If she were more perfect, she would be less interesting

Counting down to Anne Brontë’s own Brontë200,
the bicentennial
of her birth on January 17, 1820,
today is the 198th birthday
of the youngest sister of Charlotte and Emily Brontë.

She is subject of my new novel

Anne Brontë comes through as a leading character in her own right, not as an understudy. Diane has written an exceptional history of a hidden jewel in the family Brontë and imbued her with a strength, a tenderness, and a will to animate and to shine.

Literary fiction has another distinctive voice in Diane Denton.

~ Martin Shone, author of three beautiful poetry collections: Being Human, Silence Happens, and After the Rain.

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

To mark Anne’s birth day, I am sharing an excerpt from Chapter Nine of Without the Veil Between, that includes an Emily initiated celebration.

It was years since Anne was home on her birthday. Emily baked an oatmeal and treacle cake a couple of days ahead of the teatime designated for its consumption to soften it in a tin.

“I’ll allow no one to refuse a piece of Annie’s parkin.” Emily, unusually, looked very pleased with herself. “I mean to give my bet’r sen some happy thoughts.” She even sang some lines from an old ballad supposedly from the time of Robin Hood. “‘Now the guests well satisfied, the fragments were laid on one side when Arthur, to make hearts merry, brought ales and parkins and perry.’”

“‘When Timothy Twig stept in, with his pipe and a pipkin of gin,’” Branwell followed on singing.

“Always the spoiler.” Emily didn’t look at him.

“Well, part of a song doesn’t tell the whole story.”

Anne briefly escaped their argument to take a piece of cake out to Tabby in the back kitchen. Easily wearied and hard-of-hearing, the old servant was trying to nap in a straight-backed chair positioned in the draft from the back door.

“Where’s your shawl?” Almost as soon as she wondered, Anne found it draped over the handle of a broom leaning against a wall.

“Eh? What yer fuss?”

Anne gently laid the loosely-knit shawl around Tabby’s shoulders and gave her the plate of cake.

“Dear angel-lass.”

Later, as the sisters spent a final parlor-cozy evening before Anne returned to Thorpe Green, Branwell off to take advantage of his last chance for a while to “stept in” at the Black Bull, even Charlotte admitted the liability he presented to their progress.

“The way it’s going with him, it’s better our school scheme comes to nothing. No doubt he’ll soon be home again, unemployable, even less able to provide decent company. Certainly not an example of manhood young girls should witness.”

Anne never told Charlotte as much as she did Emily, but there was no way to prevent the disturbance of her and Branwell returning home for the holidays together but estranged. As soon as they arrived, Anne fled the hours of traveling with him as though nothing ever disgusted her more. Over the weeks Branwell tried to converse with her beyond yes and no and maybe. Normally, her forbearing nature wouldn’t allow her to slight anyone, but with agitated busyness she dismissed him—to comb Flossy or clean Dick’s cage or help in the kitchen, which she rarely did, or beg Charlotte to let her read to their father who didn’t know of his son’s latest sin but might notice his guilt, so Branwell kept out of his way.

For a while Anne was as cowardly avoiding her brother, even if it meant staying in her room when he was in the house.

She wasn’t proud of her behavior. Gradually she felt more ashamed of her own choices and failings than Branwell’s, blaming her intransigence and righteousness for her failure to persuade him to stand stronger against temptation. Love was what she was made for, understanding, forgiveness and faith at the heart of her, good memories soothing the bad. 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, tempted her to once more hope he might yet chose rationale and, especially, what was right, over ruin.

“Let’s expect he’ll be better and do better.” It was as if Emily had read Anne’s thoughts. “Speak no more of it tonight. Are you still working on the same poem, Annie?”

“Still wrangling with it. You know how it is, thinking it might be better with a different word or different order of words, more metaphors or less. That it might benefit from leaving some sentiments out altogether.”

“I hope it isn’t gloomy.” Charlotte was sitting across the parlor table from Anne, the paper she was fingering easily in view as the beginnings of a letter in French.

Emily’s lounging took on the look of someone double-jointed with her right leg slid off the sofa and her left one lifted and bent, its stockinged foot pressed against the back of the couch. She made a feeble effort of controlling her skirt for modesty’s sake. “It’s rather pleading.”

“Entreating,” Anne corrected as she knew Emily would appreciate.

