The Phantom Bliss: A Storyboard for Emily Brontë’s 200th Birthday

To celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of the poet and novelist Emily Brontë (July 30,1818 – December 19, 1848), I have created a storyboard that portrays Emily through excerpts from my novel Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit.

I hope you enjoy it!

A Storyboard for Emily Brontës 200th Birthday from Diane M Denton on Vimeo.

Emily was an important presence in Anne’s life as Anne was in hers. In 1833, when Emily was fifteen and Anne thirteen, friend of the family Ellen Nussey noted, on a visit to Haworth, they were “like twins – inseparable companions … in the very closest sympathy, which never had any interruption.” A few years earlier, in the interval between Charlotte going away to school and Emily joining her, Anne and Emily had liberated themselves from their older sister and brother Branwell, especially in their writings, to create their own fantasy world.  Set in the North Pacific, it consisted of at least four kingdoms: Gondal (how their juvenilia is usually referenced), Angora, Exina and Alcona.  (“None of the prose fiction now survives but poetry still exists, mostly in the form of a manuscript donated to the British Museum in 1933; as do diary entries and scraps of lists” – Wikipedia).

Love is like the wild rose-briar,
Friendship like the holly-tree —
The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms
But which will bloom most constantly?
~ from Mild the Mist Upon the Hill by Emily Brontë

For a few moments a full reconciliation between them seemed viable. They stood arm in arm looking into the shrubby, mossy gully washed by winter’s thaw and spring rain streaming off the moors, blue light casting it as fantastical as their imaginations had once been. If they were to continue on, there wasn’t any choice but to follow each other precariously down an uneven and slippery path, water rushing, splashing, and, eventually, falling steeply and musically towards the beck it was destined to join, song birds adding their voices and the rhythm of their wings.
Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit © 2017 DM Denton

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

 

Fortune How Fickle Thou Art – Marking Birth Day of Branwell Brontë

June 26, 2018 marks the 201st anniversary of the birth of Branwell Brontë in Thornton, Bradford, Yorkshire.

Fortune, how fickle

and how vain thou art

~ Patrick Branwell Brontë

When writing about him, his self-destructive tenancies cannot be ignored.

Branwell was sullenly histrionic. To Anne he was a quivering fledgling bird: humped over, swaying, biting his lips, adjusting his glasses or picking at his chin when he wasn’t rubbing his hands. To his own satisfaction, he looked every bit the doomed artistic type. Not for the first time, he struggled to contain his anger when Mr. Robinson was less than civil to his wife, Anne hooking her brother’s arm and holding him back from behaving as wasn’t his place to.
~ from Without the Veil Between

 

In Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit, I wanted to do a more complex portrait of him than the bad boy image. After all, he was a much beloved son, brother, and friend right through to the end. There was vanity but, also, a generosity of spirit in him. And a tendency to fall deeply into his emotions, that sometimes caused him to care more for others than himself ...

Her mourning needed companionship, the kind only Branwell, a dear friend to her dearest, could offer. She already knew her brother had devoted himself to William’s care and, in the end, kept vigil by his bedside, just as he had with Aunt Elizabeth.
~ from Without the Veil Between

… which, as well as manifesting in his willingness to nurse others in sickness, in turn caused his downfall and much distress to those that loved him.

      They were all three brimming with anticipation and accomplishment, certain even Branwell stumbling in on them before he went out to damage himself more wouldn’t spoil the pleasantness of those hours.

     “I know I’ve been left out of something. In turn, when my fortune changes, I may do the same to you.”

     Charlotte didn’t look up from writing, as she had announced earlier, to Mary Taylor, who, unlike Ellen, was her confidant on literary matters.

     Emily spoke to Anne instead. “Is that Flossy barking?”

     “No.” Anne’s confusion caused her to stand up.

     “Not Keeper either.”

     Branwell crossed his arms. “You’re all so smug in your sudden togetherness. I’ve heard your disagreements. I’ll wager there’s more to come.”

