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Thursday, 20 March 2014

Friday, 7 March 2014

Brontë Festival of Women's Writing

Friday 14 – Sunday 16 March
Join us for the fourth Brontë Festival of Women’s Writing at the home of the Brontës. An exciting range of events will take place throughout the weekend, including talks, workshops, readings and family events. There’s something for everyone!

To book tickets or for further information contact / 01535 640188 or book online at

Friday 14 March
Jackie Kay
West Lane Baptist Centre, Haworth, 7.30pm
Join the 2013 Brontë Society Writer in Residence, Jackie Kay as she opens the fourth Bronte Festival of Women’s Writing. Jackie Kay grew up in Glasgow and has written all her life, publishing novels, poetry and short stories. Several of her adult poetry collections have won or have been shortlisted for awards. Her first novel Trumpet won the Author’s Club First Novel Award and the Guardian Fiction Prize. Red Dust Road won the Scottish Book of the Year award and was picked as a World Book Night title.
Tickets: £6
To book tickets contact / 01535 640188 or book online at

Saturday 15 March
Festival Fun at the Parsonage!
Brontë Parsonage Museum, 10am-4pm
Visit the Brontë Parsonage Museum for some festival family fun. Follow clues to a literary trail around the village or play a giant game of Wuthering Heights poetry on the front lawn.
Free with admission to the Parsonage.

Saturday 15 March
Louise Crosby: Creative Writing Workshop West Lane Baptist Centre, Haworth, 10am-1pm With the recent growth in popularity of graphic novels and memoirs this workshop provides a simple introduction to working with words and pictures together.  Participants will create their own short graphic memoir inspired by a Brontë poem.  This may form the basis for a future graphic short story, visual diary or even the start of your own graphic novel!
The course is suitable for writers and artists of all abilities.
Tickets: £12
To book tickets contact / 01535 640188 or book online at

Saturday 15 March
Readings by Ilkely and Calderdale Young Writers
Bronte Parsonage Museum, 12pm
Hear Ilkley and Calderdale Young Writers in the rooms of the Parsonage as they read their own poems inspired by the Brontës and the museum’s collection.
Free with admission to the Parsonage.

Saturday 15 March
Jackie Kay: Creative Writing Workshop
West Lane Baptist Centre, Haworth 2-5pm
A rare opportunity to join award-winning poet, novelist and short story writer Jackie Kay in this creative writing workshop inspired by her 2013 Brontë Writer’s Residency.
Tickets: £15. Booking essential.
To book tickets contact / 01535 640188 or book online at

Saturday 15 March
Sarah Dunant: Blood and Beauty
West Lane Baptist Centre, Haworth, 7.30pm
Internationally bestselling writer Sarah Dunant visits Haworth to discuss her latest novel, Blood and Beauty, which takes on the Italian Renaissance’s most infamous family: the Borgias. Sarah Dunant is famous for her Italian historical novels: The Birth of Venus, In the Company of the Courtesan and Sacred Hearts, which have been translated into more than thirty languages and bring voice to the lives of three different women in three different historical contexts. She has worked widely in television, radio and print, has written ten novels and edited two collections of essays.
Tickets £6
To book tickets contact / 01535 640188 or book online at

Sunday 16 March
Drop-in Creative Writing
Bronte Parsonage Museum, 11-4
As part of our Festival of Women's Writing, visit the Parsonage for a drop-in creative writing session. Create your own piece of writing inspired by the Brontës and the museum collection.
Free with admission to the Parsonage

Sunday 16 March
Rebecca Stirrup: Creative Writing Workshop
Brontë Parsonage Museum, 10.30am-1.30pm
Gothic fantasy is that wonderful combination of horror, folklore, fairytale and myth.  Monsters may exist in these worlds, but often it is the humans that are monstrous.  There is a potency to gothic fantasy that, in our attempts to tame the beasts, is often lost today.  Vampires should not be considered good boyfriend material, werewolves are not our friends (at least not during the full moon), and while our heroes strive for goodness they do so at a cost.  This workshop will explore gothic fantasy through excerpts and through writing exercises.  You will develop ideas for your own gothic fantasies, and generate and develop the motifs and symbols of the genre in your writing. 
For everyone from the budding to the experienced writer.
Tickets: £12
To book tickets contact / 01535 640188 or book online at

