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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!
                                                                                                                   


1 comment:

  1. After reading Marina Saegerman's interesting article on ''The Roots of Arthur Bell Nicholls'' and his time in Ireland, I was reminded of a passage from a book written by Juliet Nicolson, the grand daughter of the Bloomsbury group of artists Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, of her grandfather's travels in France. The collapsing of time through anecdotal recollection is indeed an exhilarating game !! reader please note.........
    I will quote Juliet Nicolson, '' When my grandfather was a child he went on holiday to France and was introduced to a very old man with a long white beard who, as a child himself, had been the personal standard - bearer for Napoleon Bonaparte, stepping out at the front of the emperor's procession as it made its way to the battlefield of Waterloo........... On another occasion the same grandfather had been holidaying in the Alps, walking through the summer mountain flowers with a couple of undergraduate friends. Taking shelter in a log cabin from a sudden cold wind, the young men fell to discussing the author of the novel they were all reading. Had Charlotte Bronte really loved Mr Nicholls, they wondered, or had her father pressed his bachelor curate on an unwilling daughter ?
    An old man who had been sitting unobtrusively in the corner by the fire suddenly stirred. '' I can assure you all that Charlotte certainly married Mr Nicholls out of feelings of true love, '' he told them sternly. '' And I should know the truth, because I am Mr Nicholls. ''
    So, Let us be in no doubt that Charlotte's famous lines "Reader, I married him." applied to her husband as well as Mr Rochester, and were meant with true love.

    geoff harris

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