I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.
Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights

vrijdag 7 juni 2013

Bronte Parsonage Museum

 
The Telegraph and Argus features the current exhibition at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, Heaven is a Home, as well as Ann Dinsdale's book At Home with the Brontës:
In the words of Charlotte Bronte’s biographer Elizabeth Gaskell, it is a “low, oblong stone parsonage, high up, yet with a higher backdrop of sweeping moors”. Today Haworth Parsonage is a world-famous literary shrine. Thousands of tourists visit the house, now the Bronte Parsonage Museum, to discover what inspired Emily, Charlotte and Anne.
Yet it is often forgotten that the parsonage has also been home to several other families, before and after the Brontes. Following Patrick Bronte’s death in 1861, it was occupied by four of his successors at Haworth’s parish church then, when the Bronte Society bought the building in 1928, it became home to four custodians and their families, who witnessed the growth of tourism in Haworth.
A new collection of photographs and artefacts, on display at the Bronte Parsonage Museum until the end of this year, reveals the secret life of the building through the stories of those who lived there. Called Heaven Is A Home, it also uses letters, sketches and documents to detail domestic details of the Brontes’ residence.
The exhibition complements the Parsonage’s recent £60,000 refurbishment. Decorative historian Allyson McDermott used forensic analysis on tiny samples of paint and paper left from the Brontes’ time to recreate a decorative scheme close to that of their residence.
Also linked to the exhibition is At Home With The Brontes by Ann Dinsdale, collections manager at the museum, tracing the history of the house and those who lived there, from a horsewhip-wielding minister to a sitcom actor’s daughter. (Emma Clayton) (Read more)

woensdag 5 juni 2013

Life of Elizabeth Gaskell, first biographer of Charlotte Bronte

Elizabeth Gaskell was the ideal Victorian wife and mother, a 19th-century domestic goddess. And it was true. Married to a minister, bringing up four children, keeping hearth and home, engaging herself in charity, the author of Cranford embodied old-fashioned femininity.
 
She was born as Elizabeth Stevenson in 1810 in Chelsea, daughter of an eccentric, bookish man, who worked for the Treasury in Whitehall. She was her 40-year-old mother's eighth child in 13 years, six of whom had died. A year after Elizabeth was born, the poor woman died from exhaustion.The motherless child was sent to live with Aunt Lumb, her mother's sister, in rural Cheshire. There she grew up happily in the loving care of the woman she later called "my more-than-mum2. There were cousins to play with and relatives to cosset her.

There were two blots on her landscape. However kind her relations, she was hurt by her father's rejection, and was lonely. When he remarried, he did not send for her until several years later - and when he did, her stepmother resented her. Stays with her family in London when she was nine ended in tears. The couple's attention focused on the two new children of the marriage. Elizabeth's only friend in London was her brother - the other survivor of their mother's brood - but when she was 12, he went to sea and she was alone again. Boarding school was her salvation. Surprisingly for a girl of her generation she had a good education, and was encouraged to read widely and to write. She loved visiting and learning about historic places. It was the start of her passion for collecting stories.

Then, as she was beginning to get her life on track, she was knocked back by two disasters. In 1828 her brother John was lost at sea. Six months later her father died too, from a stroke. She was just 18.
With no firm ties, Elizabeth felt unable to settle. She strayed from her Aunt Lumb's care to distant relatives in Newcastle; she travelled to Edinburgh, then back to London, ending up often at Knutsford. She longed to meet men at London balls. There was one in Park Lane, she was told to her excitement, that had "capital flirting places in the balcony". But what she really longed for was marriage - and she soon met her man.

The Reverend William Gaskell was an unlikely beau for this giddy girl. He was scholarly and austere, a classicist like her father. Some thought him dry and rule-bound, but not Elizabeth. He was five years older than her, tall and thin, and very attractive. He was a minister in the Unitarian Church, the Protestant sect in which she had grown up. It was a non-conformist group, intellectually driven, with a faith that emphasised individual salvation combined with a strong streak of social conscience. Marriage to Gaskell thrilled and lifted Elizabeth - only for her to be dashed down again when she gave birth to a still-born girl. This unnamed infant never left her, as she wrote in a heart-wrenching sonnet:

 "Thee have I not forgot, my first-born, thou
Whose eyes ne'er opened to my wistful gaze."
 
