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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Napoleon and the Spectre

Oh, hello! Virago Press? Hi, there's a little something you might want to look into- The Virago Book of Ghost Stories edited by Richard Dalby:

We have 31 stories here, all by women (as you would expect from Virago, even though the editor is a man) and almost all good. Indeed, there is only one utter dud, the first in the book, Napoleon and the Spectre by Charlotte Brontë; this is indescribably feeble and I am baffled by its inclusion.

Indeed, sir, I find myself quite baffled. Charlotte did not write 'Napoleon and the Spectre', it was one Branwell Bronte who is not a lady (forgive my ignorance on the subject- there could possibly be a novel out there about Branwell being a lady. You can never say for sure about these things).

My apologies but this was, honestly, the most fascinating or amusing Bronte item to come across the wire all week.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Emily's Journal

A new fictional diary of Emily Bronte, focusing on a tragic teenage love affair, has been praised by Bront researchers.
In her book "Emily's Journal", historian Sarah Fermi suggests the novel Wuthering Heights was based on the author's own doomed romance.
Experts have praised the plausibility, skill and detail of Sarah's 236-page portrayal of Emily's thoughts and motivations.

The Cambridge writer completed "Emily's Journal" after 15 years of research into unanswered aspects of the Bront family's lives.
She explored the theory that Emily experienced a profound and tragic relationship as an adolescent, social circumstances keeping the couple apart. The experience was said to have affected the rest of Emily's life and became the emotional source of both her poetry and Wuthering Heights.
Sarah looked at census records, parish registers and wills as she tried to match real-life evidence with the contents of Emily's works.
She chose to put forward the theory as a fictional journal, exploring Emily's life in minute detail, rather than as a biography.
Sally Wainwright, writer of TV drama At Home with the Braithwaites, this year turned the theory into a Radio 4 drama.
Sarah said her book was already selling well at the Bronte Parsonage Museum.
She said: "It might be of interest to the general public as an entertaining read and a completely new look at the Bront sisters.
"A great deal of research went into its creation and the theory is both possible and indeed probable."
Margaret Smith, editor of the Letters of Charlotte Bronte, said she was sceptical when she first started reading "Emily's Journal".
But she said: "I was gripped by the skilful interweaving of fact and possibility, and the way Sarah brought historic places and people to life."
Bob Duckett, editor of Bronte Studies, described the book as a superb mixture of historical research and plausible gap-filling.
Dr Heather Glen, who has written about Charlotte Bronte, said the compelling "Emily's Journal" was based on an extraordinarily detailed knowledge of the social history of Haworth.
She added: "Sarah really does convince us that something like what she describes could have happened and gives an intriguing glimpse of what the Bronte family dynamics might actually have been."
"Emily's Journal" is published by Pegasus, at £8.99 in paperback.

Read more about Emily's Journal by visiting the Bronte Parsonage Blog here.

Also, in a news brief from Canadian Christianity.com: The Department of English at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) has published its third annual issue of Soul in Paraphrase: A Journal of Literary Arts and Critical Inquiry. This year the theme is 'literary homage,' and it embraces the writing of 22 CMU students who analyze writers they have studied in their English courses. The journal contains parodies of famous poems; adaptations of famous passages; and drawings and photographs based on the novel Jane Eyre.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Buttons, Buckles, Ruffles and Lace Represent the Human Race!

I have been searching high and low for an article I read some time ago about the setting of Jane Eyre. Both sides in the debate are convinced they are right (that it ought to be set in the Regency, or the Victorian period). This article was in the Victorian camp, and mused on what Mr Rochester might have been doing in France during the Revolution (I have never read articles which have seriously considered why he would be chewing bon bons and dating ballet dancers in Paris during the Terror). Well, they said he'd probably be something like the Scarlet Pimpernel.

This is funny. Yes, it is. And also fortuitous for me. The Gordon/Caird musical had been continually compared with three other musicals: Les Miserables, The Secret Garden, and The Scarlet Pimpernel. The comparison with Pimpy makes little sense besides the flouncing white shirts, cravats, and breeches- unless we use our imagination to indulge in the Regency Jane Eyre theory.