Emily winked. “If you say so.”

“Let’s hear it entreat then,” Charlotte challenged.

Anne didn’t want to read the poem out loud and spoil the evening with dread of what she was going back to the next day. For a moment, she considered sharing a little of Passages instead, an excerpt that was well-worked and entertaining. Sensing her sister’s impatience, she stood with one of her journals, opening it to its middle and flipping a few pages further. With a slow, almost tiptoeing stride, she recited as she moved around the table, because of the limited space brushing Charlotte’s back with each passing by.

“‘God. If this indeed be all that Life can show to me; if on my aching brow may fall no freshening dew from Thee; if no brighter light than this the lamp of hope may glow, and I may only dream of bliss and wake to weary woe—’”

Emily sighed as dramatically as she never naturally did.

“You always cheer us so.”

“I’m sorry, Charlotte. I won’t continue.” Anne had reached her chair after a second circling.

“No, go on. The writing itself is lovely.”

“‘If friendship’s solace must decay, when other joys are gone, and love must keep so far away—’”

“Enough.” Charlotte groaned.

“Not for me.” Emily threw her head back and closed her eyes.

Anne continued, realizing the poem was quite good and nearly as she intended. However, she hesitated when she reached the fourth verse, mustering up the courage to take a risk.

“Vice and sin?” Emily echoed. “Nothing to do with anyone we know, of course.”

“That’s it for now. I have yet to perfect the rest of it.”

Illustration by DM Denton from “Without the Veil Between”

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

I allow she has small claims to perfection; but then, I maintain that, if she were more perfect, she would be less interesting.
~ Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Happy Birthday, Anne Brontë
and
thank you
for one of the most extraordinary and transformational
 writing experiences of my life!

 

donatellasmallest© 2018 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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Without The Veil Between: Anne Brontë – Book Review

While I ponder and process a new blog post, I will be sharing some reviews of my new novel, Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit.

Here is one that, besides being eloquently written, displays such intelligent and sensitive engagement with the novel. It is from fine author, Mary Clark. I hope, if this review takes you over to her blog, you will check out her publications listed on the side bar: “My Books” and “Poetry”.

Mary Clark, Writer

Without The Veil BetweenWithout The Veil Between Paperback

Without The Veil Between Kindle

Early in Diane Denton’s book the young curate, William Weightman, says to Anne Brontë: “You must find such satisfaction in being able to capture those moments the rest of us let slip away and sometimes aren’t aware of to begin with.” This is an essential part of Denton’s own gift. With this ability she is able to enter the world of a shy artist who lived in the shadows of her father, brother, and sisters, and in the light of a determined and insightful intellect. Anne Brontë set herself a more difficult task than her famous sisters, Charlotte and Emily. She was on a course of an artist whose subject was her life. Making this even more difficult, she sought to achieve emotional and mental stability.

Denton shows us the tensions in the austere home of the Reverend Brontë, the…

View original post 556 more words

Music on Christmas Morning (Revisited)

Anne knew life couldn’t fail her as long as she acknowledged the blessings of animals and nature, music and prayer.
Without the Veil Between © 2017 DM Denton

My vision for Without the Veil Between, Anne Bronte: A Fine and Subtle Spirit was to explore and expand the “asides” of Anne’s life in and out of the context of the more familiar Brontë narrative: one being her fondness for music (a subject that, as those who have read my first two novels will know, I love to write about).

At an early age, along with her siblings, she was taken by her father to concerts performed by the Haworth Operatic Society and in nearby Keighley. In the mid-1830s Reverend Brontë surprised his children by purchasing an upright cabinet piano made by John Green of Soho Square, London.

Piano in Patrick Bronte's study in Haworth Parsonage

Piano in Patrick Bronte’s study in Haworth Parsonage

Their father arranged for them to have a few lessons at the parsonage, but mostly they were self-taught. Emily, whom Anne was extremely close to, is said to have been the most accomplished pianist in the family. Charlotte’s friend (and to them all) Ellen Nussey wrote of Emily playing “with brilliance and precision.”

“Come on.” Emily dropped the shoes she had seemed so desperate to find and, not allowing Anne to put on hers, pulled her sister out of the rocking chair.

“What?”

“It’s time for Mendelsohn.”

“On the piano? It’s almost eleven.”

“Who’s to mind?”

