Friday, 17 February 2017

Charlotte Brontë's Juvenilia in Italian

A new translation edited by Maddalena De Leo

Under the title of Juvenilia, published by Robin Edizioni La Biblioteca del Vascello, four engaging tales by a young Charlotte Brontë can be found. Two of them are very long - almost short novels. They allow the reader to open a window on the immature writing of the extraordinary English author, which is already of great strength and passion.

In 2016 the well-known Italian scholar edited two Brontë translation texts respectively for the publishers Argolibro (Stories of Genies and Fairies) and Ripostes (I Componimenti Brussels) to celebrate the bicentennial of Charlotte Brontë, so this  third volume completes the triad.

In particular in this book is appearing for the first time ever in Italian, the translation of the beautiful novella Caroline Vernon accompanied with three other exciting stories from Angria: Lily Hart, another unpublished one, The Secret and Henry Hastings, already published in the past in De Leo’s translation but now out of print and therefore unavailable in Italy. All four texts are accompanied by a broad and comprehensive introduction.

Caroline Vernon is the last story belonging to Angria saga and the one that demarcates the transition from the early writings to the artistic maturity of Charlotte Brontë. Divided into two parts, the long tale follows the story of the young natural daughter of the Count of Northangerland who, from the segregated, quiet country life she leads with her mother, suddenly finds herself catapulted into high society and the elegant salons of Paris. The young Caroline is then drawn in by the seductive arts of the cynical godfather, the Duke of Zamorna, becoming his unwitting prey.

        Lily Hart is on the other hand a delicious fairy tale of love set in Africa, written by Brontë in 1833, at the height of the collaboration with her brother Branwell with whom she carried on, at that time, the military adventures of the newborn Angrian world. A secret marriage is described, that of the Duke of Fidena who falls for a girl of a social class far inferior to his own.

       If with The Secret the reader comes in contact with a weak and frightened heroine who nevertheless does not hesitate to act in contravention to her husband's orders and without his knowledge, in Henry Hastings instead there is the new heroine, stubborn and irreducible in her behaviour and ideas, the one who can cope with the temptations of love and who already anticipates the most famous and amazing character created by the pen of Charlotte Brontë, the unforgettable Jane Eyre.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Simon Armitage launches 'Mansions in the Sky'

Mansions in the Sky - The Rise and Fall of Branwell Brontë

Simon Armitage appeared in front of a substantial number of guests in the School Room to launch the exhibition/installation which he curated. This is situated in Branwell's Room and in the Bonnell Room of the Parsonage. Here is what he wrote for the leaflet produced for the event:

Among the flurry of recent and forthcoming Brontë anniversaries, 2017 belongs to Branwell, charismatic and complicated brother to the now famous sisters. Born in June 1817, great things were expected of the only son of the family; working with the Brontë Parsonage Museum in his bicentenary year has given me the opportunity of exploring some of Branwell's early talent for art and literature, and the chance to reflect on the disappointments of his early years. As a poet of this landscape and region I recognise Branwell's creative impulses and inspirations. I also sympathise with his desire to have his voice heard in the wider world, a desire encapsulated in a letter sent to William Wordsworth in 1837, when Branwell was a precocious and determined nineteen year-old, seeking the great man's approval. The poem he enclosed describes the dreams and ambitions of a young and hopeful romantic, star-struck by the universe and building 'mansions in the sky'. But those mansions were only ever hopeful fantasies, and Branwell was to die unrecognised and unfulfilled, forever assigned the role of the dark and self-destructive brother, doomed to be eclipsed by the stellar achievements of his sisters.

Throughout the year a number of events and exhibitions will celebrate and mark Branwell's legacy, all stemming from the centrepiece of the anniversary, the recreation of his room within the Parsonage. We welcome you to enter this chaotic and frenzied space as if you were entering the mind of the man himself. And we invite you, dare you even, to discover more about the notorious Branwell whose personality and imagination were so integral to the Brontë story as a whole.
                                         (Simon Armitage, Creative Partner)

Simon Armitage was born in West Yorkshire and is Professor of Poetry at Oxford University.

