the 1970 version of Jane Eyre with George C. Scott (that would be my declaration ;). Actually, no, there were three. I went on to explain that I usually enjoy bad films so long as they are bad in the right sort of way- and when they asked me for an example, why, I had to mention the 1997 Jane Eyre with poor Samantha Morton and Ciaran Hinds. What a horrid screenplay. But so funny.

Thanks to Thisbeciel from the League of the Extraordinarily Rochester Obsessed, I can at least bring you an unhealthy number of screencaps from the 1983 version of Jane Eyre, with Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton!

JE 83 Ep 1-2 Episodes 1 and 2 obviously. There are 53 pictures.
JE 83 Ep 3-4 94 pictures
JE 83 Ep 5-6 111 pictures
JE 83 Ep 7 76 pictures
JE 83 Ep 8-9 87 pictures
JE 83 Ep 10-11 95 pictures

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Brontës: Infernal Angria #1

From Headless Shakespeare Press, I give you this odd little book called The Brontës: Infernal Angria #1 by Craig McKenney. I cannot tell exactly what it is from the description on this independent publisher's website but it looks and sounds like a mix of the Brontë children's imaginary world of Angria and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis:

Living in the isolation of the Parsonage house in Haworth Village, the four Bronte children make a startling discovery: a doorway to another world! What seems like paradise soon reveals itself to be just as dark as the real world. Can the siblings resist the allure of Angria, or will they be seduced by it? Either way, their spirits, their beliefs and their family bond will be tested to the limit.

What caught my eye was the adorable cover art by Rick Geary! But... hmn. Four children exploring another world, testing their beliefs and bonds? Sounds very familiar!

There's also a book on this catalogue called 'Blanche Goes to Paris' unfortunately it has nothing to do with Blanche Ingram, from Jane Eyre, but I couldn't help but think of what that story would be like! (I'm sure she would love every minute- international intrigue, piano concerts! She'd love it!)

Book Review: Literature and the Crime Against Nature

This article, Man and His Kind, from Saturday's edition of The Guardian Limited reviews Literature and the Crime Against Nature by Keith Sagar. His arguement sounds very interesting:

Keith Sagar offers "holisitic" readings of the canon in his thought-provoking survey, Literature and the Crime Against Nature.


According to the philosopher David Abram, the negative consequence of the invention of writing was a severance of humankind from its immediate environment, a loss of embeddedness in the earth: "Only as the written text began to speak would the voices of the forest and of the river begin to fade. And only then would language loosen its ancient associations with the invisible breath, the spirit sever itself from the wind, the psyche dissociate itself from the environing air." By this account, writing was the original crime against nature.

One would think that the Brontes would come to mind as major players in such a study, but unfortunately the author appears to have missed out on taking them seriously into consideration. The author does discuss Emily's work but, according to the reviewer, it is more about Heathcliff. This is discussed after the reviwer notes another woman author brought in for criticism- and rebuke- Jane Austen:

The most successful chapter is a reading of Conrad's Heart of Darkness entitled "The Case of the Missing Elephants", which proceeds from the simple but powerful intuition that the story is focused on the ivory trade yet oddly silent about where ivory comes from. A larger argument about the intersection of ecological and postcolonial criticism could have been developed here, but Sagar shies away from it. Instead he offers a tart rebuke of Jane Austen for defining her art as a "little bit (two inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a brush" - the metaphor here is "a dead image, completely cut off from any awareness of what ivory is, where it comes from, and what must be paid for even two inches of it in terms of suffering and death".

Sagar's distaste for Austen is of a piece with the "Iron John" tone of the book. Its notion of a return to nature seems to involve striding down the open road in the company of Whitman's barbaric yawp, catching a large pike with Hughes and then joining Lawrence in a celebration of the phallus as "fertility symbol". The only woman who gets a look-in is Emily Brontë, and she is but a cipher for that other "natural man", Heathcliff.

I should like to hear what the Brontës would have said to the claim that writing is a crime against nature!

Alas, Anne!!