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Jane Austen vs Emily Brontë

If you are in London on 26 February, you might like to take part in this literary combat organised by Intelligence Squared. Here is what they say:
Jane Austen created the definitive picture of Georgian England – a landscape of Palladian mansions and handsome parsonages, peopled by rigidly-divided classes. No writer matches Austen’s sensitive ear for the hypocrisy and irony lurking beneath the genteel conversation. Never has a novelist written comic prose with such subtlety and restraint. If you want to understand the early 19th century – the power of money and inheritance, the clothes, the interior décor – Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice are worth a dozen history books, and any number of second-rate novels by Austen’s contemporaries.
That’s the argument of the Janeites, but to the aficionados of Emily Brontë they are the misguided worshippers of a circumscribed mind. In Wuthering Heights, Brontë dispensed with Austen’s niceties and the upper-middle class drawing rooms of Bath and the home counties. Her backdrop is the savage Yorkshire moors, her subject the all-consuming passions of the heart. The story of Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw is a full-blooded tale of violent attraction, thwarted love, death and the supernatural that makes Jane Austen look mundane – and clutches at the reader’s heart with a vigour and directness unmatched in English literature.
To help you decide who should be crowned queen of English letters we have the lined up the best advocates to make the case for each writer. They will be calling on actors, including stars Dominic West and Sam West, to illustrate their arguments with readings from the novels.
More at this website
The Queens of English Literature Debate,  
with actors Dominic West and Sam West


Royal Geographical Society  

1 Kensington Gore,
020 7591 3000

Friday, 31 January 2014

Brontës at the Brigantes

The York Brontë Group is now under way, meeting once a month at The Brigantes Bar, Micklegate, York.  The first, very informal get-together, began with a very short talk about laudanum and other common nineteenth century remedies.  The discussion which followed widened to cover a number of related topics including what Mr Brontë did and – perhaps more significantly - did not annotate in his copy of Graham’s Modern Domestic Medicine and whether Emily’s final illness really was consumption.

The next meeting of the group will be on Thursday, 27 February at 2 pm when a discussion about modern responses to the works of the Brontës will be led by Belinda Hakes who is Head of English at Wyke College.

In addition to discussion session a programme of visits is planned and full details will be released soon. For further information please email Chris Went (Trustee) at and you can follow the Group on Twitter @YorkBronteGroup 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Wuthering Heights - a new musical

Adapted from the novel by Emily Brontë
Music, Book and Lyrics by Catherine McDonald

Dates - 11th - 15th February 2014 @ 7:30pm (plus a matinee on Saturday @ 2:30pm)
Venue - The Barons Court Theatre, London.
Tickets - £10 / £8.50 concession
Box Office - 0208 932 4747

About the Writer / Composer
Catherine McDonald completed David Edgar's Playwriting Masters Degree and has enjoyed a number of successes with play scripts and musicals being produced across the country and on ITV1.  Her play Once Upon A Winter is published by Eldridge Editors in the US, and she has recently won the nationwide Mardibooks World War One Short Story competition for her story Homecoming.

Catherine was short-listed for the BBC Writer's Academy for her play The Kittens in the Bag, after which Theatre 503 programmed her short play What Sam Told Me as part of their Rapid Write Rewind night, celebrating the best of their Rapid Response evenings over the past few years.  

Catherine received critical acclaim for her musical adaptation of Peter Pan Never Land at the Edinburgh Fringe, which went on to be performed outdoors in Kensington Gardens, and was then featured on ITV1's Fortune, winning £15,000 to donate to Gt Ormond St Children's Hospital.  

