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

donderdag 5 januari 2017

Take Courage: Anne Brontë and the Art of Life.

If you’ve read Samantha Ellis’s charming bibliomemoir How to be a Heroine – a heartwarming trip down memory lane as she looks back over the literary ladies that have shaped her life – you might be surprised to discover it’s Anne Brontë, the oft-overlooked 'third Beatle' of England’s most famous literary siblings, who’s the subject of her second book, Take Courage: Anne Brontë and the Art of Life.

Better known Charlotte and Emily were both integral to the journey recounted in How to be a Heroine, Ellis’s entire enterprise inspired by an argument with her best friend regarding the respective allure of passionate headstrong Cathy Earnshaw versus dependable independent Jane Eyre. The stories told in both Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre are held aloft as grand romances, inspiring a host of adaptations, sequels and prequels from fan fiction through to Jean Rhys’s revisionist masterpiece, Wide Sargasso Sea. Similar approbation for Anne’s novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), would be tricky since it lays bare the underbelly of the romance fantasy, taking a leading lady “who starts out like other Brontë heroines, charmed by a sexy dangerous man,” Ellis explains, “but she sees the light and leaves him.” As Ellis points out, this depiction of female agency was radical for its time. While readers today will no doubt find the story hugely "refreshing," it wasn’t exactly what people either expected or wanted in the mid 1800s.

This novel (Anne’s second and final work) is central to Ellis’s project though, her modus operandi being to “see Anne through the stories she told, not the stories told about her,” especially since when it comes to the latter, there are two significant stumbling blocks. Firstly, nowhere near as much is known about the baby Brontë as compared to her more famous sisters; and secondly, what is available has been filtered through Charlotte, who suppressed the publication of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall after Anne’s death (by then she was the only surviving sibling). Hence the image of the “virginal Victorian spinster, sweet and stoic, selfless and sexless, achieving very little before wasting away at twenty-nine” has held sway. Not least over Ellis herself. Until, that is, the day she was shown Anne’s last letter, written only five weeks before her death. Despite the writer’s failing health, Ellis is captivated by the “hope and spirit” she sees on the page.

As such, Take Courage is as much an account of Ellis’s own discovery of Anne's work as it is that of her subject’s life, and herein lies the book's unique appeal. Ellis – who is, it should be noted, as intelligent and perceptive a reader as she is an evocative storyteller – truly writes from the heart, which isn’t to say she hasn’t done her research. She has. But if you’re looking for a run-of-the-mill scholarly biography heavy with footnotes, this isn’t what Take Courage is. Instead it’s a deeply sympathetic and interesting re-evaluation of a woman ahead of her time who has much to teach us all about living courageously. independent/books/reviews/take-courage-anne-bronte

zondag 1 januari 2017

Two new biographies of Anne Bronte.

New 2017 books are presented in The Irish Independent:
This month also sees the publication of a long-overdue appraisal of the third Brontë sister, Anne. Take Courage (Chatto), by How To be a Heroine author Samantha Ellis, is being released on January 12, ahead of Anne's birthday on January 17. (Hilary A. White)
Lucasta Miller reviews the biography in The Sunday Times:
Anne is the Cinderella of the Brontë sisters, the youngest, least recognised and, by all accounts, the prettiest. Charlotte’s Jane Eyre and Emily’s Wuthering Heights subsequently became Hollywood classics. After Anne died, her novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was publicly dismissed by Charlotte as an “entire mistake”.
Anne’s book was, however, far more radical than anything her more famous sisters ever wrote. In its coruscating portrait of an abusive marriage it bypassed the romanticism of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights to “get” feminism in a way that Charlotte and Emily never did. Although generally considered as the quiet and docile one, Anne was, in fact, the secret firebrand of the family.
The effort to reclaim her has been going on for some time. Winifred Gérin’s biography of Anne was published in 1959. However, the dominance of the two elder sisters means that there remains a need to bring her out of the shadows. In Take Courage, Samantha Ellis has risen to the challenge. (...)
Take Courage is almost as much about Ellis’s vicarious relationship with her subject as it is about Anne Brontë. If scholarly footnotes are your thing, it isn’t for you. But if you want to share in a biographer’s emotional journey, you will find insights aplenty here. The account of Anne’s death from TB at the age of 29 is truly moving. bronteblog

Don't forget there is another Anne Bronte's biography released in 2016 by Nick Holland.

Anne Brontë, the youngest and most enigmatic of the Brontë sisters, remains a bestselling author nearly two centuries after her death. The brilliance of her two novels – Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – and her poetry belies the quiet, yet courageous girl who often lived in the shadows of her more celebrated sisters. Yet her writing was the most revolutionary of all the Brontës, pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable.

This revealing new biography opens Anne’s most private life to a new audience and shows the true nature of her relationship with her sister Charlotte.

'Holland has enormous affection for Anne Brontë, and his excellent book is filled with passion and pathos. Its triumph is that Anne is given voice and is no longer swamped by her siblings.' - Roger Lewis, The Mail On Sunday

'Holland's way of telling about Anne Brontë's final illness and last days is particularly touching while avoiding the easy slide into parable territory. This new biography proves that Anne Brontë's afterlife is just like her life: not about quantity but about quality.' - Brontë Blog Book Review 

Nick Holland also has an interesting weblog about Anne. annebronte

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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