I have a report to make on the state of Bronte currency in this corner of Canada. It looks like things have not improved much lately. And today I had a very sad experience. I still do not own a copy of Agnes Grey, or a proper collection of Anne's poetry. I went to the university bookstore today to get my books for classes which begin next week when I thought I would buy AG for myself since my birthday is in a week. I looked everwhere in the store, and firstly I have to say that this bookstore is the strangest I have ever seen. It does not include any 'literature.' 'Fiction' does not include any works by authors no longer living. I know that there's often a bias towards contemporary literature but this is ridiculous! I retreated, in defeat, to the check out.

"Did you find everything you were looking for?"

"Actually, I was looking for Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë?"

"The novel?"


"Did you try upstairs?"

There was no one upstairs. There shoudl be someone upstairs. So, I went upstairs. There was no one there- until then suddenly someone appeared from nowhere. I repeated my request.

"Grey with an E or an A?"

"You know, I am never sure. E I think."

"...And the first name?"

"Agnes... ...Oh, you mean the author? Anne."

"Hmn... There's so many Charlotte and Emily- the older ones."

There was no Agnes Grey. They had Tenant but Agnes Grey was not even in their catalogue!

Fine, I thought. No problem- I'll go to the mall instead. They have a huge bookstore there with its own coffee shop and kiddie play castle! I decided to call ahead just to be safe.

*something between symphony and circus music is blaring in the background*

"What was that name again?"

"Anne Brontë!"

"Sorry, I couldn't hear over this symphony!"

And... it turned out they didn't have it either! There goes all but the second hand stores. I don't want to make it seem like Anne is the only Brontë suffering in this way. I also looked around for DVDs of Wuthering Heights and found stores only carrying one copy of one version of it. Hmn. I will never forget the time I called in after Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair.

"Eyre, spelt-"
"I know how to spell, Air! A-I-"
"No, Eyre- as in 'Jane Eyre"
"Hmnn..." (ie, 'well, we'll just see about that...')

Sometimes I wonder if I live in a Monty Python skit. "That's Dickens with two ks!" I went through the day with even my closest family looking at me like I was touched as I said: "I don't believe it! I just don't believe it! Not one copy of Agnes Grey?!"

Saturday, January 07, 2006

How Rediscovering the Brontës Changed the World

In today's edition of the Sunday Herald (tomorrow is already 'today' in some parts of the world!) this article, 'Victim's No More' by C Vimala Rao discusses the women’s literary movement, which she says led to a metamorphosis in present day society.

There are two ways in which she says feminist literary critics 'build up their critical voice'. The first is to reinterpret male authors and unearth their biases about women, and the second is to recover works by female authors, previously shunned by the predominantly male canon. One of the texts involved in this revolutionary process is Jane Eyre:

As regards their second strategy of resurrecting and rediscovering the neglected women writers, Susan Gubar and Sandra Gilbert in their two seminal works titled— No man's Land: the Place of Women writers in the Twentieth Century, and The Mad Woman in the Attic, have analysed and interpreted novels like Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Frankenstein, etc, from a feminist critical point of view. They have also edited the Norton Anthology of Women's Writing which is a comprehensive work containing the writings of women from early times to the present in a broadly representative selection. By such efforts they have attempted to regain a literary tradition and history for women's writing.

Her conclusion?

Thus feminist literary critics at present have demanded re-thinking on the problems of form, genre, textual canon, linguistic usages, and literary and critical values and judgements. The women's movement has metamorphosed present-day society and it now necessitates readjustments on the part of not only women but also men.

Friday, January 06, 2006

More Than Meets the Eye

We have seen a lot of strange things on Brontëana, and a lot of fun gifts for Brontë fans. What I have come to talk about today is what might have been. This should have been an illustrated post but, what I have to describe here is so bizarre that I cannot go through with drawing it. I also have too much respect for the Brontës to- well, you'll see.

About two years ago, a friend of mine studying publishing at a university in the eastern US reportedly saw a very interesting presentation on marketting books to children. This presentation involved a showing of a full fledge proposal, including a commercial for a little something to stimulate interest in the Brontës. The target audience were young girls, and the product? Brontë sister action figures.

There was a commercial. The commercial went something like this: Girls are shown playing with the Brontë Sisters (patent pending). The set would also come with 'evil publishers.' The Sisters pay a visit to the Evil Publisher who cackles at them and says they are just women. So, the young girls put false moustaches on the action figures, and the Sisters return to Evil Publisher who now declares their works "Splendid!" Each sister then has her moustachio wiped off: "I am Emily Bronte! And I wrote Wuthering Heights!" "I am Charlotte Bronte! And I wrote Jane Eyre!" "I am Anne Bronte! And I wrote Agnes Grey!" Curses! The Evil Publisher summons his minions (who come down like ninjas on ropes...) and that's when... when... The Brontës form... a Brontësaurus. With rocket launchers.