**  Catherine and her theatre company came to Haworth in 2008 and performed her adaptation of Jane Eyre for the Bronte Society AGM weekend, to great applause. This should be well worth seeing!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Wuthering Heights in Postwar Japan

Mizae Mizumura
Several people have emailed the blog about this article - A True Novel - recently published in The Japan Times. French Literature scholar Mizae Mizumura has updated Wuthering Heights and relocated it to Japan soon after the Second World War, which brings to mind novels by David Peace like Occupied City. Mizumura's novel is described as 'a real page-turner' and also 'in some respects, more interesting' (!) The article continues: 'A True Novel is mostly told by a servant named Fumiko to a young man she happens to meet, who tells it in turn to a character called Minae Mizumura, a novelist writing a book not unlike this one and living a life not unlike the novelist Minae Mizumura’s. Fumiko is certainly Mizumura’s Ellen Dean, but Scheherazade seems present as well. Fumiko is as unreliable a narrator as Ellen Dean, and just as some have seen Ellen Dean, rather than Heathcliff, as the true villain of Bronte’s novel, so it is hard to find Fumiko blameless...'

Translation into English is by Juliet Winters Carpenter. Reviews welcome. Thanks to Paul Daniggelis, Naoko Ota and Keiko Abe for informing us.

Article can be read in full here.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Brontë Moments by Paul Daniggelis

Brontë Society US Region 3 Representative Paul Daniggelis writes:
I'd like to announce the release of my new book, Brontë Moments -- A Compilation, 149+ pages, softbound, 8"x10"  The book is self published through Createspace and may be ordered at:
This is a potpourri of several previously published articles (albeit with additional material and photos), unpublished articles, plus three fiction pieces (short story poem, novella) all related to the literary Brontë family. It is accompanied by an autographed inscription reading, "I consider myself privileged to be able to write about this most remarkable family".

The book is dedicated to the recently deceased Joan Helena Quarm, Professor Emerita from the University of Texas at El Paso. (1920 -2010) Joan was a long time Brontë Society member who has written an unpublished 1000+ page tribute to the Brontës, a copy of which resides in the Brontë Parsonage Museum Library. It is entitled Touching the BrontësProf Quarm was also considered the First Lady of El Paso Theater, having created the still running Gilbert and Sullivan Theater which has some 45 years of longevity.

My biographical stats:
I was for a half dozen years, the Region 3 (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma) Representative of the US Brontë Society and for many years before a member of the UK-based Society. As representative I compiled, wrote, edited and printed a quarterly Brontë Newsletter. I have also published a biography of Catalonian sculptor, Urbici Soler. See Rodant Pel Mon. An anti-designated hitter baseball novel (Torii Cantu is . . The DH), and a soon to be released fantasy about a boy and a pony (Aldebaran and Prince Lux). I expect to release in 2014 a book of fictional murders (Murder in New York). On the back burner is the adult novel, The Ailanthus Affair,a skip-sequel to Henry James' Washington Square.
Theresa Connors, U.S Brontë Society Representative from 2002-2009 writes:
From a 20th century reinterpretation of a Wuthering Heights' love story, to interviews with descendants of the Brontë family, the book Brontë Moments includes something of interest for every variety of Brontë fan.  I can truly say that this is a one of a kind work:  the kaleidoscope of  information in Brontë Moments can not be found in any other Brontë book.

Among the many articles, essays and appreciations [read fiction] in the book, I was particularly compelled by the novella Forever Amber What Brontë fan hasn’t fantasized about going back to the mid-19th century and spending a day in Haworth at the Parsonage?  As I read the story, I found myself right there in the parlor with Charlotte and Anne,  and watched Emily walk by as she took Keeper for a walk.  How reluctantly I had to leave Haworth and the three sisters as the teller of the tale said his farewells. This is a book that is perfect for the Brontë completist in all of us!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Ian Emberson 1936 - 2013

The unexpected death on Monday of writer and artist Ian Emberson, who was much involved with the Brontë Society, has caused great distress for all who knew him.

Ian's website -

Isobel Stirk writes:
It is with a feeling of great sadness that I write of the death of Ian Emberson who died, unexpectedly, on 4 November. Ian was a life member of the Brontë Society and was a very good friend of mine and his cheerful and friendly presence will be missed by so many people.

He had numerous articles printed in Brontë Society Gazette and Brontë Studies and his
e-book Seaport at Sunrise,  with its background of Cyprus in the 1950s, was published recently. He was an impressive artist, and his postcards and the illustrations in his own books and those of other authors show his wonderful talent. As a retired music librarian he had a great love of music, and beautiful settings have been composed for his poetry and an opera to his libretto. His knowledge of the Brontë family was vast and his book Pilgrims from Loneliness was an exploration and interpretation of Charlotte Brontë’s  Jane Eyre and Villette - drawn from books which had had an early influence on her mind. He and his wife Catherine discovered recollections of the Brontës by George Sowden, younger brother of Sutcliffe Sowden who had officiated at Charlotte’s wedding, which had lain forgotten for one hundred years. They subsequently published them.

