Impending Birth and Remembering a Death

Getting close to the release,
by my wonderful publishers
All Things That Matter Press,
of my new novel

Without the Veil Between
Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit

Cover and Interior Illustrations by DM Denton

Still time to add your name to my email list
for notification of the novel’s release
and a chance to win a signed copy!

On this day, October 29th, in 1842, Elizabeth Branwell, aunt to Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne Brontë, died.

In the summer of 1821, unmarried at the age of 45, she traveled to Haworth from her native Penzance to be by the side of her dying sister, Maria, wife of the Reverend Patrick Brontë and mother to his six children. After Maria Bronte’s death in September 1821, Elizabeth Branwell stayed on to temporarily help with the care of the Brontë brood, which then included older sisters Maria and Elizabeth who would also die within a few years. When it seemed her brother-in-law was unlikely to remarry, Aunt Elizabeth Branwell took on the permanent role of surrogate mother to the Brontë children. Although it meant enduring the often harsh conditions and seclusion of West Yorkshire, she choose duty, from, I believe, what was a great love for her nieces and nephew, over an easier life in a milder climate, pleasant society, and the familiarity of her native Cornwall.

Aunt Elizabeth was the only “mother” Anne could remember, as a child sharing a bed with her and greatly influenced by her piety, stoicism and sacrifice.

Charlotte and Emily were at school in Brussels at the time of their aunt’s death. Anne, who was governess at Thorpe Green near York, made it home shortly after her funeral. Branwell was the only one of the Brontë children who was with her through her brief but horrible demise from a constriction of the bowel. After her death, he wrote to a friend, ‘I am incoherent, I fear, but I have been waking two nights witnessing such agonizing suffering as I would not wish my worst enemy to endure; and I have now lost the guide and director of all the happy days connected with my childhood.’

Here is an excerpt from Without the Veil Between, set the Christmas after Aunt Elizabeth Branwell’s death:

Death had intruded on them all, but Branwell and their father had spent the most time with it and were physically and emotionally wearied by its visit not once but twice in a little over two months. Anne and her sisters weren’t spared its ruthlessness, although with the loss of her aunt, Anne found some relief, not from grief but the concealment of it.

“However did we all fit in this room?” Charlotte prompted Anne to find courage, even a little delight, in remembering.

“We pushed up the side table, didn’t we?”

“Yes, I believe so. And Branny straddled its pedestal, could hardly eat for its wobbling, and sweated as he was so close to the fire.”

Their brother didn’t look up, his plate as full as it was half an hour before.
“Aunt hated when we teased him,” Charlotte continued to talk about her brother as though he wasn’t there, knowing how to both irritate and indulge him. “She doted on him more than she did you, Anne.”

“She knew his weaknesses,” Reverend Brontë immediately clarified, “but at the end his devotion.”

Branwell spoke softly with his hand over his mouth.

His father reached across the table to pull it down. “Say again.”

“I don’t think so. How could she? Her suffering, such pain as I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.”

“She’s not suffering now, my boy.”

“Just regretting.”

Anne, who was sitting next to him, stroked his hand crumbling a piece of bread.

“Oh, I think she’s comfortably settled on her heavenly throne thinking she did her best and we’re no longer her problem.” Charlotte wasn’t eating much either.

“Not how she wasted her life on us?”

“Well, you must let such a question influence your own choices, Son,” Reverend Brontë spoke without a hint of guilt in any reference to his wife’s sister, who had saved him from foolishly continuing his search for a second wife and his children from being motherless, although not any of them from being sinless.

Copyright 2017 by DM Denton

Silhouette of a Young Aunt Elizabeth Branwell

©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.

 

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Branwell Brontë: as Broken as all Their Hearts Were

Patrick Branwell Brontë, brother to Charlotte, Emily and Anne, died on September 24, 1848 around 9am, most likely from tuberculosis aggravated by delirium tremens, alcoholism, and addiction to laudanum and opium. It was a Sunday. He was thirty-one.

Branwell Brontë, Self-Portrait

To commemorate, here is an excerpt from my upcoming novel Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle SpiritClick here to add your name to my email list, be notified of its release (late 2017) and enter to win a signed copy.

(Please keep in mind, the novel has yet to go through its final edits):

How could any of them know the extent of his weaknesses before they manifested in such a way as to irreversibly ruin him and torture them all—in Anne’s case, prove she had done more harm than good by trying to help him?

Anne pushed her thoughts in a higher direction. “There might be joy and fulfillment for him yet, if he’ll try to receive it.”