      “Now it’s a growling.” Charlotte put down her pen.

     Branwell cried out incoherently and left.

     “No. Let him go.” Emily tried to stop Anne from acting on her conscience.

     In hindsight, although Branwell refused to hear her and she returned to the parlor within moments, Anne might blame herself for disrupting the cheerfulness and camaraderie of that evening, and days and nights to come. Charlotte and Emily had fallen into a despondent silence Anne replicated as she looked out the window again. The moon, although shifted, was still pure and calm. The hearth was brighter and warmer. No literal death, sickness or pain entered there. However, where was any balm to soothe their thoughts, mirth to lift their mood, all those looks and smiles of fellowship? The evening’s conviviality had gone astray with Branwell, no words to console the mourning for their endeavors never to include him again.

 

Drawing by Branwell Brontë, included in letter to Joseph Bentley Leyland Copyright University of Leeds

     “He has a heart that welcomes pain.” Anne was more emotional than she wanted to be. “He walks into temptation like a storm he hopes will blow him away.”
~ from Without the Veil Between

 

Read about Branwell on the Bronte Parsonage Museum Page

I sit, this evening, far away,
From all I used to know,
And nought reminds my soul to-day
Of happy long ago.

Unwelcome cares, unthought-of fears,
Around my room arise;
I seek for suns of former years
But clouds o’ercast my skies.

Yes—Memory, wherefore does thy voice
Bring old times back to view,
As thou wouldst bid me not rejoice
In thoughts and prospects new?

I’ll thank thee, Memory, in the hour
When troubled thoughts are mine—
For thou, like suns in April’s shower,
On shadowy scenes wilt shine.

I’ll thank thee when approaching death
Would quench life’s feeble ember,
For thou wouldst even renew my breath
With thy sweet word ‘Remember’!
~ Patrick Branwell Brontë

Flashes of the gentle brother with his little sister on his knee, proving his talent for telling stories too entertaining to question and drawing pretty pictures he inscribed for Anne …
from Without the Veil Between

Branwell Bronte’s earliest surviving sketch of a cat done when he was 11 years old

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Enter Summer

Spider Illustration Copyright 2018 by DM Denton

 

Copyright 2018 by DM Denton

Enter summer

in ladies slippers

to walk through clover;

dressed in being

with tortoiseshell adornment

and sighing

Scarlet Pimpernel Page 30

Copyright 2018 by DM Denton

all the fashion –


its blush lasting

only as long as
the day.
~ DM Denton

… she began believing there might be a different future for her, one full of tenderness and affection. It was still unclear but not uncorroborated, not since those summer solstice days that encouraged a touch and trust and thoughts of what more a next meeting might offer.
~ from Without the Veil Between, Anne Bronte: A Fine and Subtle Spirit

To those who have read Without the Veil Between or are aficionados of Anne Brontë, can you guess what/who might have prompted Anne to believe her future could be full of tenderness and affection?

 

 

Happy Solstice!

summer or winter

depending on where in the world

you are



donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Two Writers’ “Wandering Glances” on Bluebells

For most, bluebells have come and gone, although in cooler areas they may linger. As they may in poetry.

The subtitle of my latest novel, Without the Veil between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit was taken—on the suggestion of my friend Deborah Bennison (Bennison Books)—from one of Anne’s poems inspired by the “little trembling flower”. It was written in August 1840, during her first year as governess for the Robinsons at Thorpe Green.

 

In his biography of Anne, Edward Chitham gives this account of the poem:

The sea lies behind the poet and a range of hills ahead. She is walking “all carelessly” along a sunny lane. She laughs and talks with “those around” – presumably her pupils – and does not feel as harassed as usual. The sudden sight of a blue harebell on the bank by the road recalls her own childhood. She had then been dwelling ‘with kindred hearts’ and did not have to spend her life looking after others, as she now had to. 