With their father and Charlotte away, Emily couldn’t be stopped from opening the windows in almost every room and occupying herself on the cottage piano in the Reverend’s study any time she pleased. Yet, Anne, who rarely went out of the house without Emily and then only into the front garden or the church to refresh the flowers by the pulpit, hadn’t heard Emily playing, not even the music Anne had given her for her birthday.

“You’ve been practicing. But when?”

“In the wee hours, as lightly as I walk about.”

“Oh. That explains—” Anne didn’t reveal her entire thought, standing to the side and holding the flickering light that illuminated the sheets Emily hardly needed to look at. She wondered how in the dark of a new day with a candle placed precariously on the corner of the piano’s lid, Emily managed to follow the score well enough to commit it to memory as well as perfecting by heart how gracefully and unpretentiously it sang without words. Anne heard it then, as she had in her dreams, something of William in its wordlessness, something of herself in its longings, something almost tender about Emily that except in her constant forgiveness of Keeper might otherwise never be revealed.
Without the Veil Between © 2017 DM Denton

auldlang

Auld Lang Sang as copied by Anne Bronte

Anne also played, as Ellen Nussey claimed, preferring “soft melodies and vocal music. She sang a little; her voice was weak, but very sweet in tone.” As a governess, Anne gave music and singing lessons, purchasing much of the music herself. At home, in June 1843, on a brief holiday from her position at Thorpe Green, she began copying her favorite music into a blank notebook she had probably purchased on a visit to York with her employers, the Robinsons, spending a fairly substantial sum in relation to her earnings.

Anne was on the second page of filling the music manuscript book she had only counted on costing her three shillings and six pence, not the favorable opinion of her favorite sister. Her last trip to York, longer than when she and Branwell had met their father there and this time sanctioned for shopping, allowed Anne almost two hours away from the Misses Robinson. While they spent their time and money on dresses, hats, and confections, Anne browsed a bookstore newly opened in the cathedral city, considering any expenditure carefully. She finally settled on two purchases: a German dictionary and a fabric-bound book for music copying that would also aid in her teaching, more of a justification than reason for buying it. Anne wanted to make the music she loved compactly portable, even without access to a pianoforte, available for performances in her head—preferably so, for then her fingers were agile and her voice wasn’t weak.
Without the Veil Between © 2017 DM Denton

The Shambles, York

The Shambles, York

Anne’s brother, Branwell, also had musical ability and played the organ from time to time for services in the Haworth Parish church. Unfortunately, none of his talents, including writing and painting, could override his self-pitying, self-destructive personality, which spiraled him into deadly addictions to drink and drugs.

[William’s] arm around her brother’s shoulder, assuring Branwell his return to the organ wasn’t spoiled by him losing his place in the processional hymn All Praise to Our Redeeming Lord and struggling with uncertain pedaling and clumsy fingering in Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, was an embrace of [Anne], too.

“In the end, my friend, you found your way,” William’s cheeks were almost crimson, little streaks of sweat on them, “with Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal.”
Without the Veil Between © 2017 DM Denton

Haworth Church and Parsonage

Haworth Church and Parsonage

I try not to project myself into any historical person I write about, hoping to understand and interpret him/her as objectively and historically accurate as possible. However, fiction (and even biographies) beg some subjectivity in order to go deeper than the facts and explore, for example, his/her motivations, hesitations, impulses and emotions. Although I chose to write about Anne, I never expected to feel such affinity with her on so many levels.

One of the ways I related to Anne was in how her creative talents affected her life as she developed as a writer. Writing became her work, her vocation:  she knew it was her most significant means of expression if not her easiest. It involved much of her time, and, also, her mental, emotional and even physical energy, didn’t come easy, was often frustrating and misunderstood. She had to do it, no matter the trials it put her through, and it seems there were times, especially in the composing of her second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, that she was nearly buried in it.

As her sister Charlotte wrote in a letter: ‘I would fain hope that [Anne’s] health is a little stronger than it was – and her spirits a little better, but she leads much too sedentary a life, and is continually sitting stooping either over a book or over her desk – it is with difficulty one can prevail on her to take a walk or induce her to converse.’

In contrast music and art and Anne’s bond to nature were truly enjoyment, allowing her times when she could look up from her weighty sense of purpose and view a lighter, more leisurely way of being.