“Even our father seems to have given up on his eternal salvation.”

“I don’t think so.”

Anne wanted to feel as sympathetically close to Charlotte as they were in the flesh while they sat on the bed they shared, both in their nightgowns and caps but neither making a motion to get under the covers.

Emily walked up and down the hallway, it seemed for hours, to the drone of her father praying that was some comfort to Anne. Even covered with blankets Charlotte complained she felt cold. She said she was going to throw up, but never needed the chamber pot for that purpose and finally fell asleep.

Anne couldn’t and needing something to do assumed her father hadn’t interrupted his vigil at Branwell’s bedside to wind the long-cased clock.

Emily was leaning against the door frame of the room where, Anne hoped, father and son might bond in dying as they hadn’t in living. Emily’s eyes were closed, her mouth moving, her words muffled, Anne making them out in their repetition.

“You’ve killed yourself … you’ve killed yourself … you’ve killed yourself …”

“Oh, Emily,” Anne reacted softly, walking towards her sister, knowing she wouldn’t be able to comfort her. She had to try. “He may yet recover.”

“You don’t believe such nonsense.”

The expectation of another skeptical reaction sent Anne to the clock, the action she could take to keep it going, and the struggle with her own faith she didn’t want anyone, especially not Emily, to witness.

“Oh, luv.” Tabby startled her into dropping the winding key, but immediately relieved her of holding back her tears.

They hugged. Tabby was grown more bosomy in a frill-less, high-necked nightgown, her face becoming redder. The old woman wiped a billowing sleeve across her face, allowed herself a few more sniffles and walked up to Branwell’s room, stroking Emily’s arm before she went in.

“He sleeps quiet,” she reported, touching Emily’s shoulder this time, reaching out to take Anne’s hand. “Rev’r’nd be restin’, too. Y’uns shud get sum sleep.”

Emily shook her head and went downstairs.

Tabby noticed Martha was in the hallway and waved her back to their little room. “Need tha up early, Missy.”

Charlotte was also awake, sitting in bed with the covers pulled to her chin, panic in her eyes.

“No change.” Anne slid in alongside her, lying on her back, which wasn’t comfortable. She needed to listen for what she hoped she wouldn’t hear.

It was the unexpected Charlotte responded to first. “What’s that? It’s not—”

“It is.”

Emily usually performed the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata nimbly with soft dynamics and reflective expression, letting it rise and fall like a singer’s perfect breathing and articulation. That night, just past the new moon, too far from old joys, too close to last wishes, one of the darkest nights of the month and their lives, her playing was labored, hesitant, even harsh, as broken as all their hearts were.

Copyright © 2017 by DM Denton

Branwell Brontë’s caricature (1847) of himself lying in bed and being summoned by death.

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

©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.

Branwell Brontë Birth Bicentennial

June 26, 2017 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Branwell Brontë in Thornton, Bradford, Yorkshire.

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. With Mr. Robinson there he became more nervous with any attention Mrs. Robinson showed him, and struggled to contain his anger when her husband was less than civil to her. More than once Anne hooked her brother’s arm and held him back from acting as wasn’t his place to. © 2017 by DM Denton

Of course, he makes many appearances and is an integral character in my upcoming novel focusing on and from the viewpoint of his youngest sister, Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit.

(As) Anne … weaves her gentle spirit into dealing with the dissolution of her brother, her father’s loving distraction, and her two sisters’ determination to overcome the limitations of their sex in Victorian society, the reader gets a sense of how genius rose out of the tensions, love, and straining within the family itself.  ~ from pre-publication review by Thomas Davis, Four Window Press, author of The Weirding Storm, an epic poem

Here’s another Branwell-related excerpt from Without the Veil Between (yet to go through its final edits):