The funeral service will be on Monday 18 November at 1.30pm in St Mary’s Church in the centre of Todmorden. Burial is at 3pm and it is so fitting for Ian, a great lover of nature, the countryside and the outdoors, that his final resting place will be in Cross Stone graveyard - high on the hills above the Todmorden valley. The four Brontë children were very familiar with Cross Stone as in September 1829 they went there with Aunt Branwell to stay with their great-aunt’s widower- the Reverend John Fennell. It was from the vicarage there that Charlotte wrote her first ever letter, a letter to her father back home in Haworth. In July 2005 Ian co-authored, with Catherine, an article, Turns in the circle of friendship: ‘Uncle Fennell’, 1762-1841, which appeared in Brontë Studies.

Deepest sympathy is sent to Catherine and I am sure that those who knew Ian will agree with me that we are much poorer for his death but certainly richer for having known him.

Catherine Emberson writes: 
Since Ian's death I have received over 250 cards, letters and messages of sympathy,  many from Brontë friends worldwide - thank you all.

Ian was incredibly gifted in many of the arts and in addition to his articles and lectures many will know his beautiful poetry and artwork, especially through book illustrations and postcards - all of which sprang from a well of deep and  highly sensitive creativity.    Anne's insightful comment (see below) sums up Ian's contribution perfectly '...he brought love to his scholarship and this is the best kind...'     Ian's was an important legacy and when I regain my strength somewhat I will do my best to maintain it.

My ever grateful thanks are due to Isobel Stirk for the lovely tribute, for her dear friendship over the years, and especially for her comforting support at this difficult time."

Monday, 21 October 2013

Kirsty Wark at the Literary Luncheon in Ilkley

Richard Wilcocks writes:
Ruth Pitt, Ann Sumner (BPM Director) and Kirsty Wark.  Photo by Richard Wilcocks
A familiar face for most of her audience, which was sitting around tables in the long restaurant room of the Wheatley Arms in Ilkley, Kirsty Wark spoke engagingly – of course – about the books which have influenced her since her early days and which she can not live without. For the enlightenment of non-British readers of this blog, Kirsty Wark is best known as the long-term female presenter of the nightly BBC current affairs programme Newsnight. She has also hosted the weekly Arts and Cultural review and comment show, The Review Show, and has interviewed a long list of famous and infamous people. On this occasion, she was interviewed by the accomplished Ruth Pitt, a television veteran who knew exactly which buttons to press.

After a message from Chair of Brontë Society Council Sally Macdonald, who was unable to be present, and which included a tribute to Bob Barnard, Kirsty Wark revealed that she had entered the game herself as a novelist, with The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle, described as ‘a multi-generational story of love and belonging set on the Scottish island of Arran’ after fielding jokey comments about her second place in a Celebrity Masterchef series. “I used a different part of my brain I didn’t know I had,” she told us. “The power of research is very important. There was a prosaic start to the whole business. I had the bones of an idea when I was on Arran a long time ago, then picked up the threads years later… I don’t work quickly…and it is exhilarating to work with an editor. She calls what she does ‘invisible mending’" The novel will be launched in March 2014, but can be ordered now.

The first book she picked was a poetry book for reading out loud published in 1957 which contains Boats sail on the rivers by Christina Rossetti, and the second was The Rattlebag, the poetry anthology put together by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney. “I just adore Seamus Heaney – a wonderful man – humane and sympathetic.” She has interviewed him, naturally.

After diverting briefly to architecture (“I love the buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright, but when I read about him I found he was an absolute bastard who treated women very badly”) she moved on to Robert Burns, and revealed that, unsurprisingly, she had grown up learning Tam O’Shanter. “Oral literature is so important, especially for your children.”