It also gives me an excuse to call a post 'buttons, buckles, ruffles and lace represent the human race' which is just one of many fabulous lines from the show. It also gives me an excuse to share these scenes: witness the fop love below:

Or watch Alayna's beautiful clip here (I almost cried at the end from the funny):

And an editor's note: I hope regular postings will be resuming soon. It is the end of term, and naturally my life is in shambles. I have papers to mark, a ph.d proposal, this publishing project, two papers, and to top it all off I am officially homeless. That was the family crisis I spoke of earlier. Yesterday my mother was evicted back home, so I don't officially have one anymore. She's alright for the moment, but I've been desperately trying to find her a permanent residence from 1000 miles away. She might be settled as early as tonight.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Own the Manuscript of Jane Eyre for only $14.95!

Well, a reasonable fascimilie... okay, only one page in facimile but you have to admit that as Bronte gifts go this one is even cooler than the Bronte Berry lip balm and falls just short of action figures. What Bronte fan would not want a journal like this? It also comes in Shakespeare (yes, that's right. Out of the entire British canon they chose Charlotte Bronte and Shakespeare!). They're available for purchase from the New York Public Library bookstore online.

Lovely old literary manuscripts of famous novels and other works are reproduced on the covers of these distinctive and charming journals. The hardcover journals are embellished with gold foil and embossed details, and feature the signature of each writer on the back.

A page from a Jane Eyre manuscript. Hardcover journal, 160 lined pages, 7" x 9 1/4."

New Adaptation of Wuthering Heights

Here we go again! This time ITV has commissioned a new adaptation of Emily Bronte's novel. There is another version being planed by the company producing 'Becoming Jane.'

The three-hour adaptation of the nineteenth century novel will be screened either in late 2007 or early 2008, after a series of Jane Austen dramas next year.
It was commissioned by Laura Mackie, ITV's controller of drama, and will be produced by Mammoth Screen, a new independent production company set up by former ITV drama producer Damien Timmer.
The writer is Peter Bowker, who was behind the BBC's 'Blackpool' musical thriller and 'The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale'. It has not yet been cast.
Classic costume drama remains a reliable crowd-puller, with the BBC's recent four-part adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's 'Jane Eyre' attracting 6.7m viewers for its final episode.
ITV has already lined up three Jane Austen novels for next year: 'Mansfield Park', 'Northanger Abbey' and 'Persuasion'.
'Wuthering Heights', the only novel by Charlotte's sister Emily, is a darker tale of the twisted relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy, who comes back as a ghost to haunt her lover.
The last TV version of the book was filmed in 1998 by LWT and starred Sarah Smart and Robert Cavanah. Film versions have starred Ralph Fiennes and Timothy Dalton as Heathcliff, and there are reports of Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie having been lined up to star in a new version.

Friday, November 10, 2006

No Brontes? No Problem!

I have been on a little sabatical this week, and not a pleasant one. All final assignments are coming due, there is much researching, writing, and more writing to be done- there was even the tedious task of marking over a thousand lines of poetry with ETI code (like English literary html). On top of this my family is going through yet another crisis (which will soon be resolved and has nothing to do with ill-health).

What is a graduate student to do but play Oregon Trail? If you're not from North America, or were not a young'un in the 90s you might not know of the appeal this educational game has over 20-somethings. I was deprived of Oregon Trail as a child, not being American and there being no Canadian equivalent (like... Jesuit Adventure). Anyway, I downloaded a trial today but gave it a Bronte twist:

It is 1848, and you are going to settle in the wild west. Where, and how are almost entirely up to you but choose carefully because at every turn you will encounter disaster and death. I lead Jane, Mr Rochester, Adele, and St.John to Salt Lake City, Utah. Well, I tried to lead them there. Each character was surprisingly consistent: Mr Rochester wasn't far along the trail before he spained his ankle, Jane was bitten by a snake but soldiered on after sucking out the poison, and St.John caught cholera, broke his leg, and almost drowned after falling through the ice of a frozen river we were trying to cross. His accidents had nothing to do with my being leader of the expedition. Somewhere in the deserts of the midlands we lost poor little Adele. None of our fellow settlers would trade us water and she died of thirst! There is no justice! But that's the 1840s for you.