Anne Bronte’s unfinished portrait of her dog, Flossy

Anne Bronte’s unfinished portrait of her dog, Flossy

Certainly, in difficult times, such as her years as governess at Blake Hall and then Thorpe Green, including Branwell’s disastrous stint as tutor at the latter location, music was a relaxing and pleasant pastime that interrupted Anne’s struggles with her health, duties, and worry and embarrassment over her brother’s behavior.

Like at the Spa in Scarborough, during one of her summer holidays there with her employers, the Robinson’s …

Nothing was more calming to her lungs than sitting among other reverent music lovers—which Elizabeth and Lydia were not—in the Spa’s turreted Saloon, melting into a Mozart symphony, an air by Weber, and a Rossini overture. At least, as the music swelled and soothed and satisfied, she was unaware of any physical discomfort from the afternoon’s rising temperature let alone her earlier asthma episode.
Without the Veil Between © 2017 DM Denton

The Spa, Scarborough, Yorkshire

The Spa, Scarborough, Yorkshire

Or on a sultry first day of rush-bearing, a magnificent Oratorio concert right in Haworth and her own church, St. Michaels and All Angels …

The voice of Mendelssohn’s Christ in three-part chorus rose, not only creating a miraculous sound but also a haloed light.

Anne wanted to be in that moment. Such bountiful music, the church filled with contemplative commentary drawn from the New and Old Testaments, chorales in the manner of Bach, fanfares punctuating more tranquil instrumentals and vocals. It was quite a trick for the orchestra, even reduced as it was, to fit into the church, the violins arranged around the cellos and violas, the strings in front of the winds, and the brass elevated at the very back. The choir was in front of the instrumentalists, sopranos and tenors on the right, mezzo sopranos, altos, and basses on the left.
Without the Veil Between © 2017 DM Denton

Rushbearing 1821

Rush-bearing 1821

Or during an impulsive trip to London with Charlotte, which as unexpectedly found her at the opera in Covent Garden …

Enjoy yourself. Don’t worry about critics or how you must answer them, or Papa or Emily or Branwell … or anything to disturb the wonder of this unexpected adventure

She didn’t think Mr. Smith Williams was reading her thoughts but wanting to witness her enthusiastic participation in the custom of applauding for the conductor as he quickly stepped into the pit, took his place and a bow, and turned to prompt the orchestra’s tuning up.

There was some movement behind the curtain, the footlights burning brighter as Anne’s attention focused on the stage. “This is beyond my dreams. Beyond what I deserve.” She lifted her hands to her cheeks flushed, as Mr. Smith Williams might assume, with pleasure and embarrassment, but really just the warmth and closeness of the theater.

“Oh, Miss Brontë, you’re more than worthy to be here.” Mr. Smith Williams was prompted by Anne’s admission to make one of his own. “I think you’re a perfect companion for attending the opera, for I suspect you understand how music—”

“Kindly bids us wake. It calls us, with an angel’s voice, to wake, worship, and rejoice.”
Without the Veil Between © 2017 DM Denton

Italian Opera House Covent Garden, London

Italian Opera House Covent Garden, London

Anne’s Music on Christmas Morning was included in the poetry anthology she and her sisters published in the spring of 1846. It reflects Anne’s piety and love of music, words and nature, using all to paint a lyrically poignant bridge between heaven and earth.

music-of-christmas-morning-poem-with-holly-border-croped

 

Whether you read this post and Anne’s poem on the morning it was written in honor of, or at any other time, I want to offer my heartfelt appreciation for your visit to my little space in the universe along with wishes for many blessings to be yours in this season however you mark it.

Peace and Love

 

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

©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.

Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit by DM Denton

Now Available!

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

by DM Denton

A new novel about Anne Brontë
(youngest sister of Charlotte and Emily)
Poet and Novelist
Author of Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
This new novel gives us Anne. Not Anne, the ‘less gifted’ sister of Charlotte and Emily (although we meet them too as convincingly drawn individuals); nor the Anne who ‘also wrote two novels’, but Anne herself, courageous, committed, daring and fiercely individual: a writer of remarkable insight, prescience and moral courage whose work can still astonish us today.
~ Deborah Bennison, Bennison Books
Read the full review …