Sylvia Townsend Warner’s 1920s satirical novel Lolly Willowes, about a woman who moves out of town to escape her appalling relatives and who becomes a witch, is greatly admired, by herself (and by Donna Tartt, whom she has recently interviewed) because it is “about the otherness of women” and it was at this point that she broke off to speak about “the new misogyny”, quoting Germaine Greer, who thinks that “we are in danger of losing all the gains made” for women. She was appalled (in tune with everybody in the room, probably) by the “extraordinary fuss” and the vicious comments from some which had accompanied the putting of Jane Austen’s head on a banknote.

“I read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott when I was about ten, sitting in a window seat. It has never been out of print for good reasons… I recognized the scenes where they are making jam and bottling plums, because that is what we did in our home when I was a child.”

The theme of displacement came next, and we were told about No Great Mischief by Alistair McCloud, the title being a phrase from a statement by General Wolfe, famous for the storming of the heights of Abraham at Quebec, who describes the members of the MacDonald clan who fought under his command by writing in a letter, "They are hardy, intrepid, accustomed to a rough country, and no great mischief if they fall." It is mainly about leaving home and the old country, which links with her own family history.

Ellis Lacey is the biddable daughter of at the heart of Colm Toibin’s novel Brooklyn, an exile from County Wexford who ends up in New York. “Toibin writes so brilliantly about women.”

Rider Haggard’s She was a surprising item on her list: “It was originally chosen possibly simply because it was in the bookcase at home. Yes, it is dated but it is a strong adventure story and it gives an insight into how conservative colonialists thought at the time.”

After mentioning that she does not like using Kindle, she moved back to strong women with Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, which she considers to be better than The Handmaid’s Tale, “a lovely book which was made into one of the most rubbishy films I have ever seen.”

We got to Wuthering Heights in the end. She has read it to her children:  horrified by Heathcliff, they thought that the character had no redeeming features at all and that the novel is full of cruelty. Perceptive children. She elaborated on the theme of landscape-based writing and on timeless relationships (“Everybody makes bad choices sometimes…”) and said that she disliked the film directed by Andrea Arnold. 

Donna Tartt must be fresh in her mind after the recent chat on the occasion of her new book Goldfinch. “She is a wonderful author…she takes her time… she is captivated by the research… and she left eight months of work on the floor.”

Kirsty Wark was definitely a popular choice of speaker, warmly received, as they say, and much commented upon afterwards. Plenty of people could be seen jotting down the titles. She went on to be interviewed by Ann Sumner at an event organised by the Ilkley Literature Festival at the King's Hall, before driving back to Glasgow.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Robert Barnard 1936 - 2013

Robert Barnard died in his sleep yesterday at the Grove Court Nursing Home in Leeds, after weakening frighteningly quickly. Well known in the Brontë Society (he was Chairman twice), he was a professor, a scholar, an opera lover and an award-winning crime writer who was also a good personal friend of long standing, for me and many others. It is shocking news, even though it is not completely unexpected. Fuller tributes and obituaries will follow in the coming weeks. (Richard Wilcocks)

Funeral: Wednesday  2 October   11am  Armley Hill Top Cemetery  Leeds LS12 3PZ

Enquiries: Robson & Ellis 0113 257 0532

Memories of Bob (Sally McDonald)

Guardian Obituary

Yorkshire Post Obituary

Telegraph Obituary

New York Times Obituary

Independent Obituary

Black Mask Obituary

Crime writer Martin Edwards remembers

Joan Bellamy writes:

Robert Barnard was a creative force in the endeavours of the Brontë Society, based in Haworth. A member of its council and chairman for many years, he encouraged and contributed to academic research into the works and lives of the Brontës while ensuring that the interests and enthusiasms of the less professionally engaged were catered for. After steering it through some quite stormy times, in the end he guided it safely into port. He will be much missed; the success of the society's activities today is largely due to him. (from The Guardian 30 September 2013)

Guardian Obituary

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Next weekend at Red House

The Brontës and the Railways - Professor Ann Sumner

Professor Ann Sumner2pm - Friday 20 September - The Barn, Red House

Professor Ann Sumner took up the role of Executive Director of The Brontë Society in early 2013. She has always had a passion for the Brontës and was interviewed about their relationship with the railways by Michael Portillo for his BBC programme ‘Great British Railway Journeys’. In this fascinating lecture she considers the impact railway travel had upon the sisters, the journeys they took and the investments they made in shares, as well as Branwell Brontë’s employment on the railway. She is currently undertaking research on this subject and will be bringing her latest thoughts to our festival ahead of the programme being aired in January 2014.
It's all part of the first North Kirklees Literary Festival. This session is £3  There's more related to the Brontës too -