“I thought you would have gone to the Greenhows,” Branwell called out.
He caught Anne turning away from Monk’s lodge, changing her mind about calling on him. “No. It never came up.”
“Did the beast stay behind?”
“Flossy? I didn’t want to deal with him running off, constantly tugging if I kept him on a lead, or having to clean him of mud and, worse, burrs.”
“I didn’t mean Flossy.”
“Then I don’t know whom you’re referring to.”
“Yes, you do. You don’t like the lord of this manor any more than I do.”
“You mustn’t be uncharitable, Branny. Mr. Robinson hasn’t been well.”
Branwell laughed. “Glad to hear it. Will you come in for tea?” He stepped out of the doorway to give her access to it. “Of course, you’ll have to do the honors.”
Anne felt her moralizing rising to the surface while the summer-like mildness and autumn colors begged her to see the calmer, brighter side of the day. “Why don’t you come for a walk? If just around the grounds.” She wasn’t prepared for his agreement, but wasn’t displeased by it either.
“I don’t even need a coat.”
“I’m too warm in this lightweight one. It’s like early September.” Anne involuntarily regressed, small and vulnerable walking beside him, waiting for him to take her hand as he had when she was the youngest of six. Of course, he didn’t.
“Look at all of this—the rolled lawns, trim borders, flourishing trees, picturesque approach to a mansion high and all its comforts inside—that might be mine”
Another kind of hold on Anne allowed her brother to lead her through his misguided expectations: the hope she might yet prevent his thorough downfall.
“It’s not home for us, Branny. It never can be.”
“So what ails the mister now? Perhaps the complimentary letter I received from Macaulay has sickened him again.”
“Anne Marshall said he blames it on last Sunday’s dinner.”
Branwell clapped his hands. “Twasn’t me. Although, I have good reason.”
Anne trembled in silence, because of what she should say.
“Miss Marshall is an annoying fly buzzing around my dear Lydia.”
“She’s doing her job.”
“And some. She sees enough to hang me.”
Anne could no longer refrain from preaching, stopping and forcing herself to grab his arm to prevent him from moving on. “Only because you provide the rope.”
Branwell patted her hand before he pushed it away. “You can do better than such a cliché, my little nothing. Don’t pout. You know I only chide you with affection.”
Anne tried to ignore his condescendence. “I know Miss Marshall. She’s discreet and loyal to her mistress.”
“A mistress so deserving of loyalty as well as more return in kind of her unselfish sincerity, sweet temper, and unwearied care for others.”
Was Anne really almost to the point of giving her brother up to his emotional weakness and ultimate moral decline? “I’ll leave you here. I’m feeling tired. Also, I’d be wise to prepare a German lesson for Misses Mary and Elizabeth in case I’m expected to teach them later, as you might be with Edmund. I don’t like to go in through the front door.”
“Well, you should like it. You will like it when—” Branwell sounded determined until he saw Anne was more so, standing straighter and folding her arms. He raised his voice to ignore her resistance and further his delusion, “—when I’m the master here.”
© 2017 by DM Denton

More about Without the Veil Between here on my blog and/ my website

Add your name to my email list for notification of my new novel’s release!

Read about Branwell and his bicentennial on the Bronte Parsonage Museum Page

Fortune, how fickle and how vain thou art
~ Patrick Branwell Brontë

©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.

Let’s Go A-Maying

This is a repost, but why not? Hope you enjoy it again or for the first time! And that May brings beauty to your eyes, warmth to your heart and rebirth to your spirit!

On May Morning

Now the bright morning Star, Day’s harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The Flowery May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow Cowslip, and the pale Primrose.
Hail bounteous May that dost inspire
Mirth and youth, and warm desire,
Woods and Groves, are of thy dressing,
Hill and Dale, doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early Song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long.
~ John Milton (1608-1674)

 

The first of May, by all its names and traditions, is a day marked for its flowers and frolicking, even if, as Shakespeare wrote: “Rough winds do shake” its “darling buds”.

Edwin-Austin-Abbey-May-Day-Morning

‘May Day Morning’ by Edwin Austin Abbey (1852 – 1911)

For the Druids of the British Isles, Beltane was celebrated to honor the sun, marking the halfway point between the vernal equinox and the summer solstice. Bonfires were lit, usually on the eve of May 1st, smoke and ashes thought to have a cleansing and protective influence. Like Samhain (November 1st), it was a very important festival. Some say the tradition of a pole decorated with flowers, dancers weaving its ribbon streamers intricately together until knotted, began with the pagans. As innocent as it seems, the May pole is a phallic symbol, which ties in with the day’s theme of the fertility of spring for plants, animals and humans. The May bush, made of hawthorn, rowan or sycamore, was decorated with flowers, ribbons, cloth streamers, even eggshells and candles. “Long life and a pretty wife and a candle from the May bush.” Yellow flowers, like primroses, gorse and marsh marigolds, were tied into crosses to be hung over doorways and laid on windowsills and doorsteps to encourage abundance. The Green man was a masculine ‘face’ covered in leaves and shrubbery, often carried through towns and villages. Feasting took place, food and drink offered to the spirits of nature like fairies or elves.

raising-the-maypole

May’s beginning was a celebratory time for the Romans, too. They called it Floralia: five days from April 28th through May 2nd with much wanton gaiety in honor of their goddess of flowers and fertility, Flora.