The Blue Bell by Anne Brontë

A fine and subtle spirit dwells
In every little flower,
Each one its own sweet feeling breathes
With more or less of power.

There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell.

Yet I recall not long ago
A bright and sunny day,
‘Twas when I led a toilsome life
So many leagues away;

That day along a sunny road
All carelessly I strayed,
Between two banks where smiling flowers
Their varied hues displayed.

Before me rose a lofty hill,
Behind me lay the sea,
My heart was not so heavy then
As it was wont to be.

Less harassed than at other times
I saw the scene was fair,
And spoke and laughed to those around,
As if I knew no care.

But when I looked upon the bank
My wandering glances fell
Upon a little trembling flower,
A single sweet bluebell.

Whence came that rising in my throat,
That dimness in my eye?
Why did those burning drops distil —
Those bitter feelings rise?

O, that lone flower recalled to me
My happy childhood’s hours
When bluebells seemed like fairy gifts
A prize among the flowers,

Those sunny days of merriment
When heart and soul were free,
And when I dwelt with kindred hearts
That loved and cared for me.

I had not then mid heartless crowds
To spend a thankless life
In seeking after others’ weal
With anxious toil and strife.

‘Sad wanderer, weep those blissful times
That never may return!’
The lovely floweret seemed to say,
And thus it made me mourn.

 

In 2012, I also reflected poetically on the delight and memories that the “lovely floweret” brought to me.

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Clearing for Bluebells by DM Denton

I am long gone
from that small coppice
where one man’s purpose
was all I had.

His saw, his scythe
cut through the clutter
to shed some light where
the ground was soft.

Fires were set
to burn away brash
and warm us at last
on such cold days.

We’d stop for lunch
and speak of nothing
except the birdsong
leaving winter.

He loved my hair
and constant silence
and woman’s promise
to stay for hope.

My hands, my heart
wanted to be his
working with nature’s
way of growing.

Clearing the way
for sunshine and rain
growing love not blame
from what was past.

Bluebells, bluebells
in sight and fragrance
I have come back since
just as he thought

I would.

 

 

In folklore, some believed that wearing a wreath of bluebell flowers made you tell the truth. Anne Brontë, would have approved, having written:

“I wished to tell the truth, for truth always conveys its own moral to those who are able to receive it.” ~ The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

This is the most beautiful novel about Anne Brontë and her sisters that I’ve read in a very long time.
Read entire review by
Kimberly Eve, Victorian Musings

Go to the novel’s booklaunch page for more reviews, synopsis, book trailer, and buy links.

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Would not all such sorrow be misplaced?

To regret the exchange of earthly pleasures for the joys of Heaven, is as if the groveling caterpillar should lament that it must one day quit the nibbled leaf to soar aloft and flutter through the air, roving at will from flower to flower, sipping sweet honey from their cups, or basking in their sunny petals. If these little creatures knew how great a change awaited them, no doubt they would regret it; but would not all such sorrow be misplaced?
~ Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Today is the 169th anniversary of the death of Anne Brontë (born: Jan 17, 1820, Thornton, West Yorkshire, England; died: May 28, 1849, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, England).

Recently I was told (by a non-writer on discovering I was a published author and of what genre) that historical and biographical novels were the easiest to write, because the characters and stories didn’t have to be invented: the names, places, events, and endings ready-made, just a little research and a few decisions on where to begin and what to include and exclude all that was needed to fill the pages.

What he didn’t take into account was the responsibility and long-term involvement there is in resurrecting real people—well, there should be if you’re really doing it from a place of love for and/or commitment to your subject. He also didn’t understand how intense and even complicated it can get weaving what is certainly and uncertainly known, various viewpoints, differing opinions and accounts into a vibrant, engaging narrative that credibly recreates the historical person, their time and environment. Even in fiction, accuracy is always an essential ingredient—of course, indebted to the work and writing of wonderful researchers and biographers—complicated by a storyteller’s compulsion to go behind, beneath, and in-between the facts, to interpret, dramatize, physcologize, sensitize, and, of course, imagine just as writers in other genres do.