That's all I have the courage to say. Now you can see why I could not go through with drawing this! In case you are inclined not to believe that such an idea is plausible, I will inform you that you can purchase (for only $8.95 US) the following action figures from Archie McPhee:

Jane Austen, Marie Antoinette, Leonardo Da Vinci, Jesus, Houdini, Bach, Mozart, Oscar Wilde, Ben Franklin, Charles Dickens, Casanova, Annie Oakley, Edgar Allen Poe, Anne Bonny, Blackbeard, Beethoven, Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, Alexander the Great, and Wagner!

None come with rocket launchers. Some witty folks at the Jasper Fford Fforum had suggested we have the Bronte Sisters (patent pending) team up with "The Mighty Morphine Power Byrons" and that special sets could have a Branwell figure with a little beer stein.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Brontes in Film News, and Something Quirky

Thanks to BronteBlog for some news the past few days on foreign adaptations of Wuthering Heights. Today we are informed that an Italian mini-series of Wuthering Heights, called Cime Tempestose (2004). It is now also available in Spanish subtitles. And the better known French adaptation, Hurlevent has reappeared on the European market. See this Bronteblog post for more details on that.

This article from today's Independent Online Edition does not add to our knowledge on the 'New Jane Eyre' but the reference illustrates the point I made at the end of the previous post. We are getting conflicting news at this point, and that isn't unusual. Writers to the BBC are hearing that there is no such production and here we have a prominent BBC writer off-handedly mentioning his wife's work on 'the new Jane Eyre.' His wife, Sandy Welsh, is not credited with working on any adaptations of Jane Eyre, although she has worked on North and South. Her imdb page can he viewed here. I assume, then, that he means she is currently working on 'the new one'.

We now have quite a running list of strange references to films and books being 'Bronte like'. Previously, I mentioned Memoirs of a Geisha, Pride and Prejudice, and King Kong. Well, here we have another critic drawing parallels between Kong andHeathcliff. More intriguingly, adapting Wuthering Heights is the very first thing he suggests for the director's next challenge!

The last truly relevant thing in this post before I move onto the more tenuous and quirky news, another novel is being compared to the works of the Brontes. This time is a gothic novel, which doesn't really have much in common with the novels of the Brontes except for atmosphere.

I promised you quirky- and here's quirky. Meet, the Bronte Sisters: Australian surfers from Bronte beach, affectionately known as 'the Bronte Sisters.'

The things we can find on Google News!

Jane's Journey Part 4, and More News on JE '06?

And now we have James Barbour's interview from the November 6th episode of Broadway Beat 2000. A special thanks to 'English' and Kathey for helping me date this piece.

James Barbour (Mr Rochester): I had read the novel three times- the third time just before I went to do La Jolla, and that time with Rochester in mind. And I just realized at that point that- I mean, I've done roles like Billy Bigalow and The Beast. Billy Bigalow is a multidimentional role and he's always on all the time. The difference is this man has probably thirty more layers than Billy Bigalow does. And once I got in production, once we got in rehearsal I realised how- I mean, he's delicious! And that's what I gravitated to but it's the darkness, the happiness, the torture, the love, the unrequited love, I mean just unbelievable levels. And trying to make them all fit into one character was the challenge- and it still is the challenge. That's what I enjoy about it.

Next time, Mary Stout (Mrs Fairfax)!

For more on James Barbour and Rochester, see the post entitled Actors on Playing Mr Rochester Part 3.

Next, mysticgypsy informs me that she has recieved word from the BBC Drama webteam that there are no plans to produce either 'Jane Eyre' or 'Villette' anytime soon. This is no cause for alarm, I think. My friends discovered that the BBC was planning on releasing the 1973 production after months of hearing that they had no plans to.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Brontë on History Bites

What is History Bites, you ask, and What does it have to do with the Brontës? History Bites is a brilliant (if I may say so) Canadian skit comedy program which still runs on the History Television channel. This is how they describe themselves- I cannot do better:

History Bites is a skit comedy show that asks, "What if television had been around for the past 5,000 years?"