Available in Paperback
BUY NOW AT AMAZON.COM

BUY AT AMAZON.CO.UK

Whole passages are beautifully written: meticulous, poetic, luminous, and powerful. I can’t think of anyone better suited to bring us into the world and the life of the sensitive, creative, and quietly courageous Anne Brontë.
Read full review …
~ Mary Clark, author of Tally: An Intuitive Life, Miami Morning and Racing the Sun

Also available for Kindle
BUY NOW AT AMAZON.COM

You can turn your phone or tablet into a book!
The Kindle App is available for iOS, Android, Mac and PC
Click here

 

BUY NOW AT BARNESANDNOBLE.COM
Will be available for NOOK soon

 

Anne was, at least to the modern sensibility, a great novelist in spite of her contemporary reputation, and as she 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.
Read the full review …
~ Thomas Davis, author of The Weirding Storm
***
Whole passages are beautifully written: meticulous, poetic, luminous, and powerful. I can’t think of anyone better suited to bring us into the world and the life of the sensitive, creative, and quietly courageous Anne Brontë.
Read full review …
~ Mary Clark, author of Tally: An Intuitive LifeMiami Morning and Racing the Sun

 

The novel includes original illustrations by DM Denton


Books can truly change our lives:
the lives of those who read them,
the lives of those who write them.
Readers and writers alike discover things they never knew
about the world and about themselves. 

~ Lloyd Chudley Alexander, 1924 – 2007, American author

I hope you will read and enjoy

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

and, if you are so inclined,
share your thoughts in a review

Thank you!

 

©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.

Coming Attractions: “Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit” (Book Trailer)

If you’ve watched this space, you will know I have written a novel about the “other” Brontë sister, Anne.

So pleased to announce that it will soon be available in print, Kindle, and NOOK Book editions, published by All Things That Matter Press.

In the meantime, get a taste of the novel through its book’s trailer. Hope you will sit back for a few minutes and enjoy it, along with the music of Mendelssohn.

Thank you to Deborah Bennison of Bennison Books, Thomas Davis, author of The Weirding Storm, and Mary Clark, author of Tally, An Intuitive Life, Miami Morning, and Racing the Sun for words used in the text of this video. The music is Song Without Words, No 46 in C minor, OP 102 by Mendelssohn, Public Domain, Royalty Free music from Musopen

You can read more about the novel, including pre-publication reviews, on its Book Launch page where there is a link to add your name to be notified via email of the release of the novel and, also, to enter to win a signed copy.

You can sign up directly here.

I can’t wait to offer the transforming journey I took with Anne Brontë to the world!

The novel’s publication has taken on even greater meaning as my beloved eighty-eight-year-old mom, who introduced me at a young age to the Brontës, slowly recovers from a serious infection that had her hospitalized for a number of days. She is now in rehab and, I pray, after getting more of her strength and mobility back, she will be able to come home again.

Those who have followed this blog for a while will know that my mom did some lovely artwork in the past. If you watch the video above you’ll realize how relevant roses are to the subject of Anne Brontë.

Paintings by my mom, June, (left) and me Copyright 2015

 

©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: 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.

The Brontës, A Destination for the World

As I research ways to reach out with news of my upcoming novel Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit, it has become evident there are an impressive number of Brontë aficionados worldwide.

Of course, the Brontë Society and Parsonage Museum have long been the pride of West Yorkshire and its natives. But, as it was for me since the threshold of puberty when I first became aware of Haworth‘s famous literary siblings, their home for most of their lives has long been a dream destination for countless visitors from hundreds and thousands of miles, oceans, continents and centuries away.

Brontë Parsonage, Haworth, llustration by DM Denton Copyright 2017

Once the identity of the author of Jane Eyre was no longer masked by a pseudonym, fans of the book started turning up in Haworth. A few years after Charlotte’s death, spurred on by the publication of Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography of her, even more came, many from America where Jane Eyre was very popular. The local shops looked to benefit, for example, by selling photographs of the family that probably weren’t. Patriarch Patrick Brontë even began cutting up Charlotte’s letters in order to fulfill requests for samples of her handwriting.