In my experience, first in my novel A House Near Luccoli, and again in Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit, the responsibility is never heavier than when one writes about a historical figure whose death, usually because it was sudden or untimely, has become the most renowned part of his/her story.

In Without the Veil Between, I didn’t want to write a novel moving head on towards the tragedy of Anne passing too soon from this world, but one that wandered where she inwardly and outwardly did, along with who she affected and affected her, through what she loved and enjoyed, doubted and believed, meeting fulfillment and disappointment,  and, of course, entertaining her romantic, conscientious, and spiritual muse.

I longed to view that bliss divine,
Which eye hath never seen;
Like Moses, I would see His face
Without the veil between.
~ from Anne Brontë’s poem, A Happy Day in February

I really wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with Anne’s death up until the last part of the novel, except I knew I didn’t want it to be cast in melodrama. I let it come to me as it did to Anne, not as a lament but with gratefulness for her fine and subtle, purposeful and poetic life without end.

My soul is awakened, my spirit is soaring and carried aloft on the wings of the breeze.
~ Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey

She still wanted to try recommended therapies and looked forward to revisiting Scarborough and her writing. By January’s close it seemed Anne’s own end, for whatever reason, even consumption’s trickery, had been deferred. She felt well enough to use ink and work on an unfinished poem as if it was the beginning of her life as she always meant to live it: more humble, more wise, more strengthened for strife, more apt to lean on God’s love than away from His will. Meant only for her eyes, she crafted and corrected the lines and verses that had come out of a dreadful darkness and bewildered mind. In a calmer body she found the brightness of faith and clarity of thought to add hope where there was none, abundance when all seemed lost, and, in winter’s brief respite, warmth in her heart for when the frost returned.
~ from Without the Veil Between

On the Death of Anne Brontë

THERE ‘s little joy in life for me,
And little terror in the grave ;
I ‘ve lived the parting hour to see
Of one I would have died to save.

Calmly to watch the failing breath,
Wishing each sigh might be the last ;
Longing to see the shade of death
O’er those belovèd features cast.

The cloud, the stillness that must part
The darling of my life from me ;
And then to thank God from my heart,
To thank Him well and fervently ;

Although I knew that we had lost
The hope and glory of our life ;
And now, benighted, tempest-tossed,
Must bear alone the weary strife.

~ Charlotte Brontë

“Please, take my hand,” Charlotte reached back to her sister, “or I’m afraid I’ll lose you like a feather in this wind.”
~ from Without the Veil Between

Farewell to thee! but not farewell
To all my fondest thoughts of thee:
Within my heart they still shall dwell;
And they shall cheer and comfort me.
~ Anne Brontë

 

Time is running out to enter to win a signed copy of Without the Veil Between and a print of one of the illustrations included in it. Please visit my previous post to find out how. You have nothing to lose, only to win!

Photograph by Maggie Gardiner

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

A Word or Two about the Cover of Without the Veil Between – Win a Signed Copy and More!

The nature of my work is my subjectivity meshed with other people’s subjectivity. So there’s a correspondence with that… Even if you write about me, it will reflect on you; everything is a kind of weird collaboration.
~ Tino Sehgal, artist of German and Indian descent, based in Berlin

Recently my new novel about the youngest Brontë sister, Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit, was reviewed by the Historical Novel Society. All in all the reviewer was positive about the novel. However, the very last sentence offered a blow I couldn’t help taking as personally as if the writing itself had been criticized:

This novel about Anne, the youngest and least-known of the Brontë sisters, deals sensitively with the trials of a young woman who struggled through a difficult life. It reveals Anne as a combination of poetess in the style appropriate for an English lady and as an early feminist writer keenly aware of her submissive role as a young lady in Victorian society.