Each episode explores an important historical event by channel surfing through news, sports, talk shows, commercials, and game shows. The Sports Desk covers Gladiator fights. Martha Stewart plans a Roman orgy. Pharaoh Ramses meets the press. A Mongol barbarian appears on Larry King. The X-Files delves into the latest plague. Cops are Knights.
By viewing ancient events through television parodies, History Bites connects our past to our present. Spoofing popular TV formats makes historical events as urgent as today's news; and it gives today's urgent news stories a historical context. Viewers discover that history does repeat itself and there are lessons to be learned from the past.

Of special interest to us is one episode in particular:

Episode 59
When Irish Eyes Are Starvin'

The great Irish Potato famine that caused a huge wave of immigrants to leave the old world for Canada. It's a story of immigration and economics done as a telethon to raise money for food, or money to ship the Irish off to the new world. There are also on-the-street interviews with apathetic English citizens, and Larry King grills the politicians who did too little, too late. Other parodies include Dennis Miller offering his thoughts, Martha Stewart on how to cook for a famine, and the game show "Who Wants To Have A Wee Bit Of Potato?"

And who has generously decided to sponsor an Irishman but our very own Emily Brontë! Sadly, I don't have any pictures of her from this episode. I have drawn some, however! Not really accurate, since the last time I saw this show was more than 5 years ago... nevertheless, better than nothing! She starts off, in the field reporting for the telethon. It's a bit damp in Ireland.

She there interviews a miserable man named 'Murphy.' Emily "Brontie", despite the rain, is inspired on the spot and asks him if nothing does grow "on those hills, surely something... something must flower in that verdant heath?" "Naw, t' hap o' dairt's good fur nothin'," replies 'Murphy'. "..How awful." She will not let her spirits down, for this Emily- this blond ringletted and very sprightly Emily, is as I said 'sprightly' and cheerful. But considering the other people involved in the telethon it's alright- at least she isn't trying to slip in promos for Wuthering Heights. Some of the composers involved in the charity are obviously only there to spin their operas (hmph).

Sometime later we return to Emily. She has sponsored Murphy's immigration to America and she has just recieved a letter from him. After excitedly opening it, she reads. "Alas, the streets here are not paved with gold. They are, in fact, not paved at all. And they seem to expect me to pave them," she smiles weakly before reviving. "I finally got a chance to read your book, Wuthering Heights! While the characters were most intriguing, I felt that the conclusion extends far beyond the natural ending... and the... *mumble* ...contrived..."

Poor Emily.

(As you see only one was inked. I just began applying for grad programs, and I am so anxious/excited that my hand is unsteady a mite- as you can see from the first illustration and my inky fingers which you cannot see. The joys of dip pen sketching!)

The photos in this post are from other History Bites episodes and feature fans of 'The Greekles,' and Ivan the Terrible on Oprah with Dr.Phil.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Visit Literary England!

For those of us too poor to travel there for real, but who are lucky enough to live in the right part of the US (ie, near San Francisco), there is a way to see inside the home of the Brontes (and other greats of English literature)!

See England by chair

Armchair travelers, have we got a program for you: Golden Gate Geographic Society, America's foremost professional travel film producer, presents "Literary England," a tour that goes inside the homes of Samuel Johnson's London, Jane Austen's Bath, Lewis Carroll's Oxford and Beatrix Potter's Lake District.

Producer Hal McClure will be on hand to talk about the cinematic trip, which also touches on areas where Chaucer, Kipling and the Bronte sisters wrote.

Choose from four screenings:
2 p.m. Jan 14
at Oakland's Paramount Theatre,
2025 Broadway;

2 p.m. Jan. 15
at Belmont's Notre Dame Theatre,
1540 Ralston Ave.;

2 and 7:45 p.m. Jan. 19

at Moraga's Rheem Theatre,
Rheem Boulevard and Moraga Road,

and 2 and 7:45 p.m. Jan. 23

at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts,
500 Castro St.

Tickets are $10 general; $5 for children.

Call (800) 247-4447.

Jane's Journey Part 3

Another installment of transcripts I've made from an episode of 'Broadway Beat' from December (or Novemeber) 2000 (thanks again to thisbeciel for sending it to me!). This time, an interview with Marla Schaffel who played Jane Eyre in Jane Eyre: The Musical.