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Triumph of Flora by Tiepolo (ca. 1743)

In Medieval times, ‘a-maying’ welcomed the dawn with the gathering of flowers and foliage, and women washing their faces in dew to improve their looks and encourage men to pursue them. A Queen of the May was crowned, a blending of her origins as the flower bride, queen of the fairies, the Roman goddess of springtime (Maia), and Maid Marion from the tales of Robin Hood; in all these guises generally representing purity and the potential for new life.

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‘Queen Guinevere’s Maying’ John Collier (1850 – 1934)

In the puritanical mid-17th century England, May Day was outlawed for a while, a censor the Puritans took to America. The Catholic Church attempted to outlaw the May initiations, but eventually absorbed its pagan rites into its own in order to win converts.

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May Day as ‘Labor Day’ and “International Workers Day’ is marked by a bank holiday in many parts of the world, but not in the US or Canada (instead moved to the first Monday in September), probably because of its association with communism and socialism, which certainly doesn’t prevent Americans and Canadians from welcoming and appreciating this day that, no matter sunshine or showers, warm or cold winds, insists winter is finally over.

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“There not be a buddin’ boy or girl, this day, but be got up n’ gone to bring in May.”

All day she had tried to ignore what was going on out-of-sight but not earshot, unable to deny the appeal of laughter, lively music and singing inspired by the beribboned pole she had watched going up the day before. She didn’t take part, except to secretly act out one of Martha’s reminisces of being young and wanting to look her best for any possible sweetheart. “Wash in dew from the hawthorn tree, and will ever after handsome be.”  Martha also suggested collecting it from ivy leaves or the grass under an oak, emphasizing that it had to be done at or just before sunrise.

“Also prevents freckles, sunburn, chappin n’ wrinkles.”

Donatella took a bowl outside before Martha had arrived and Mama was up. It filled a little as she shook the ivy that hung along the cottage’s front door, the leaves of some kind of thorn at one end of the garden, and the grass she pulled up from under the oak tree at the other. Not sure the dampness everywhere wasn’t from overnight rain, she felt silly and hoped no one saw her running around barefoot and rubbing her face and neck.

~ From my Historical Fiction To A Strange Somewhere Fled (sequel to A House Near Luccoli)

Spring flowers in woods

Wroxton Abbey Woods composite with Spring Flowers by DM Denton

 

 Wishing all a very Merry Month of May!

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 tobardessdmdenton. Thank you.

In Memory of a Happy Day in January

Today I’m commemorating the birth of Anne Brontë
January 17, 1820
youngest sister of Charlotte, Emily, and Branwell Brontë
and subject of my upcoming novel,
very near completion:
Without the Veil Between ©

STC98097 Portrait of Anne Bronte (1820-49) from a drawing in the possession of the Rev. A. B. Nicholls, engraved by Walker and Boutall (engraving) by Bronte, Charlotte (1816-55) (after) engraving Private Collection The Stapleton Collection English, out of copyright

STC98097 Portrait of Anne Bronte (1820-49) from a drawing in the possession of the Rev. A. B. Nicholls, engraved by Walker and Boutall (engraving) by Bronte, Charlotte (1816-55) (after)
engraving
Private Collection
The Stapleton Collection
English, out of copyright

This is a revamp of a post I did last January. Since that time, not only has my novel developed and grown well past my initial expectations (as has my admiration and affection for the youngest of the Brontë sisters), but a new biography about Anne by Nick Holland, In Search of Anne Brontë, has been released in the both the UK and US in hardback and Kindle editions (it’s due to be published in paperback in May 2017)

My review of In Search of Anne Brontë

My first encounter with the Brontës began at the age of ten or eleven when my mother gave me her beautiful 1946 editions of “Wuthering Heights” and “Jane Eyre” with columned text and exquisite engravings by Fritz Eichenberg. Eventually, I discovered there was another author-sister in the family, the youngest, Anne. From the multitude of documentaries about the Brontës, movies based on Charlotte’s and Emily’s books, and even, as an English major, classic literature courses in school, it was all too easy to overlook Anne’s presence in and influence on literature and the Brontë story.

A travesty, indeed!

Quietly enduring, persevering, unpretentious people often don’t come across as accomplished or potentially so. As a writer myself, I’m constantly drawn to creative figures in history that somehow and for whatever reasons have been set aside as less important and appealing than others. In researching my own Anne Brontë project, I’ve been surprised and delighted to discover so many others motivated to make Anne’s more intimate acquaintance. Following in the footsteps of Winifred Gerin and Edward Chitham, Nick Holland, an active member of the Brontë Society, has turned his fascination with Anne into an eloquent, informative, affecting, and perceptive biography that like his blog, annebronte.org, is another important step in bringing her out of disregard and misconception.