She was soon pregnant again, however, and bore a healthy daughter, Marianne. But the earlier experience had scarred her and she began writing a diary of her new child's life, in case she or the child died. This began her life as a writer. A second girl was born, Meta. Then a third child, a boy, but he died before his birth was even recorded. Aunt Lumb was dead, too. In her grief for all this loss Elizabeth wrote more stories, ghostly ones full of tragedy, like her life. Another girl, Florence, eased the pain. A year later, a son was delivered safely and named William, after his father. Her life as a mother was busy, but she was happy. Then, on holiday in Wales, William died of scarlet fever aged just nine months. Elizabeth was distraught and took to her bed. Her husband, desperate to distract her, encouraged her to start a bigger writing project than she had tackled before - to write a novel.

Three years later, her first book, Mary Barton, was published. It was a bleak love story set in the Manchester slums. She wrote in the preface: "The tale was formed and the first volume written when I was obliged to lie down constantly on the sofa and I took refuge in invention to exclude the memory of painful scenes." The writer of ten books and dozens of short stories and magazine articles was on her way - but at what a cost.

Mary Barton brought  success to Elizabeth. She was paid £200 for the book, which was published anonymously. Charles Dickens sang its praises. Other admirers included John Ruskin, Charles Kingsley, and Thomas Carlyle. Although critics took a jaundiced view towards her championing of the poor and calls for social reform, the novel led to her writing other books, each one making her more money. From then on she published her books under her own name, Mrs. Gaskell.

Charles Dickens admired Elizabeth so much that he serialised her next novel, Cranford, in his journal, Household Words (1851-1853). More novels followed in rapid succession, including Ruth (1853), North and South (1855), and Sylvia’s Lovers (1863). These books did not represent her sole literary output. Elizabeth wrote several novellas, of which Cranford was one, as well as short stories and articles for periodicals.

After her good friend Charlotte Bronte died, Gaskell wrote her acclaimed biography, using firsthand accounts and sources. This led her into some legal trouble, for shortly after the book’s publication a few of the people mentioned in it threatened to sue for having been represented incorrectly.

She made many other important friends, and was an avid correspondent, writing thousands of letters to friends and near strangers with the rapidity and ease of someone who, had she lived in the future, would most likely have embraced email.*
elizabeth-cleghorn-gaskell

On Sunday November 12, 1865, she and her daughters spent a lazy morning before Elizabeth walked up the lane to church. The vicar thought she looked extremely well.
At 5pm, everyone sat in the drawing room for tea. Elizabeth was gossiping, relating a conversation she'd had with a judge when, mid-sentence, she stopped, gasped and slumped down dead from a heart attack. She was 55 and William, the man she unfailingly loved, was consigned to a widowhood of his own, for 23 more years. After so many tragedies in her life, perhaps that was the final one.The-amazing-secret-life-Cranford-creator-Elizabeth-Gaskell






Gaskell was hostile to any form of biographical notice of her being written in her lifetime. Only months before her death, she wrote to an applicant for data: "I disapprove so entirely of the plan of writing 'notices' or 'memoirs' of living people, that I must send you on the answer I have already sent to many others; namely an entire refusal to sanction what is to me so objectionable and indelicate a practice, by furnishing a single fact with regard to myself. I do not see why the public have any more to do with me than buy or reject the ware I supply to them" (4 June 1865). After her death the family sustained her objection, refusing to make family letters or biographical data available Victorian web


On 25 September 2010 a memorial to Elizabeth Gaskell was dedicated in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.
 