Marla Schaffel: I'd not read the book when I got it. I read it after I did the reading. And I definately felt some sort of spiritual connection with Jane Eyre. Definately on a very basic level. But, actually, the first version of the show was so complete I really didn't even need to read the novel. It was four hours long, basically, and so thorough that everything in the novel was basically included. And Paul's brilliance is that he also takes a lot of Charlotte's words and sets them to music which is so extraordinary for an actor! To have that kind of language to music that just takes it to another level.

Richard Ridge: What's interesting about this is they're so held back from all of those Victorian images and how they're brought up but you crack the veneer by the time the show ends, don't you?

Marla Schaffel: I think we do, I think why the show touches people as it does is because we all have that veneer to a certain degree, we all put up our walls. And we know that certain experiences finally tear them down and make us understand and forgive ourselves- it's such a large message of the piece. And how they come together and that the walls are knocked down by loving, losing and tearing yourself away from someone you don't want to be apart from but you know that it's the only thing you can do to survive. And then making choices. It's so universal.

Next time: James Barbour's interview.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Bronte Berry Lip Balm?

Thanks CC for this excellent product from the fine people at Literati Balm! Do visit their website. Not only does it have literati vegan lip balm, it has very silly use of Bronte quotes:

Vegan Lip Balm with a blushing berry bouquet. "Your lips are parched." (Shirley - 1849)

At which point Shirley offers some Bronte Berry lip balm, of course!

Also available in: Alcott Apricot, PoeMegranate, and ...oh wow, ShakesSpearmint!!!

"For the cerebrally chapped!"

Some Things to Consider, I hope!

This article formed the preface to the 1988 Penguin edition of Jane Eyre. In many ways insightful, but in places slipping strangely into uncertain territory. As I read along, the first thing to grab my attention was a mention of 'Lord Rochester'. This is not, in fact, Lord Rochester- John Wilmot, but Mr Rochester gratuitiously elevated to the nobility. I have read much Bronte criticism, and it surprises me how often little slips like this occur. I am sure my professors would object to such things as creating entire plot points but I have seen that as well as imagined characters. I do not recall which article it was, but in one article about Mr Rochester (I think it was) I learned that there was damning evidence that Jane had been merely a tool for Mr Rochester (and patriarchy) all along for her first action in their relationship is to mail a letter for him. She is in fact mailing a letter for Mrs Fairfax when she meets Mr Rochester- and she volunteers to take it, in fact.

A wonderful professor of mine insisted that we must not only set up citations but thoroughly explain them to make best use of the evidence. Maybe this is what is lacking in this paragraph which deals with the Byronic 'dangerousness' of Mr Rochester:

Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights is more clearly an adult's rendering of incestuous childhood obsession than are any of Charlotte Brontë's novels, but the romantically dangerous Rochester is most likely a remnant of the children's sensational world, the poetic antithesis of all that was dull, dreary, routine, and circumscribed in the world of Haworth Parsonage. Here is Jane's first vision of the man she will adore: Something of daylight still lingered, and the moon was waxing bright; I could see him plainly. His figure was enveloped in a riding cloak, fur collared and steel clasped; its details were not apparent, but I traced the general points of middle height, and considerable breadth of chest. He had a dark face, with stern features and a heavy brow; his eyes and gathered eyebrows looked ireful and thwarted . . .; he was past youth, but had nor reached middle age. Like Emily's Heathcliff, that Byronic, doomed hero; yet unlike Heathcliff—who after all starves himself to death in his deranged attachment to the past—since, by the novel's end, after he goes blind, Rochester does become domesticated. The Gothic has become tamed, and redeemed, by ordinary marital love. However unlikely for Brontë's time, or for ours, Jane Eyre ends upon a note of conjugal bliss: I am my husband's life as fully as he is mine. No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. I know no weariness of my Edward's society: he knows none of mine, any more than we each do of the pulsation of the heart that beats in our separate bosoms; consequently, we are ever together.... We talk, I believe, all day long: to talk to each other is but a more animated and an audible thinking. The orphan Jane is no longer "resisting all the way"; no longer, at this point, required to be Jane. The novel's passionate energies consume themselves as the apocalyptic fire at Thornfield consumes unregenerate Bertha.

