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March 31, 2005

Sesquicentennial: Charlotte Brontė

I had to look up the spelling for that one, and found, to my surprise, that I'd gotten it right. I'm not sure one can say "Happy Sesquicentennial, Charlotte!" because today marks the 150th anniversary of her death. (That's been a big subject here of late on the Armoire. We've gotten a bit Victorian in our fascination, perhaps, but our mindset ought to improve with the onset of Spring. So fear not, lads and lassies, Lady C. shall conquer this bleak mood.)

Some links:

Charlotte Brontė: An Overview [Victorian Web]

Apparently there's a cult of Charlotte; I shouldn't be surprised, nor should I be one to cast stones, given my affection for Austen. This commentary was too emphatic and dishy to pass up:

Reader, I shagged him In the Books section of The Guardian, reviewer Tanya Gold declares her mission:

As the 150th anniversary of her death on March 31 1855 approaches, it is time to rescue Charlotte Brontė. She has been chained, weeping, to a radiator in the Haworth Parsonage, Yorkshire, for too long. Enough of [Elizabeth] Gaskell's fake miserabilia. Enough of the Brontė industry's veneration of coffins, bonnets and tuberculosis. It is time to exhume the real Charlotte - filthy bitch, grandmother of chick-lit, and friend.
Brontė never much cared for Jane Austen. Here are some comments she made in regard to Austen's work. More on this in a moment.

Brontė's Jane Eyre was one of the first literary works that I owned as a kid; I still have my copy, in fact. The librarian I volunteered for at school gave me a gift certificate to Barnes & Noble and I was fully prepared to blow it on a few copies of paperbacks from the Windswept series. (Remember those, girls? The series of supernatural mystery/teen romance novels? Like Harlequin for girls. And yep, I also read the Sweet Dreams series, the Sweet Valley High books, Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary. I had to hide all this from my mother, though. I was supposed to be dutiful daughter/super-student with no thoughts of a social life with friends, let alone romantic notions. Really, how silly of me to think that. Although had she intervened, maybe I'd not have filled my head with unrealistic expectations about relationships...or I could have turned out the same anyway.) Anyway...

I did not get the Windswept books. At my mother's "suggestion" I was to choose between two works: Jane Eyre or Anne of Green Gables. Eventually, I did read the Anne books, and I loved them, but at the time I preferred the Gothic cover illustration of Jane Eyre, Romantic Heroine, to the freckled, red-headed cute-but-still-homely Anne Shirley. So grudgingly I went with Jane Eyre, and my parents paid the difference between what the certificate covered and the book's cover price.

I read the book. I loved it. (Yes, Mother, you were right. This was the better book to choose.) I identified with the young girl to whom everybody was most unkind and not the least bit understanding. (Gee, can't imagine why.) But although I enjoyed Jane Eyre - it was thrilling and satisfying, so wonderfully Gothic and romantic, so remote from my everyday life - Brontė's work doesn't hold for me the same deep regard that I feel for Jane Austen's novels. For the most part, her works are "domestic" adventures, not Gothic ones, but there is so much depth in these seemingly shallow stories about society. There is romance, drama, comedy, tragedy, delicious irony and sly wit - it is all there if you are willing to see beyond the surface. Austen is such a keen observer of people; even minor characters come to life. Ignore that these are period settings; the lives of her characters have such modern sensibilities that they can be recognized in our own lives today.

Hmmm. A post about Charlotte Brontė has veered off into a discussion of her arch-rival. Enough of my selling you on these authors. I haven't tried to disguise my favorite, but both are worth reading, if you are so inclined.

Yours, &c., LC | 02:41 PM | Writing & Language | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

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Comments

I knew you would write up on that (yes, I know, I'm stopping by two days late, but just don't have the chance under the week these days), and I wasn't disappointed! My BA spoken exam was about Charlotte and Jane Eyre in particular.

Posted by: mademoiselle a. at April 2, 2005 04:27 PM

Oh wow - you must know (or remember) much more than I do, since you've studied it formally. That's really neat.

Posted by: Lady Crumpet at April 2, 2005 05:33 PM

Oh no, I do believe it is all up to ourselves; a student may have studied a subject for ages and yet knows not even the basics, whereas someone devoted (is that how we say?) might have read all the research literature up and down, if you know what I mean. So let's agree we're certainly both good at it - you're the Austen specialist, I choose Bronte ;)

Posted by: mademoiselle a. at April 6, 2005 08:39 AM

I first tried to read Jane Eyre when I was a youngish teen and couldn't get past the initial horribleness of her life. But picked it up a few years later and now it's one of my all-time favourites and I found I could really relate to Jane. Guess I just needed a few years. :)

And of course, the wonder that is Jane Austen goes without saying. :)

Posted by: Tiny Librarian at April 7, 2005 01:39 AM