There will always remain secrets about Anne Brontë. All of her childhood writings and most of her letters have been lost. Mr. Holland has drawn from documented facts, the interpretations of other biographers, diary papers Anne and Emily wrote, Charlotte’s letters and recorded remembrances, but, also, essentially, Anne’s verse and prose writing that offer many clues to who she was, why she wrote as she did, and how she lived and died.

“In Search of Anne Brontë” is a sensitively formed account of her life, the book’s slow, reflective, and conscientiously investigative style apropos to Anne’s character, intellect, and spirit. There is clarity and affection in its pages, an engaging examination of how her surroundings and relationships shaped, challenged and inspired her, a confirmation of her gentle, introspective, spiritual, mediating character. Anyone who gets to know Anne Brontë as thoroughly as Mr. Holland has, realizes there was so much more to her, including a strength and individualism that took her away from Haworth and family to do her duty; which resulted in the channeling of her expanded awareness and experience into the honesty, prowess, and courage of her poetry and novels.

As Mr. Holland and other Anne Brontë aficionados appreciate, she was endearing for her quiet, sweet, kind manner, but going in deeper lifts her out of the shadows cast by her more well-known and dramatic sisters and brother and the often over-emphasized isolation and tragedy of their lives. Yes, Anne’s life was brief and at times difficult, a struggle with loneliness, self-doubt and loss, but also full of imagination, love, music, nature, friendship, freedom and discovery. It was, after all, fully lived. If you haven’t read any other biography about Anne Brontë, this one is a perfect way to be introduced to her. If you have, you will, as I did, find Mr. Holland’s fresh perspective, devoted understanding and intense respect for his subject make you even more appreciative of what a remarkably intelligent, caring, brave, and beyond-her-time woman and writer she was.

Another new biography Take Courage, Anne Bronte and the Art of Life by Samantha Ellis has been just released in the UK in hardback and Kindle. A copy is on its way across the pond to me!

Of course, I’m not the only one noting the importance to Brontë aficionados of this day in January. Nick Holland has once again put together a lovely post on his blog devoted to Anne and all things Brontë. Please follow the link to: Happy Birthday Anne Brontë – 197 Today!

In Search of Anne Bronte by Nick Holland - Cover for Paperback edition to be released in May 2017

In Search of Anne Bronte by Nick Holland – Cover for Paperback edition to be released in May 2017

#Bronte200 is the Bronte Society‘s five-year programme celebrating the bicentenaries of the births of each of the Brontë siblings (who lived beyond childhood): Charlotte in 2016 (of course just completed and a resounding success), Branwell in 2017, Emily in 2018 and Anne in 2020.

Long-suffering, self-denying, reflective, and intelligent, a constitutional reserve and taciturnity placed and kept her in the shade, and covered her mind, and especially her feelings, with a sort of nun-like veil, which was rarely lifted.

I came across the above quote from Charlotte Brontë (whose view of her youngest sister is probably not always the most reliable source for a true understanding of Anne) long after I had already settled on the title Without the Veil Between, which I actually took from the last verse of Anne’s poem:

In Memory of a Happy Day in February by Anne Brontë

Blessed be Thou for all the joy
My soul has felt today!
O let its memory stay with me
And never pass away!

I was alone, for those I loved
Were far away from me,
The sun shone on the withered grass,
The wind blew fresh and free.

Was it the smile of early spring
That made my bosom glow?
‘Twas sweet, but neither sun nor wind
Could raise my spirit so.

Was it some feeling of delight,
All vague and undefined?
No, ’twas a rapture deep and strong,
Expanding in the mind!

Was it a sanguine view of life
And all its transient bliss
A hope of bright prosperity?
O no, it was not this!

It was a glimpse of truth divine
Unto my spirit given
Illumined by a ray of light
That shone direct from heaven!

I felt there was a God on high
By whom all things were made.
I saw His wisdom and his power
In all his works displayed.

But most throughout the moral world
I saw his glory shine;
I saw His wisdom infinite,
His mercy all divine.

Deep secrets of his providence
In darkness long concealed
Unto the vision of my soul
Were graciously revealed.

But while I wondered and adored
His wisdom so divine,
I did not tremble at his power,
I felt that God was mine.

I knew that my Redeemer lived,
I did not fear to die;
Full sure that I should rise again
To immortality.