Firstly, I have no idea what she means by Emily's 'incestuous Childhood obsession.' If anyone would like to speculate on this, feel free by all means (as always)! But let's look at this quote carefully. This 'first vision' is of a late man in a cloak, average in height, deep of chest, and angry. the cloak can't be important- it's wintertime. The physical description doesn't say much about his character, and his 'ire' and 'thwarted' look should be understandible considering that he just sprained his ankle falling from a horse! I'd like to suggest that it's quite a leap from this to pronouncing him 'byronic and doomed' and 'like Heathcliff'. As for the second quote, I wonder why Jane would have to resist herself? For, as she says elsewhere, she is 'indulging her sweetest desires'. How is she 'not being Jane'? She nowhere says that she has changed her thoughts or conversation to suit Mr Rochester- they happen to harmonise with one another. The image of their heart beats is not one of submission of one to the other- each is separate and yet familiar enough to be inextricable. Also, there are more than a few readers who would say the 'passionate energies' are by no means burned off with Bertha. That is granting far too much symbolism to Bertha- she is not the focus of eroticism that she is often made out to be.

And in a paragraph presumably about the 'increasing melodrama' of the work, after she discusses Mr Mason (who is not at all melodramatic, as the quote she uses illustrates) she moves on to Bertha:

When, later, Jane is brought into Bertha Mason's presence and mockingly introduced to Rochester's wife, she is naturally revulsed—she feels no kinship with this creature. And though Jane charges Rochester with cruelty in so despising and exhibiting his mad wife, claiming that Bertha cannot help her condition, Jane cannot really identify with the woman; and rather too readily forgives Rochester his curious (and ungentlemanly) behavior.

I have read this scene very many times and I have never detected mockery. Rochester speaks ironically, but not mockinging and these are two different things. he does not believe that Bertha is his wife in any other than a nominal sense. Otherwise, I fail to see where this comes from. And why can Jane not identify with Bertha? Why does she reproach Rochester, then- when throughout the novel she has been anxious for him to get rid of her for his own safety (in the figure of Grace Poole)? She has changed her position, apparently but the article does not acknowledge this. She does feel at least enough 'kinship' to refer to her as a 'poor woman' and not a monster or a beast any longer. In addition, she says nothing about Rochester's 'exhibiting' his wife. He has not been 'exhibiting her'- she has been concealed for ten years. He wishes now that his secret is known, to have it known completely.

I write on this article mostly because this following paragraph touches on a nerve I have. It is regarding the 'Whitcross' section of the novel. It begins:

Numerous readers have felt that the long Whitcross section, consisting as it does of nearly one hundred pages, is an awkward digression in Jane Eyre; and one is nudged to recall that the publishing firm of Smith, Elder had rejected Charlotte Brontë's earlier novel, The Professor, as "undersized." (But if Currer Bell would write a full-scale, three-volume novel for them, they would be "most interested.") Still, the carefully transcribed section is required for symmetry's sake. Brontë's authorial strategy is to balance one kind of temptation with its obverse (if Rochester is all romantic passion, urging her to succumb to emotional excess, St. John Rivers is all Christian ambition, urging her to attempt a spiritual asceticism of which she knows herself incapable).

There is a startling tendency to view this part of the book as the artcle describes, and I think it is completely groundless. All I will conceed is that it is evident that Charlotte is playing with the Gothic convention of the two men- one dark and dangerous, one fair and virtuous. It is one of the most vital sections of the work- not an 'awkward digression.' It would take far too long for me to outline my reasons, here but I hope to use one example to at least challenge this perspective. There is a point at which St.John attacks Jane's feelings for Mr Rochester, claiming that the 'tie' she cherishes is unlawful but also that she is being selfish and will live obscure if she persists in it. It is only one brief statement he drops, and yet very profound for at the end of the novel there are two things that I am sure no one would seriously dismiss. Jane is 'living with and for' what she 'best loves on Earth' (Mr Rochester), living 'for' him unselfishly when she could live contentedly and selfishly with someone more conventionally eligible or on her own. But more importantly, instead of dying nameless in India, an anonymous female missionary following the program not her own, she has written her autobiography, claimed her life and sealed her name to it- the very opposite of 'living obscure'!