Friday, 6 September 2013

The Roots of Arthur Bell Nicholls

Marina Saegerman writes: 
A woman with a Brontë mission: tracing the Irish roots of Arthur Bell Nicholls in Banagher, Ireland

Every year during our annual holidays in Ireland, my husband Paul and I set ourselves a target or a mission: we follow the trail of a well-known Irish person. In the past years we have done the Michael Collins’ trail (Co. Cork and Dublin), we have followed the poet William Butler Yeats (Co. Sligo and Dublin), the Irish writers James Joyce (Dublin and surroundings) and Oscar Wilde (Dublin, Co. Galway, Co. Longford), and last year we went to Edgeworthstown, the hometown of Maria Edgeworth, and visited her grave. It is usually more my personal mission than Paul’s because of the literary, historical and cultural interest I have in Ireland. Each year we also try and find Brontë links in Ireland, we even found a shop called 'Brontë' in Carrigaline (Co. Cork), selling shoes of all things.
This year my mission was really Brontë-related: a visit to Banagher (Co. Offaly) to trace the Irish roots of Charlotte’s husband Arthur Bell Nicholls. The day of this mission was to be Saturday 20 July 2013, when we were travelling from Boyle (Co. Roscommon) to Dun Laoghaire (Co. Dublin) on our way back home. We planned to make a small detour to Banagher, the village where Arthur Bell Nicholls returned to after the death of Rev. Patrick Brontë, the town where he had spent most of his childhood and where some of his relatives still lived at that time.

It had become more my personal mission , especially since I had read the book Mr Charlotte Brontë. Paul is not so interested in literature and the Brontës but he was quite willing to drive me all the way to Banagher, because the town is situated in beautiful surroundings. I was very excited about the whole expedition. And the nearer we got to Banagher, the more excited I became. Finally I saw the sign indicating that we entered Banagher. Now, we had to locate the churchyard where Arthur was buried and the house where he had spent the last years of his life. As a way of preparing myself for this mission, I had just finished reading the book My dear boy, telling the story of Arthur’s life. I knew from that book that the house and the church were 'at the top of the hill'. When entering the centre there was a road going uphill. We took this road and noticed there was more than one church along that road, which seemed to be the main street, but at the top we saw a church spire and we were convinced that this was the church we were looking for.

St Paul's
At the top of the hill we found a beautiful old church surrounded by an old graveyard and a stone wall, which was indeed St Paul’s Church of Ireland, mentioned in the book. However, there was one big problem: the gate was closed and there was no other way of entering the churchyard. Climbing over the gate and the wall was certainly not an option. In vain we tried to call the rector whose telephone number was mentioned on the board at the entrance. I then went to one of the neighbouring houses to ask whether they knew who was in charge of the key, but although they were very helpful, they could not get hold of the person responsible.

Apparently, at that particular moment there was a funeral of a young local man going on in one of the other churches and everybody in town seemed to be at it. I was referred to the house known as 'Hill House' where perhaps they might be able to help me further. I was very excited because that was in fact the house where Arthur lived with his second wife and where he died. Following the directions and description I was given, I finally found the house in question, located on the same road very near to the church. Charlotte showed me the way! The house at 'The Hill' was known in Arthur’s day as 'the Hill House', now it was a B&B and renamed 'Charlotte’s way' - I noticed the sign at the entrance.

I really would not have recognized the house from the pictures I had seen in My dear boy: it was a beautiful yellow-painted house with a beautiful porch entrance, and a paddock in front where two ponies ran around, flowers everywhere. I was so thrilled to be there. I saw a man coming out of the house and explained the situation. I asked him whether he could help me locate the person in charge of the churchyard key. His name was John Daly and his daughter owned the house. He told me that up to six months ago he would have been able to help me with the key, but since the church had been vandalised six months ago, and nearly burned down,  the gate was kept closed at all times except for Sunday church service. He would try to sort this out, in the mean time I could go in the house to meet his daughter Nikki. I just could not believe my Irish luck: was this a fairytale? Was I dreaming in broad daylight?