I proved handy as a hunter, fisherman, and food gatherer but then I was mauled by a hamster (prairie dog, actually) and had to travel across state 'bleeding and in pain.' Then there was the time I accidentally shot myself...

Next time, Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell move to Sacramento!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Bronte News

Bronte news has been very thin lately. Here is a selection of the most interesting items:

The Philipine Daily Inquirer recomends Wuthering Heights as cinema therapy for a 'stupid, ill-fated love affair.'

And Catherine Watson discovers the compelling nature of literary pilgrimage in her quest for 'a deeper connection' with the Brontes and other literary 'heroes.'

The Brontes at Haworth

Our fearless leader, Bronte Society Chairman Richard Wilcocks at the Bronte Parsonage Blog interviews Parsonage Librarian Ann Dinsdale about her newly published book, The Brontes at Haworth.

For research I didn’t have to stir beyond the library here, which of course contains the best collection of Brontë material in the world. I had access to parish records, contemporary accounts, newspapers, everything. After seventeen years I am quite familiar with what there is.


Some new or little-known items might stick in the reader’s mind, for example some of the contemporary views of the Brontë novels. One reviewer said that Wuthering Heights would ‘live a short and brilliant life and then die and be quickly forgotten’.

Then there’s the transcript of the account book of the local joiner William Wood, a good name for a joiner I think. He made coffins. His spelling gives an idea of how he spoke.

When ‘Miss Branwell’ died in 1842, her ‘coffen’ cost £5.12s.6d. When Branwell died in 1848 the ‘coffen & scroud making’ totalled only £3.15s. Then there is this:

Emlea Jane Bronty. Died Dec 19th 1848 in the 30 year of hir Age. Coffen 5ft 7” long 16” broad.

If you would like to purchase the book, it is available for order from the Bronte Parsonage online store.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Brontes of Haworth

It seems to be a running theme in most of my recent posts that I have very little time for blogging. And this month seems to be getting more complicated with each day. I ought to be in bed, resting up for tomorrow. Today was spent in a crash course in ETI, SGML, and XML, and then a ph.d proposal workshop. I think my work was tore apart by six or seven professors one after another- I can't remember how many exactly. To illustrate my state of mind at the end of it all: I stumbled back to the dinning hall forgetting that I had office hours during the workshop!

These clips I uploaded a few days ago but haven't had the time to post. I think this is a wonderfull series but it is hardly known. This first clip is one of my favourites in the series. Anne Bronte arrives at Thorp Green to take up her position as governess to the Robinson children.

And in this clip Charlotte discovers Emily's poetry, and the plan forms to attempt their first publication:

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Reader, I Married Him: Heathcliff

I edited this clip a little to make it fit the requirements of the website. I shaved a few seconds from the Monty Python Semaphore clip. Alas, I think those who find Wuthering Heights a novel of the profoundest love might find this tribute a little lacking. I think Juliet Barker's quotation marks aound 'love' might sum up the attitude to the book. I wonder why on earth they used clips from a 1960s version of Wuthering Heights which look absolutely terrible! Surely there was better footage than this? When Heathcliff comes lumbering over the moors I wondered if he were human- he certainly doesn't move like a human being.

Reader, I Married Him: Mr Rochester, and M. Heger

I had to split the segment into two halves to make it fit, so here are parts one and two. I must say that I am still surprised by the nonsense some of the 'experts' have to say about Mr Rochester- especially Lucasta Miller. At least now I know where the 'Mr Rochester is a rake who's had lots and lots of mistresses' myth comes from. Incidentally I also find her description of Charlotte's attitudes to Jane Austen to be exaggerated as well. It makes her seem as though she thought 'great romantic tempests' were the only kind of real emotion one could experience. If you read her letters on Jane Austen, she is critiquing the depth of the characters in Emma. She says she cannot sense their arteries and blood beneath the surface. In other words, Jane Austen does not fully penetrate the psychology of her characters. That is a authorial strategy (not a fault). Charlotte was also writing these letters to defend herself from a rabid Jane Austen fan who had been writing to her about how she ought to write like Jane Austen. When the fan wrote back demanding that she acknowledge the superiority and genius of Miss A that's when Charlotte let him have it. She was, as I have said... a snark.