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Friday, 3 February 2017

Branwell Brontë in Australia


 The Australian Brontë Association meets in Sydney five times a year. Meetings are held at the Castlereagh Boutique Hotel (near Town Hall Station) from 10:30am to 12:00 noon, though we serve morning tea from 10:00am. Those who wish to do so, have a light lunch at the hotel. At each meeting, a paper on some aspect of the Brontës' life and work is presented. There is a meeting charge of $5 (members and non-members). 

2017 Meeting Program 

The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë 
26 June 1817 – 24 September 1848 

1 April The Life & Art of Branwell Brontë – Prof Christine Alexander 
Branwell was a promising writer and artist with a rich imagination. Although he was the first of the Brontë siblings to appear in print, he would never gain money or success and was destined to live in the shadow of his three sisters. Mrs Gaskell described his best-known painting, now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery, as a “rough, common-looking” thing. Christine will discuss the life and art of this extraordinary man.

3 June Wuthering Heights – A/Prof Debra Adelaide 
Debra, author of The Women’s Pages, will look closely at the function of the reader in the novel, and discuss some of its iterations (eg Sylvia Plath’s poem, Kate Bush’s song). 

26 June Branwell Brontë Bicentenary Dinner 
6:30 for 7.00pm The Adam Room, Castlereagh Boutique Hotel 

5 August Branwell Brontë & Friends – introduced by Dr Christopher Cooper 
Branwell’s friends were both famous and infamous, ranging from prominent literary and fine arts men to mill owners, boaties and those who worked on the railways and, of course, Mrs Robinson.

7 October Gypsies in Europe – Souha Korbatieh 
Heathcliff is referred to as “that gipsy brat” and Rochester masquerades as “the Sybil” in his own home “to tell the gentry their fortunes”. Souha will examine the history of the gypsies in Europe and what such references tell us about the central characters, themes and issues of both novels whilst highlighting the plight of marginal classes and the dangers of romantic imaginings. 

2 December ABA/Dickens Christmas Lunch 

12:00 – 3:00pm The Grand Dining Room (Cello’s), Castlereagh Boutique Hotel 

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Red House Museum has now closed

Red House Museum is now closed permanently. Its last day of opening to the public was Wednesday 21 December 2016. Kirklees Council included the historic building and its upkeep in a money-saving reorganisation of its Museums Service (along with other museums), thus saving itself the official sum of £531,000. The future of the collections (apart from storage) is not clear at the moment.

The Council is now gathering expressions of interest to take over the running of the building. So, if any readers of this blog know of a community-based group or organisation...  here is the link:

A reminder - this is what it was like to walk in at opening time on a typical day:

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

To Walk Invisible - "experts delighted"

Read this terrific write-up from the Keighley News!

There's also another interesting article about James Norton and his non-appearance here:

Remember - it's at 9pm on Thursday 29 December - BBC1 - Watch and record to watch again.

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Sunday, 13 November 2016

To Walk Invisible - Preview in Hebden Bridge

Chloe Pirrie, Charlie Murphy and Finn Atkins
"Brontë fans in Yorkshire have the opportunity to be part of a very special preview screening of To Walk Invisible, BBC One’s original one-off drama written and directed by multi BAFTA winner Sally Wainwright, which was filmed in and around Yorkshire." This is part of an announcement to be found on a BBC  page which can be found here.
Sally Wainwright will be there too, in conversation with 5 live's Anna Foster, along with Executive Producer Faith Penhale.
Tickets will be allocated by random draw, with three quarters of them going to West Yorkshire postcodes and a quarter going to the rest of the UK. You can register at any time until Monday 21 November, and you can apply for a maximum of two tickets.
The screening is at Hebden Bridge Picture House 6pm Tuesday 13 December.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Blake Morrison in Brussels