The narrative of the Brontë sisters’ lives and the place they passed from childhood to adulthood in became as important to their legacy as the stories they penned. Not everyone agreed it should be so and others were skeptical but open to being convinced. Henry James (1843—1916) thought it unfortunate that the “beguiled fascination” with the Brontës’ “tragic history, their loneliness and poverty of life” got more attention than critical reaction to their writings. In 1904 Virginia Woolf  (1882—1941) wrote an extensive account of and reflection on her “expedition to Haworth” to discover if, as Mrs. Gaskell implied, “Haworth and the Brontës (were) somehow inextricably mixed. The curiosity (is) only legitimate when the house of a great writer or the country in which it is set adds something to our understanding of his books. This justification you have for a pilgrimage to the home and country of Charlotte Brontë and her sisters.”

I don’t believe searching for Charlotte, Emily and Anne through the rooms they lived in, church they worshipped in, pathways they walked, objects they used, books they read, clothes they wore, music they collected, pets they had, or weather they enjoyed and endured conflicts with discovering them as writers or detracts from what they wrote. If anything, their outer and inner worlds: the “poverty” (as Mr. James called it), constraints and remoteness of their lives, the struggles of their passions and intellect, the tragedies that took young loved ones from them (not unusual in families of the time), the persistence and fearlessness of their imaginations and efforts all constructed the foundation and framework that rose into the building of their poetry and prose to stand the test of time and with the best.

Crowd at opening of Parsonage Museum in1895

“The museum is certainly rather a pallid and inanimate collection of objects. An effort ought to be made to keep things out of these mausoleums, but the choice often lies between them and destruction, so that we must be grateful for the care which has preserved much that is, under any circumstances, of deep interest. Here are many autograph letters, pencil drawings, and other documents. But the most touching case – so touching that one hardly feels reverent in one’s gaze – is that which contains the little personal relics of the dead woman. The natural fate of such things is to die before the body that wore them, and because these, trifling and transient though they are, have survived, Charlotte Brontë the woman comes to life, and one forgets the chiefly memorable fact that she was a great writer. Her shoes and her thin muslin dress have outlived her. One other object gives a thrill; the little oak stool which Emily carried with her on her solitary moorland tramps, and on which she sat, if not to write, as they say, to think what was probably better than her writing.”
~ Virginia Woolf, Haworth, November 1904

The original Brontë Society was founded in 1893. Two years later a small museum opened above the Yorkshire Penny Bank on Main Street in Haworth. Brontë treasures began to be donated and also obtained by the Society at auction, monetary bequests allowing the Society to purchase them. The museum soon saw around 10,000 visitors. It wasn’t until 1928 that the deed for the Parsonage was put into the Society’s hands by Haworth native wool merchant and Society member Sir James Roberts, who had purchased it for £3,000 from the Church. A lot of Brontë memorabilia had found its way to the US and in 1926 a large collection that included Bronte manuscripts, letters, first editions and personal effects was willed to the Society by Henry Houston, a Philadelphia publisher.

Brontë possessions are still being found and coming to the museum from far and wide. In 2011 Charlotte’s mahogany desk was donated anonymously (it was known to have been owned by William Law, who collected rare Bronte material subsequently inherited by his nephew, its whereabouts a mystery after Sir Alfred Law’s death in 1939 until the desk and a few other precious items turned up). In 2015 the Society obtained the mahogany drop-leaf table, complete with ink blots, a large candle burn and a letter E carved into it, the sisters wrote on.

A table at which the Brontë sisters wrote has been brought back to the family home in Yorkshire after being purchased with a grant of £580,000.

No, there’s nothing new about the international interest in the Brontës. Less than a year after Charlotte’s death a German version of Jane Eyre—Die Waise vin Lowood (The Orphan of Lowood) was staged in New York. According to a biographer of Chekhov, the Russian writer was likely influenced by Olga Peterson’s biography of the Brontës when he wrote his play The Three Sisters. This link takes you to a Wikipedia page that lists adaptations of Jane Eyre, including, in the 1950s, a Hindi, Hong Kong, and, in the 1960s and 70s a couple of Mexican and Indian movie versions.

In the 1970s, the French produced a film, the aesthetic and atmospheric Les Soeurs Brontë, which takes a lot of liberties but I couldn’t help but be hypnotized by.