Since the clip makes reference to Monsieur Heger in discussing Mr Rochester, I have included a clip from the Brontes of Haworth, a mini series about the lives of the Brontes. In this clip Charlotte has returned to Brussels alone after the death of Aunt Branwell, and has a talk with Monsieur Heger.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Reader, I Married Him: Jane Eyre

It took me a ridiculously long time to get this clip uploaded to YouTube, but here it is at last and by popular demand. As for the section about Mr Rochester, I am having less luck. The clip Penny sent didn't download properly, or there is some other problem which prevents me from editing it down to a proper size. So, no Mr Rochester, I'm afraid (at least for now).

Jane Eyre 1937: Katherine Kepburn and Dennis Hoey

Someone recently inquired about a stage adaptation of Jane Eyre starring Katherine Hepburn and Dennis Hoey. Coincidently I have just come across an archive with many photographs from the production!

'Hot Furry Sex' novel by Charlotte Bronte

My vendetta against Chapters Canada has more fuel for its fires thanks to Bronteana reader Sarah who wrote in to tell me that Charlotte Bronte has published a new novel! Confused? I know I was especially because the name on the book jacket clearly is not 'Charlotte Bronte' unless you can spell 'Charlotte Bronte' 'Lorie O'Clare.'

The book is called 'In her Nature' and features a muscled, barechested blond man clutching a writhing and buxom woman to his almost as boutiful and heaving bosom. The book is the fourth of a series called Lunewulf, a werewolf romance fantasy series! The other books include: 'Bitten (Moon Lust)', 'In Her Blood', 'Wolf's Passion,' 'Scent of Passion.'

A reader review of another book in the series proclaims it: " A great read for anyone who enjoys a good love story with hot and furry sex!"

'You Must Try Now to Forget...'

I realise that I have never posted these letters by Charlotte Bronte before. This is a shame because they are among my favourites. Her letters make wonderfull reading, especially when she's angry and being a snark. Here she wonders what it would be like to see an adaptation of Jane Eyre, and then her reaction to a review of one of the first adaptations (if I remember correctly the first adaptation appeared only months after the novel's publication).


‘February 5th, 1848.

‘Dear Sir,—A representation of Jane Eyre at a minor theatre would no doubt be a rather afflicting spectacle to the author of that work. I suppose all would be wofully exaggerated and painfully vulgarised by the actors and actresses on such a stage. What, I cannot help asking myself, would they make of Mr. Rochester? And the picture my fancy conjures up by way of reply is a somewhat humiliating one. What would they make of Jane Eyre? I see something very pert and very affected as an answer to that query.

‘Still, were it in my power, I should certainly make a point of being myself a witness of the exhibition. Could I go quietly and alone, I undoubtedly should go; I should endeavour to endure both rant and whine, strut and grimace, for the sake of the useful observations to be collected in such a scene.

‘As to whether I wish you to go, that is another question. I am afraid I have hardly fortitude enough really to wish it. One can endure being disgusted with one’s own work, but that a friend should share the repugnance is unpleasant. Still, I know it would interest me to hear both your account of the exhibition and any ideas which the effect of the various parts on the spectators might suggest to you. In short, I should like to know what you would think, and to hear what you would say on the subject. But you must not go merely to satisfy my curiosity; you must do as you think proper. Whatever you decide on will content me: if you do not go, you will be spared a vulgarising impression of the book; if you do go, I shall perhaps gain a little information—either alternative has its advantage.'

He did go to the performance. His report does not survive, but this is Charlotte's response to his review:


‘February 15th, 1848.

‘Dear Sir,—Your letter, as you may fancy, has given me something to think about. It has presented to my mind a curious picture, for the description you give is so vivid, I seem to realise it all. I wanted information and I have got it. You have raised the veil from a corner of your great world—your London—and have shown me a glimpse of what I might call loathsome, but which I prefer calling strange. Such, then, is a sample of what amuses the metropolitan populace! Such is a view of one of their haunts!

‘Did I not say that I would have gone to this theatre and witnessed this exhibition if it had been in my power? What absurdities people utter when they speak of they know not what!

‘You must try now to forget entirely what you saw.'