Anne’s poems are lyrical, illustrative of the depth of her feelings. As befits the daughter of an Anglican clergyman, they also demonstrate her belief in the closeness of God. Yet Anne Brontë is known as one whose beliefs about the role of women in many ways formed the basis of the later feminist movements.

This book illustrates the life of Anne the sister and daughter. It reveals her despairing affection for her brother Branwell, with his Byronic good looks and gradual descent into alcoholism. Her sisters, too, are well characterized—Charlotte, the eldest, practical, bossy and dismissive of Anne’s talent as a writer; and the warm-hearted Emily.

Anne’s adult life is shown as she progresses from unhappy governess—a role appropriate but unsuited to her—to published poet and novelist. Her two novels Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall are less well known than her sisters’ novels but demonstrate no less talent and insight.

Denton has clearly researched Anne Brontë’s writing in all forms. The quoted poetry and prose in the end notes add depth to the whole. The scenes of Anne and her sisters are sensitively imagined and show a sisterly mix of affection and irritation. Despite the overly lengthy title and the unattractive cover art, it is worthwhile to open the book to discover more about Anne, the least appreciated of the Brontë sisters.
~ Valerie Adolph through the Historical Novel Society

Somehow, as we have examples every day, the negative can have so much more power than the positive over our thoughts and feelings and even actions, if we let it.

Making known on Facebook my own attachment to the part-of-a-sentence negativity in the review prompted many supportive comments, including this one:

Diane, even though I haven’t yet read your book, I think your art work is very pretty and intriguing. I love that you did it yourself as part of your total response to Anne. I would pick up your book *because* of the art, expecting to find an equally sensitive and original response in your words.
~ Rachel Sutcliffe, Rachel: SCARBOROUGH, BRONTES, TEACHING, HEALTH, BUSINESS, ALL THAT IS UNSEEN AND THE ODD POEM (Please go to Rachel’s blog for her recent and excellent post entitled SUNRISE OVER THE SEA, ANNE BRONTE, 1839, reflecting on Anne Brontë’s drawing that inspired the opening lines, the ending, and much in-between in Without the Veil Between)

Of course, Rachel’s kind comment helped me to feel better, but, more importantly, she perceptively noted my motivation and intention in doing the art and design for my book covers. It is about my “total response” to the subject I have written about – inside and out. I am blessed that Deb Harris – whose opinion I trust implicitly – at All Things That Matter Press allowed me to participate in the book’s presentation.

The response of the Historical Novel Society reviewer to the cover of Without the Veil Between might be an indication that it isn’t a good idea for me to use my own artwork. No matter. I plan on continuing to risk offering the fullness of my vision for the stories I chose to tell, the characters I am drawn to uncover, the places and times I find myself exploring, the hearts, souls and minds I spend such a large part of my life with.

I have decided to deal with any residue of upset regarding the comment on the cover of Without the Veil Between, by having some fun and turning it into a contest for a free signed copy of the novel along with a limited edition signed print of one of the illustrations included in it.

Click on the image below or here
for a fuller view of the illustrations
the winner will be able to chose from.

All you have to do to enter is leave a word or two
(no more than a sentence)
that expresses your reaction to the cover
of Without the Veil Between.

I’m not going to prompt you further, except to quote Henri Matisse:

Creativity takes courage

The contest for a free signed copy and illustration print is open to anyone in the US or overseas who comments on this post and the cover of Without the Veil Between.

At this point, the deadline for entry is May 31, 2018.

 

Please don’t hesitate to enter!
(even if you already have a copy:
you could keep the signed one for yourself
and give the other as gift)

I look forward to your responses.

Good luck!

 

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

For Charlotte Brontë’s Birthday: A Journey with Anne

Charlotte Brontë was born April 21, 1816 in Thornton, West Yorkshire, 202 years ago today.