In the house I met Nikki, who gave me a very warm welcome, the Irish way. She showed me around the ground floor pointing out a few items of interest related to Charlotte : a portrait of Charlotte painted by a friend artist based on the Richmond portrait, the crest of the house, a copy of the pillar portrait of the Brontës (the original was found in the attic of Hill House after Arthur’s death) which had a very prominent place in the sitting room, the room where Arthur ‘s body was laid before his burial. I was allowed to browse around on my own in all the rooms of the house and I could even take pictures. I really could not believe it. 

Hill House is a beautiful 17th century Georgian house, lovingly refurbished inside to modern standards but keeping the spirit of the house intact. It made a wonderful impression upon me. The ground floor contains a small sitting room, the dining room with a large sitting room, where the portrait of the three sisters is exhibited, the hall with Charlotte’s portrait and the crest of Charlotte’s Way, and the kitchen. A beautiful staircase, though not the original staircase which Arthur would have known, leads us to the first floor where there are four bedrooms. One of these bedrooms was Arthur’s room, another bedroom was the room in which Charlotte had tea when she visited the house and the family on their honeymoon. At the top of the staircase, the former attic, there is one more bedroom. The basement was converted to a storeroom and a bedroom with a large window opening up to the garden in the back.

While I was browsing around the house Paul came back to let me know that (by coincidence?) someone had turned up at the church gate with the key and was waiting for me to show me around the graveyard and the church. Finally, my mission could be completed: I was going to see the grave of Arthur Bell Nicholls and his second wife Mary Anna (née Bell). Mrs Fay Clarke, church warden of St Paul’s church, was indeed waiting for us at the gate. She brought us straight to the graves of the Bell family. Arthur’s grave was the grave at the right hand side of the plot.

I had brought a pot of lavender with me and on behalf of the Brussels Brontë Group I put it on Arthur’s grave together with a poem of Charlotte (Memory) and some Connemara pebble stones. The poem reads as follows:

“Though sunshine and spring may have lightened
The wild flowers that blow on their graves;
Though summer their tombstones have brightened,
And autumn have pall’d them with leaves;

Though winter have wildly bewailed them
With her dirge-wind as sad as knell;
Though the shroud of her snow-wreath have veiled them,
Still how deep in our bosoms they dwell!”

I held a moment of silence in memory of Arthur Bell Nicholls and his second wife, and in memory of the whole Brontë family. For me this was a very emotional moment. Then we went inside the church, such a quiet and peaceful place. There was a beautiful stained glass window dedicated to the Bell family of Cuba House, where Arthur grew up with his uncle, aunt and cousins. Fay told us that Cuba House was demolished many years ago (in the 1980’s). What a shame! And the same could have happened to this beautiful old church: Imagine that all this could have been destroyed by fire six months ago, if the vandals had had their way. Luckily there was an alert fireman staying in Charlotte’s Way who heard the noise and reacted immediately. The church was badly damaged, but saved. The vandals were prosecuted.

We thanked Fay for taking the time to show us around the graveyard and the church. I really was very grateful that I was given this opportunity. It really was my lucky day.
We returned to Hill House (Charlotte’s Way) where we were invited for coffee/tea in the garden. The landlady Nikki proved to be very passionate about the house. She knew and loved the house from her childhood, because her mother was a housekeeper there. When the house came up for sale, she jumped at the opportunity . She is a nurse and initially it was her intention to turn the house into a nursing home, but it proved to be an impossible task to comply with all the requirements needed for a nursing home (e.g. lift). So she turned it into a B&B. She is running the place on her own, but she said she never feels alone in the house because there are so many good spirits still present in the house. The house is steeped in history, and breathes warmth and hospitality, ........ and Brontës. She has been writing a book on the history of the house, which will be published in the near future. I’m really looking forward to reading it.