I longed to view that bliss divine
  Which eye hath never seen,
Like Moses, I would see His face
  Without the veil between.

200px-AnneBronte

To continue the celebration of Anne’s birth day …

I offer you a couple of excerpts containing my interpretation of a journey to London Anne took with her sister Charlotte in July 1848 to see – surprise – their (well, Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell’s) publishers:

From Chapter Nineteen of Without the Veil Between ©

What a journey they had undertaken with only a few hours preparation and no time for planning around wet weather if such a thing was possible in the West Yorkshire climate. John Brown was able to find a lad with a cart who for one and six was willing to take their small trunk to Keighley station ahead of them. They had something to eat and drink before they set out with their father’s blessing despite his concerns about them walking into the threat of rain and traveling to and being in London alone.

“We’ve done it all before, Papa,” Charlotte reminded him with a squeeze of his hand, while forgetting Anne had never been to London or even out of her home county, except on long Pennine-rolling walks that lured her into Lancashire.

Anne almost backed out when her father bowed down for her to kiss him on the cheek and she realized Emily, who had been standing behind him, no longer was. Another opinion of Anne’s leaving came from Flossy who sat on her feet, leaned against her legs and looked up with begging eyes. Keeper could be heard barking in the back yard the way he did when Emily played fetch with him, possibly an explanation of where she had gone. Anne caught a glimpse of Branwell on the stairs.

By then Charlotte was adamant they must be on their way. “Even now I’m not sure we’ll avoid a soaking or catch the six-twenty train from Keighley to Leeds. If we don’t we’ll miss the overnight to London and our plans will be in disarray.”

Impulses not plans, Anne thought but knew better than to remark, already preparing herself to be understated during the days ahead. The last time Anne had been en route with Charlotte, she was a sickly, uncertain, inexperienced school girl. Of course, much had changed, but Charlotte still thought she knew better and expected Anne’s compliance.

As the parsonage door closed, Anne could hear their father telling them to take care and Flossy whining. They walked as quickly as they could holding hooded cloaks over their bonneted heads and around their bodies, not for warmth as the air was hot and heavy, but to prevent their hair and clothes from being messed by the wind that blew in spotty showers before they were half-an-hour towards Keighley. At first Anne pretended not to mind the rain. She was, however, uneasy when lightning branched through the sky over Oakworth down, flashing more frequently as it came closer, eventually in a vivid cloud-to-ground strike no more than half a mile ahead.

***

Anne wished the trip was less of a “mission” and more of an adventure for her sister. At least Charlotte gave into extravagance as Anne on her own probably wouldn’t have, purchasing first class tickets from Leeds to London. Even in a plush upholstered and carpeted carriage that was private much of the way, Anne couldn’t sleep, nor did they talk more than was necessary, so she might assume Charlotte dozed on and off. There wasn’t enough light for reading or air for breathing; it was an express train, no stops for exercise other than standing up and pulling down the window to be no wiser about where they were. Hour after hour, through dusk and darkness, Anne occupied herself by remembering passages from the bible and enjoying the idleness, composing scenarios for her living and writing to come. Eventually, weariness prompted her to close her eyes and try to nap. It seemed she did, until Charlotte’s voice disturbed her dreamy traveling with William, a loving and lawful companion, his hand holding hers, her head on his shoulder.

“I’m getting a headache. It’s the humidity. No doubt both will get worse in London.”

Just as it seemed the night and train journey would never end, they were headed into the sunrise, mist and steam screening the passing countryside that, from what they could see of it, was fairly flat and distantly forested. The dawn wasn’t yet fully realized when they arrived at Euston Station. At barely four-thirty in the morning it was, as they expected, lonely and hardly safe, and the same must be true of the streets beyond the depot’s Doric arch. They were glad the promise made at the Leeds ticket booth allowing them to remain on the train when it was pulled off the main track for cleaning and reloading with coal, at least until seven, was honored.

Finally there was enough daylight to read—or write, Anne deciding to make a little progress on her response to the critical complaints and utter misrepresentation of Tenant since its publication in late June.

“What’s that?” Charlotte asked.

“Oh, nothing of consequence.”

Charlotte didn’t inquire further, Anne considerately and selfishly submitting to her sister’s need to stay quiet and nurse her head while she could.

Entrance to Euston Station, London, c 1840s

Entrance to Euston Station, London, c 1840s

 

I wished to tell the truth, for truth always conveys its own moral to those who are able to receive it.
~ Anne Brontë, from her introduction to the second edition of
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Title-page of the first edition, 1848

Title-page of the first edition, 1848

Happy Birthday, Anne Brontë
and
thank you
for one of the most extraordinary, if exhausting,

writing experiences of my life!