Charlotte Brontë by George Richmond chalk, 1850

To mark the occasion, I offer an excerpt from Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit: Chapter Nineteen, when Charlotte and Anne make a spur-of-the moment journey to London and the publisher of Jane Eyre, Smith, Elder & Company. Although the novel’s focus is Anne, it also offers intimate portraits of Charlotte and Emily and – as reviewer Deborah Bennison of Bennison Books wrote – “explores the tensions that existed between the sisters as well as their mutual love and support.”

The dynamics among these three gifted women sizzles on the page. Descriptions of Charlotte and Emily are haunting in their excellence. Each woman changed literature and the way in which women were viewed in society.
~ author Mary Clark (Tally: An Intuitive Life, Miami Morning, Racing the Sun, and more …)

The story of the Brontë family told through the thoughts and emotions of Anne Brontë, the sister who did not become the powerful force in English literature her sisters, Charlotte and Emily, did, explores how genius interplays with everyday frustrations, sensations, and tragedies of life, transmuting the imagination and observations of three brilliant sisters into the tapestry of stories and poetry still relevant to our contemporary lives.
~
author Thomas Davis (The Weirding Storm)

Without the Veil Between isn’t simply a biography, it is a journey back into the day to day lives of one of history’s most famous literary families.
~ author Stephen Lindahl (Motherless Soul, Whitehorse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, Under a Warped Cross)

Illustration by DM Denton from Without the Veil Between

London, July 1848

Anne reached the last step up, turned and looked at how far she had come. She hadn’t made a grand entrance, although the staircase was one: three-to-four-people-wide with crimson carpeting, bordered by smooth porphyry columns, and glowingly lit by suspended Grecian lamps.

Her expectations for the evening had been to simply enjoy the relief of a crisis averted and, by no later than nine, try to settle in a strange bed after going almost two days without real sleep. There was the possibility of visitors to be entertained in a remote corner of the Chapter Coffee House lobby. She and Charlotte made themselves ready just in case. Charlotte resorted to a dose of sal volatile for her headache before they fixed each other’s hair and changed to appear less limp and crumpled if still provincial in high-necked, dreary dresses.

They had nothing better to wear, not in their luggage or the world. When had it ever been necessary for them to have large-skirted, off-the-shoulder gowns, gloves more than half the length of their arms, and jewelry other than a small cameo pin or locket necklace? At least, as they ever admitted to each other.

Their evening was redesigned by Mr. Smith and his sisters’ insistence the Misses Brontë attend The Royal Italian Opera in Covent Garden with them. Charlotte decided to dismiss her headache and accept.

The stylishly outfitted and graciously mannered Smiths never made Charlotte or Anne feel unequal to their company or the excursion, and continued generous and amiable in their carriage where Mr. Smith Williams had been waiting. Even disembarking off of Bow Street in full view of London society promenading across the theater’s main plaza and through its front portico didn’t alter the kind demeanor of the Smiths and Mr. Smith Williams. They did their best to shield their guests from scrutiny and, especially, unfavorable opinion. No matter, Anne couldn’t help feeling travel-worn, awkward, and poor. It was difficult to read Charlotte’s reaction. She was probably reminded of Brussels and uppity girls who thought, because their clothes and lineage and prospects were finer, they were superior to her, and how in intellect, resourcefulness and resilience she had proven they were not.

When it came to society’s segregation according to birth and wealth, Anne, as in many other issues, erred on the side of humility and restraint. Charlotte, like Emily, tended to jump to indignation without considering where she might land. Even badly bruised, it was unusual for her to wish she hadn’t. These days Anne didn’t always regret her oldest sister’s impulses. After all, they wouldn’t be about to step into a box of a grand opera house if Charlotte’s rage at Newby’s lying and manipulations hadn’t sent them off to London on the spur of the moment.

London Royal Italian Opera, Covent Garden

It’s been Excerpt Week on the novel’s Facebook page, so I invite you to go on over for some more, hopefully, enticing samples from Without the Veil Between.

A reminder, if you have read the novel, how grateful I would be to know your thoughts on it and for you to share them with others. Thank you to those who have already read and reviewed it.

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.