Still from Les Soeurs Brontë
Isabelle Adjani as Emily, Isabelle Huppert as Anne and Marie-France Pisier as Charlotte

The French also did an adaptation of Wuthering Heights: Hurlevent (Howling Wind) in 1985, and so did director Yoshishige Yoshida in 1988: Arashi ga Oka, neither of which I have seen (the former saved to my yet-to-be-released Netflix list). In 2009 a Japanese musical adaptation of Jane Eyre was released and I have to admit I was really drawn in by the video clips on YouTube:

 

Exhibit notes and footpaths signs in Japanese reflect the thousands from Japan who visit Haworth and the Parsonage and make the walks to the Brontë waterfall and Top Withens yearly, the largest group from a specific foreign (to the UK) country. There is a great article from The Japan Times titled Why are Japanese Women still Bewitched by the Brontës. Here’s the article’s opening:

Some years ago a sassy Osaka lady asked me to introduce her to the pleasures of Western literature. I duly handed her a variety of classic books, including “The Turn of the Screw,” “Heart of Darkness,” “Lolita” and “A Study in Scarlet.” They were all methodically if unenthusiastically read, but when I presented her with a copy of Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre,” she devoured the book, raved about it, rereading it again and again.

Japan seem to be besotted with the three Bronte sisters: Charlotte, Emily and Anne. It’s a fascination that goes beyond reading and imagining. A disproportionately high number of Japanese women visit the Bronte’s home village of Haworth in the north of England each year, a pilgrimage …

The article explores possible reasons why Japanese women love the Brontës’ novels. I particularly liked, and, dare to admit, related to one:

The extravagance of the heroine Catherine’s passionate behavior and her ardor for the enigmatic Heathcliff is one aspect of the novel’s appeal to Japanese female readers, according to Pascoe.

“An older Japanese woman told me that the novel filled her with longing,” she says, “both for the foreign English locale and for the possibility of being a different, less subdued kind of person.”
Read full article …

The Bronte Society of Japan has its own Facebook page, website and blog. On the latter the administrators recently and very kindly added a post, in Japanese and English, about my upcoming novel Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit, which you can view by clicking here.

There is also a very active Australian Brontë Association that gave my new novel promotion on its Facebook Page. The ABA is independent of the (UK) Brontë Society but it grew out of a group of Australian members of the Brontë Society and … still maintain(s) strong links with the parent body.

And, of course, there is a US chapter. Because of the number of American Chapter members and their wide dispersion regions were created. Each region includes several states under a Brontë Society regional representative who acts as a liaison between their members and the American Chapter Representative.

On of my favorite foreign Brontë groups, which I discovered some time ago, is The Sisters’ Room, A Bronte Inspired Blog, Italian with a mirror English version that is administrated by two lovely young women, Selene Chilla and Serena Di Battista, who travel with others from Italy to Haworth on a regular basis. They met at university, where (they) developed a true and deep passion for the English language, literature and culture. Moreover, (they) have always been interested in the Brontë sisters’ lives, works and places, and over time this passion grew and grew … They also have a Facebook Page where they have kindly shared news of my upcoming Anne novel.

The Sisters’ Room works in conjunction with the Italian chapter of the The Brontë Society,  La Sezione Italiana della Bronte Society, which was born in 1997 when its two founders, Maddalena De Leo and Franca Musi, met at a conference called The Legacy of the Brontës organized by the British Council in Bologna. Maddalena De Leo is the representative of La Sezione Italiana della Bronte Society and on the Brontë Studies editorial board, who has worked very hard for many years to have the Brontë sisters known in Italy and worldwide. As well as writing various articles for the Brontë Studies literary journal, she has translated unpublished Brontë works. Here is a fascinating interview with Prof. De Leo The Sisters’ Room posted with her in 2015: Today’s Guest: Prof. De Leo, Representative of the Brontë Society in Italy. The Sisters’ Room has a page dedicated to the Brontë Society in Italy where you can read a number of fascinating articles by Prof. De Leo.

Maddalena de Leo’s fictional account of Maria Branwell’s life

There is also a Brussels Brontë Group. Thanks to its administrators for listing Without the Veil Between on its Recent and Upcoming Books page.

I’m sure there are more international groups/organizations/fans to discover. Knowing there is so much interest in the subject of Without the Veil Between is a new experience on the publishing journey for me, my first two novels focusing on more obscure figures in music and history. Hopefully, the global interest in the Brontës will translate into a larger readership than I have experienced before.

Readers are often fans of Authors, but I, myself, am a fan of readers. They are the ones who breathe life into the pages that we give birth to, after all.
~ Janae Mitchell

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