 

donatellasmallest© 2017 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.

Alessandro Stradella: Fascinating, Flawed, Forgiven, and Unforgettable

Back in March 2015 Andrea Zuvich hosted me on her beautiful site The Seventeenth Century Lady. Andrea has long recognized the excellence of the music of Alessandro Stradella, who is, of course, the focus of my novel A House Near Luccoli and, hauntingly, its sequel To A Strange Somewhere Fled.

I hope thou will take a few minutes for a little time travel and indulge thyself with a visit to this beautifully designed, intelligent, and entertaining website, and, whilst there, have a read of my post:

Alessandro Stradella: Fascinating, Flawed, Forgiven, and Unforgettable: A Guest Post by DM Denton | The Seventeenth Century Lady.

Most of the readers of The Seventeenth Century Lady are not only fans of 17th-century history, but also of the Baroque music of that time. It is therefore my pleasure to have DM Denton here with a guest post about Alessandro Stradella – a commonly (and sadly!) overlooked composer of wonderful Italian Baroque music.

In June of 2002 I found myself expectantly listening to the music of Alessandro Stradella and an engaging encapsulation of his story replete with romance and intrigue, triumph and tragedy, like an opera drawing on the divinity and failings of gods and men. I live in Western New York with access to Canadian TV and radio broadcasts, and in those days, while commuting to work, I often tuned into a fascinating program on CBC Radio 2 called In the Shadow, which highlighted the lives and works of musicians and composers who had been largely ignored or forgotten. That morning the host Tom Allen featured a certain 17th century Italian maestro.

Read entire guest post at The Seventeenth Century Lady …

 

a-stradella-signature

 

 

 

The azalea flower was suggestive of the new lodger, with a passion for color itself, spraying out from its dramatic center like a cat’s whiskers for effect and purpose, rising stealthily through the shade to reach for the wind as much as the sun. After a nap and persuading her grandmother to try a little broth, Donatella spent the afternoon where buzzing wisteria and honeysuckle blurred the angles of walls also stepping up with budding hibiscus and geraniums to larger terracotta pots of bay and lemon trees surrounding a sunny plateau. A city sky was more available there than in the street, flat baskets drying basil, a rusty ironwork table and several chairs reminding how lunch or supper used to be taken for granted.

***

“There you are. What a mess those trees made here” Her aunt was predictable.

“They should be cut down.”

“No.”

“Well, any overhanging branches at least. But if you keep the path neater I won’t think about it.”

When Despina had gone inside Donatella fetched the broom from the shed near the steps leading down to the cellar.

“Instead you could find me a flower.” Signor Stradella proved he was a master of near misses as well as melody. “A return is a sort of encore and needs ornamento.”

He had grown taller until Donatella realized it was the styling of his wig, the straight length of his blue velvet coat and buttoned vest, his legs posed in barely a glimpse of tasseled breeches but mostly unwrinkled hose of burnished gold, daring heels on his shoes. His positioning with one hand on his hip and the other in mid-air made him look like a funzionario claiming importance, but his pronouncement was a smile anyone would easily agree to.

“So what do you think?” he saw her choice before she made it. “Ah. Perfetto. The colore of the heart.”

His ballooning sleeves twisted an azalea cluster into an also cumbersome cravat. All that creamy lace cascading down his breast accented by the bursting red of his heart was so pretentious she quietly laughed.

He did too, showing his teeth as he probably wouldn’t in the company he was returning to, although there was a sense he didn’t intend to live longer with them in mind. Or maybe it was just the truth when he said, “Così, there’s no cause to flatter you.”

She was offended and relieved, all further exchanges between them decided. He moved through the garden with the flirtatious restlessness of a butterfly.

from A House Near Luccoli

Copyright by DM Denton 2015

Illustration by DM Denton Copyright 2015

Thank you for taking the time to visit and read (and listen!)

The Very Closest Sympathy

On July 30th, 198 years ago, Emily Jane Brontë was born in Thornton, West Yorkshire, England.

emily_bronte_quote_2

I know you love to play Mendelson.” Anne grasped Emily’s hand, hoping she wouldn’t mind.

Emily endorsed Anne’s effort with a quick squeeze of her fingers. “I have to catch up with his Songs without Words volumes. I believe there are eight now. I only have five.”