Writer Blake Morrison spoke to the thriving Brussels Brontë Group recently. Helen McEwan sent us this report, which also appears on our sister blog - the Brussels Brontë Blog.
Blake Morrison began his talk by drawing out parallels between his own childhood and the Brontës’. He told us about growing up near Skipton close to the Yorkshire-Lancashire border, in an old rectory at the top of the village, not far from Pendle Hill where the ‘Pendle Witches’ famous in local legend were hanged in 1612. His mother was Irish and his father, as a doctor (in fact both parents were doctors) was an important man in the village just as Patrick Brontë the parson was in Haworth. He told us about reading Jane Eyre in secret as a teenager – in secret because it was not considered boys’ reading in the laddish Yorkshire culture of the time; it was not on the curriculum at the boys’ grammar school he attended – and about the affinity he felt with the young Jane and the novel’s power as a book for young adults. Blake told us how he found out that his mother was hiding her copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in her bedside table around the same time that he was hiding his of Jane Eyre (a novel that when it first came out was also regarded as a ‘naughty’ book!).
Blake went on to tell us how he came to write his play about the Brontës, We are three sisters. First he recounted how an earlier Brontë-inspired stage production, a musical version of Wuthering Heights he wrote in 1986, was never performed; four other musical versions of the novel were doing the rounds at the time and in the end Heathcliff with lyrics by Tim Rice, starring Cliff Richard, was the only one to be staged. To give us a taste of his own version of Wuthering Heights, Blake read us the ballad Isabella’s Song, which starts:
As I stepped out one summer night
to feed my white ring-dove
a shadow fell across the gate
and swore undying love.
The shadow stretched out tall and slim,
its face was black as night.
It spoke to me of wedding-rings
and bridesmaids bathed in light ….
The full poem can be read in his book of verse A discoverie of Witches (2012) prompted by the Pennine landscape in which he grew up. In a very different mood, the collection also includes the Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper, an exploration - in dialect - of the deeds and motives of Peter Sutcliffe, convicted of killing 13 women in 1981. Morrison has never shrunk from tackling such subjects, and has written a book on the James Bulger murder case.
Turning to the genesis of his play We Are Three Sisters, in which he took up the challenge of re-writing Chekhov’s play with Charlotte, Emily and Anne as the sisters, Blake told us that when a theatre critic friend first suggested the idea to him, he dismissed it as ‘bonkers’. He was however persuaded to go ahead with the project by the artistic director of the theatre company Northern Broadsides, which staged the play in 2011.
Sophia di Martino, Catherine Kinsella and Rebecca Hutchinson as the Brontës in Northern Broadsides' production of Blake Morrison's We Are Three Sisters. Photograph: Nobby Clark 

In Blake’s play, Moscow, to which Chekhov’s three sisters long to go, has become London, and, similarly, various characters in the Chekhov play are replaced by equivalent characters from the Brontës’ circle (their doctor, Patrick’s curate). Blake explained that although he used the Brontës own words in his text where possible, the use of Chekhov’s play as a basis meant he had to take some liberties with the Brontës’ life story, with sometimes amusing results. For example, in his play the woman with whom Branwell is believed to have had an affair, his employer’s wife Lydia Robinson, turns up at the Parsonage, which she never visited in real life. Members of our group read out extracts from two scenes in the play: Charlotte and Anne telling Emily about their trip to reveal their identity to the publisher George Smith in London, and Charlotte telling her father about the publication of Jane Eyre.
Contrary to the common perception of the Brontës’ lives as eventless, Blake found them full of interest and drama and wanted to show Haworth as less bleak than it is generally portrayed. His play has many touches of humour and he describes it as a ‘tragi-comedy’, much like the original Chekhov.
--> In the course of the talk, in addition to some of his poems, Blake read us extracts from his memoir And when did you last see your father? Made into a film in 2007 starring Jim Broadbent and Colin Firth, it contains many memories of his childhood. By the end of his time with us we had gained many insights into his personal background and the wide range of his literary output as well as becoming acquainted with his Brontë play.

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