In the past...
During our chat in the garden (it was such a lovely warm and sunny day) Nikki told us that she had many English fishermen staying in the house at regular times (the region is a well-known fishing spot), but that she wanted to emphasise the Brontë link of the house a little bit more in future. She was planning to visit Haworth in the autumn this year. The fishing link got Paul interested in the house, and he got talking to Nikki about all angling events in the area. So who knows, one day soon we might come back here to stay: angling and Brontës – a perfect combination for us! We said goodbye to Nikki and John and thanked them for the warm welcome and hospitality we received. A last picture from me in front of the house was taken, and then we left Hill House..... and Banagher.

It was wonderful that everything turned out so well in the end. Not only did I reach my initial target but I got more than I expected. My personal mission was accomplished. But since there is so much more to explore in Banagher and its surroundings I’m sure we will be back here, rather sooner than later.

My dear boy - the life of Arthur Bell Nicholls - Margaret and Robert Cochrane

Mr Charlotte Brontë – the life of Arthur Bell Nicholls - Alan H. Adamson

This article first appeared on Brussels Brontë Blog

Monday, 19 August 2013

To the Core of Charlotte's Heart

Maddalena de Leo writes:
On 5 August I went to England on a new Brontë pilgrimage, this time not in Haworth but in London and Wales. First of all, I was determined to see with my own eyes the four letters written by Charlotte to M. Heger in the years 1844-5, the same ones to which sadly no answer followed. 2013 marks the centenary of their donation to the British nation by Heger’s children Paul and Louise so it was really important for me to have the chance this year. I went to the British Library in King’s Cross, London, and having obtained first online and then in person a Reader’s Pass, not without difficulty I might add, I could see at last the so wished-for letters, one by one in a glass frame. I eagerly read the four of them, especially the third, so moving (and stitched), and also the neatly written fourth sad one. Poor Charlotte’s pain was palpable in them and I was highly impressed while deciphering her words in her usually neat calligraphy. Regrettably no photo was permitted in the Manuscript Room while holding these precious ‘selected’ documents.

Afterwards  I went to Conway in Wales since I knew my Charlotte had spent her first night there after her marriage in June 1854. I looked for and stopped outside The Castle Hotel for photos and videos, knowing it was the inn where Charlotte and Arthur Bell Nicholls had taken a rest before leaving for Bangor and Ireland some days later for their honeymoon. A few moments and I suddenly had the idea to enter the now elegant and luxurious hotel just  to ask someone to show me Charlotte’s wedding room. I thought it as a joke but who knew, I might be lucky! And so it was with my utmost surprise that after some minutes a very kind Welsh person from the reception came to my assistance and really took me in the room that had seen Charlotte Brontë’s presence more than a century and a half ago.

But my emotion reached the maximum level when nice, bald Brian showed me the double bed, a dark, carved, seventeenth century tester bed, telling me it really was the bed where Charlotte and her husband had slept that night. I then took a lot of photos and Brian smiled at my being so taken by the bed. When I could breathe I asked him if there are many Brontë fans coming there asking to visit that room but he told me that no, there aren’t any and also the room is the least booked in their hotel since the ancient fearful bed bears the following mysterious inscription on it: ‘God protect me through this night’. When I added that Charlotte’s husband was a curate, Brian burst into a loud laugh that meant, as he explained afterwards, she was well protected!

To feel Charlotte’s anguish so vividly and to see her wedding bed were for me two great incredible moments and this August I felt near her more than ever!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Shanghai Ballet - Jane Eyre - 上海芭蕾舞團

Click here to read the review of this in Dancing Review

It's on in London now. We'd love to read your review (or your comments) as well...

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Lynne Howell comments:
Whilst visiting my daughter in London today, we happened upon this production of Jane Eyre. There were some very beautiful moments during the ballet and some baffling ones too. Sadly Jane's time at Lowood was completely glossed over. However there did occasionally appear during the performance a ghostly figure of a girl whom I presume was Helen. Her strange zombie like movements which interspersed her otherwise beautiful dancing , were rather off putting and unnecessary. Bertha Mason was centre stage and incredibly powerful, contrasting delightfully with our shy, small and reserved Jane. Bertha did however appear to come back from the dead towards the end of the piece, to re join Rochester and Jane. All three then for some reason took off their clothes. 

On the whole an enjoyable evening of ballet, with the fire scene being the stand out moment, and the ending being the low point.

Sent from my iPad (15 August)

The Stage review (thanks Paul):

Click here to read Xinhua on the ballet.