Parsonage

Parsonage

Charlotte Bronte

Presently the door opened, and in came a superannuated mastiff, followed by an old gentleman very like Miss Bronte, who shook hands with us, and then went to call his daughter. A long interval, during which we coaxed the old dog, and looked at a picture of Miss Bronte, by Richmond, the solitary ornament of the room, looking strangely out of place on the bare walls, and at the books on the little shelves, most of them evidently the gift of the authors since Miss Bronte's celebrity. Presently she came in, and welcomed us very kindly, and took me upstairs to take off my bonnet, and herself brought me water and towels. The uncarpeted stone stairs and floors, the old drawers propped on wood, were all scrupulously clean and neat. When we went into the parlour again, we began talking very comfortably, when the door opened and Mr. Bronte looked in; seeing his daughter there, I suppose he thought it was all right, and he retreated to his study on the opposite side of the passage; presently emerging again to bring W---- a country newspaper. This was his last appearance till we went. Miss Bronte spoke with the greatest warmth of Miss Martineau, and of the good she had gained from her. Well! we talked about various things; the character of the people, - about her solitude, etc., till she left the room to help about dinner, I suppose, for she did not return for an age. The old dog had vanished; a fat curly-haired dog honoured us with his company for some time, but finally manifested a wish to get out, so we were left alone. At last she returned, followed by the maid and dinner, which made us all more comfortable; and we had some very pleasant conversation, in the midst of which time passed quicker than we supposed, for at last W---- found that it was half-past three, and we had fourteen or fifteen miles before us. So we hurried off, having obtained from her a promise to pay us a visit in the spring... ------------------- "She cannot see well, and does little beside knitting. The way she weakened her eyesight was this: When she was sixteen or seventeen, she wanted much to draw; and she copied nimini-pimini copper-plate engravings out of annuals, ('stippling,' don't the artists call it?) every little point put in, till at the end of six months she had produced an exquisitely faithful copy of the engraving. She wanted to learn to express her ideas by drawing. After she had tried to draw stories, and not succeeded, she took the better mode of writing; but in so small a hand, that it is almost impossible to decipher what she wrote at this time.

I asked her whether she had ever taken opium, as the description given of its effects in Villette was so exactly like what I had experienced, - vivid and exaggerated presence of objects, of which the outlines were indistinct, or lost in golden mist, etc. She replied, that she had never, to her knowledge, taken a grain of it in any shape, but that she had followed the process she always adopted when she had to describe anything which had not fallen within her own experience; she had thought intently on it for many and many a night before falling to sleep, - wondering what it was like, or how it would be, - till at length, sometimes after the progress of her story had been arrested at this one point for weeks, she wakened up in the morning with all clear before her, as if she had in reality gone through the experience, and then could describe it, word for word, as it had happened. I cannot account for this psychologically; I only am sure that it was so, because she said it. ----------------------She thought much of her duty, and had loftier and clearer notions of it than most people, and held fast to them with more success. It was done, it seems to me, with much more difficulty than people have of stronger nerves, and better fortunes. All her life was but labour and pain; and she never threw down the burden for the sake of present pleasure. I don't know what use you can make of all I have said. I have written it with the strong desire to obtain appreciation for her. Yet, what does it matter? She herself appealed to the world's judgement for her use of some of the faculties she had, - not the best, - but still the only ones she could turn to strangers' benefit. They heartily, greedily enjoyed the fruits of her labours, and then found out she was much to be blamed for possessing such faculties. Why ask for a judgement on her from such a world?" elizabeth gaskell/charlotte bronte



Poem: No coward soul is mine

No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the worlds storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heavens glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.


O God within my breast.
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life -- that in me has rest,
As I -- Undying Life -- have power in Thee!


Vain are the thousand creeds
That move mens hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,


To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The steadfast Rock of immortality.


With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.


Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.


There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou -- Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.


--
Emily Bronte

Family tree

The Bronte Family

Grandparents - paternal
Hugh Brunty was born 1755 and died circa 1808. He married Eleanor McClory, known as Alice in 1776.

Grandparents - maternal
Thomas Branwell (born 1746 died 5th April 1808) was married in 1768 to Anne Carne (baptised 27th April 1744 and died 19th December 1809).

Parents
Father was Patrick Bronte, the eldest of 10 children born to Hugh Brunty and Eleanor (Alice) McClory. He was born 17th March 1777 and died on 7th June 1861. Mother was Maria Branwell, who was born on 15th April 1783 and died on 15th September 1821.

Maria had a sister, Elizabeth who was known as Aunt Branwell. She was born in 1776 and died on 29th October 1842.

Patrick Bronte married Maria Branwell on 29th December 1812.

The Bronte Children
Patrick and Maria Bronte had six children.
The first child was Maria, who was born in 1814 and died on 6th June 1825.
The second daughter, Elizabeth was born on 8th February 1815 and died shortly after Maria on 15th June 1825. Charlotte was the third daughter, born on 21st April 1816.

Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls (born 1818) on 29th June 1854. Charlotte died on 31st March 1855. Arthur lived until 2nd December 1906.

The first and only son born to Patrick and Maria was Patrick Branwell, who was born on 26th June 1817 and died on 24th September 1848.

Emily Jane, the fourth daughter was born on 30th July 1818 and died on 19th December 1848.

The sixth and last child was Anne, born on 17th January 1820 who died on 28th May 1849.

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