Now she knew what it should be, Anne was glad there was just enough time to send away for Emily’s birthday present.
© 2016 DM Denton

 

Although my current work in progress is a novel focusing on her younger sister, Anne, Emily is essential to the narrative, whether they are together at Haworth, on an excursion to York, or separated for long periods of time.

Emily was an imaginative and liberating influence on dutiful, devout Anne, a constant and protective best friend who by example more than precept reminded her little sister to leave at least some of her spirit unfettered and even encouraged her to now and then step out of life’s responsibilities and live a little wildly, especially as mother earth beckoned her to.

For nature is constant still
For when the heart is free from care
Whatever meets the eye
Is bright, and every sound we hear
Is full of melody …
~
Anne Brontë, from Verses for Lady Geralda, 1836

Long after the Brontë sisters had died, Charlotte’s friend Ellen Nussey wrote in Reminisces of Charlotte Brontë that “(Emily) and Anne were like twins – inseparable companions, and in the very closest sympathy, which never had any interruption.”

What better way to enjoy time with Emily again than by reliving their childhood habit of wandering daily to meet only earth and sky, now with Keeper and Flossy, their dogs like themselves, despite contrasting physiques and personalities, discovering intrinsic similarities, especially the need to often escape the stuffiness and lack of possibilities indoors. For the dogs, too, the companionship of walks that took them west past tilting, spindly conifers and thorn bushes into the wind-swept vastness behind the parsonage, acknowledged the basic wildness of their natures and left no doubt they were more alike than different.
© 2016 DM Denton

Emily and Anne Bronte cropped

From Pillar Portrait by Branwell Brontë

As children they formed an alliance apart from Charlotte, brother Branwell and the fictional world of Angria to invent their own imaginary kingdom of Gondal. The departure of Charlotte to Roe Head School meant they became even closer, but something more powerful than circumstance cemented their devotion: the innate ability to understand, unconditionally love, lighten, consolingly burden and so strengthen each other, to speak in silence as much as conversation, and, perhaps, most significantly, to create “the very closest sympathy” through the infinite sisterhood of their imaginations.

To Imagination by Emily Brontë

When weary with the long day’s care,
And earthly change from pain to pain,
And lost, and ready to despair,
Thy kind voice calls me back again
O my true friend, I am not lone
While thou canst speak with such a tone!

So hopeless is the world without,
The world within I doubly prize;
Thy world where guile and hate and doubt
And cold suspicion never rise;
Where thou and I and Liberty
Have undisputed sovereignty.

What matters it that all around
Danger and grief and darkness lie,
If but within our bosom’s bound
We hold a bright unsullied sky,
Warm with ten thousand mingled rays
Of suns that know no winter days?

Reason indeed may oft complain
For Nature’s sad reality,
And tell the suffering heart how vain
Its cherished dreams must always be;
And Truth may rudely trample down
The flowers of Fancy newly blown.

But thou art ever there to bring
The hovering visions back and breathe
New glories o’er the blighted spring
And call a lovelier life from death,
And whisper with a voice divine
Of real worlds as bright as thine.

I trust not to thy phantom bliss,
Yet still in evening’s quiet hour
With never-failing thankfulness I
welcome thee, benignant power,
Sure solacer of human cares
And brighter hope when hope despairs.

Emily Bronte Desk

Emily Brontë’s fold-up writing desk and contents

 

Anne was less hesitant to being drawn into Emily’s simply lived yet creatively complex orbit; then Anne had grown up in it, been sustained by it, and found true friendship in it. She knew, welcoming the hope in that knowledge, that even as Emily seemed unsentimental, letting them go to their beds and disappointments and fears and useless efforts to change what couldn’t be changed, she was keeping a place for them by the fire of her imagination and fidelity.
© 2016 DM Denton

 

Haworth Parsonage

Haworth Parsonage, painted in the 1970s by DM Denton©

What was complicated for her sisters and brother was simple for Emily: there was no going back to working for little profit that left her essentially impoverished. Instead, she settled once and for all into the confinement that unleashed her fantasies, escaping change except as she grew taller and stronger and unapologetically herself. “I am as God made me,” Charlotte reported Emily’s answer to the “silly” girls at the Pensionnat who ridiculed her clothes, walk, thoughts, and habits. Anne couldn’t decide if such certainty made Emily saintly or blasphemous. According to Charlotte it did the trick in stopping the harassment, so it would seem an enlightened declaration after all.

Emily knew her place and stuck with it without being stuck, like a solitary tree on the moor, as violently content, shaped by the wind yet unyielding, in motion without leaving the spot she was rooted in.
© 2016 DM Denton

 

bronte_moors_by_wandereringsoul

©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.