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Monday, 6 October 2014

Tea with Mrs Brontë

Here is the leaflet for this event. Brontë Society members who have not yet seen Ponden Hall will get a conducted tour. There is now a box bed there - as in Wuthering Heights - built in one of the bedrooms, where the original one was situated until the 1920s. Four rooms are available for Bed and Breakfast. Just a handful of tickets left!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Branwell at Luddendenfoot

Poet Simon Zonenblick (pictured) showed a preview of his new forty-five minute video about Branwell Brontë this afternoon, in Thornton. The upstairs room of the chic little vegetarian café in South Square was full of people who turned out to be terrifyingly knowledgeable about the young man who is often seen simply as a boozer who was fond of opium, but Zonenblick was not in any way daunted when he answered their questions afterwards. According to the video, which is mainly about his time as a railway clerk at Luddendenfoot, just up from recently-industrialised Sowerby Bridge, Branwell wrote plenty of tolerable verse when he was not busy with account books, and produced a number of  reasonably good paintings. We saw some of these - a Jacob's ladder with angels, reminiscent of Blake, a landscape in which it was not clear whether the sun was rising or setting, a moonlit scene with a bridge over a canal, a figure which could be from a dream or nightmare entitled The Lamplighter... according to one of the people interviewed by Zonenblick, Branwell's landscapes are ethereal, all about "the spaces between places". The poets of today who meet regularly in Calderdale pubs consider themselves to be Branwell's descendants, to some extent, and some of his poems were read by them with great respect, especially the ones dealing with death and burial.

Daphne du Maurier was mentioned (The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë) in relation to his fascination for the wild bargemen, and there is an amusing sequence where people in a pub attempt to write their name on a piece of paper with right and left hands simultaneously. None of them did very well, but Branwell earned drinks in The Black Bull when he wrote words down like that - Greek with the left and Latin with the right.

But enough! The video has yet to receive its final additions and subtractions, and what we saw was really work in progress. It will be more widely available in the new year. The event was organised by Angela Crow-Woods, who marshalled the audience to another café - Emily's. This is situated two hundred yards away in the house where Branwell was born, and it sells excellent coffee and Italian-style snacks. All the well-known portraits of the Brontës are there, and the customers sit at tables made from used school desks.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Rathfriland area breathes Brontë

Marina Saegerman (member of the Brussels Brontë Group) writes about her visit to Patrick Brontë's homeland:
Over the years I have been able to visit many places related to the Brontës, both in the UK and in Ireland, but there was one place that I had not yet visited and which is essential to the Brontë history: the place where Rev. Patrick Brontë was born and where he grew up. This was my missing link in the Brontë story. So this year’s mission on our holidays in Ireland was to be a visit to the area where Patrick Brontë was born and lived until he moved to Cambridge, the area around Rathfriland in County Down, Northern Ireland. I have always been fascinated by the Brontës’ Irish ancestry and have read all that I could find on this topic. So you can imagine that I was very excited to see the area where Patrick Brontë spent his early years and to visit the places related to his family.

The day of the visit was to be Saturday 26 July 2014. On our way back home from Boyle to Dun Laoghaire (Co. Dublin) a small detour was planned to Northern Ireland, where I booked us into a B&B in Rathfriland for one night. In preparation of this visit I had been rereading some books on the Brontës’ Irish background. My main guidebook for the trip was to be The Road to Haworth – the Story of the Brontës’ Irish Ancestry by John Cannon. It reads like a Brontë novel. 

The Schoolhouse
We set off in the morning and planned to arrive in the  Rathfriland area around noon. A few days before our departure I had phoned the secretary of the Irish section of the Brontë Society, Miss Margaret K Livingston, to see whether we could meet her when we were in the area. We decided to meet up at 1pm for a picnic lunch at Drumballyroney where the Brontë Homeland Interpretative Centre is situated. The Drumballyroney Schoolhouse and Church are also the start of the Brontë Homeland drive.

The Rathfriland area breathes Brontë: a lot of houses or institutions have a Brontë-related name: Brontë manor, the Brontë primary school, a Brontë nursery unit, there was even a house called 'Villette'. We arrived at 12 o’clock on the dot, the time that the interpretative centre opened its doors. No need to say that we were the first visitors of the day. Since we were well before the time set to meet Margaret, I had some time to browse around in the Schoolhouse to see the video on the Brontë family and read all the information panels, giving information on the various members of the Brontë family, including Patrick Brontë’s parents and their unusual 'country courtship'. The small schoolroom also contained some exhibits related to Patrick Brontë and the Brontë sisters, amongst others a replica of Charlotte Brontë’s wedding dress.

Margaret arrived well on time and was accompanied by another member of the Irish section, Mr Finny O’ Sullivan. The weather gods were not on our side that day, it was pouring outside. But a  picnic was planned, and a picnic we would have! Margaret decided to have a picnic in the schoolroom: since we were the only visitors at that moment, this was not a problem. We were treated to a real picnic feast: lovely fresh sandwiches, biscuits, cake, strawberries and cream, tea, coffee and juice… too much for our poor bellies!
Finny, Margaret and Marina

During lunch we received all the information about the Irish section of the Brontë Society, the Irish ancestry and the Drumballyroney site - schoolhouse, church and Brontë burial plot.

The schoolhouse at Drumballyroney was the place where Patrick, at the age of twenty-one, taught for four years, before going to Cambridge. Next to the schoolhouse is the Anglican Church where Patrick and his brother William were christened and where Patrick gave his first sermon after graduating from Cambridge University.  We also visited the graveyard at the back of the schoolhouse and church, where the Brontë family burial plot is situated and where Patrick’s parents and other family members are buried.

Margaret and Finny had planned to drive us around the Brontë homeland sites, so we set off in Margaret’s car. In the meantime the weather had cleared up and the sun was shining again. The drive was very well sign-posted , we just had to follow the brown signposts with the book symbol. Next stop on the homeland drive was the Brontë Homeland picnic site at Knockiveagh where we had wonderful views over the Mourne Mountains and the area where Patrick grew up. The picnic site contains the ruins of an old shebeen - an illicit drinking house.
We continued to follow the 'Brontë road'. We passed the two-storey house near Lisnacreevy where Hugh and Alice brought up their family of ten children, we passed the 'dancing glen' where they secretly met according to local legend, and arrived at the next stop on the drive,  Alice McClory’s cottage in Ballynaskeagh. This cottage was the childhood home of Patrick’s mother, and is still owned by the McClory family. The cottage was very overgrown with bushes and ivy, and it was very difficult to see how it would have looked like. Nothing has been done to keep it in a reasonable condition, and it is in a very bad state at the moment. What a shame!     

The highlight of the homeland drive was of course the Birthplace Cottage at Emdale, a small two-roomed cottage where Patrick Brontë was born on St. Patrick’s Day 1777.  Or to describe it in Patrick’s own words, from the poem 'The Irish cabin':

“A neat Irish cabin, snow proof
Well thatched, had a good earthen floor,
One chimney in midst of the roof,
One window, and one latched door.

Little remains now of the original thatched cottage, but it gives a clear impression of how an Irish family must have lived in those days.  However, to modern standards, it is difficult to imagine that a family with two children could actually live in such a small space. A lot of work has been done  to restore the walls, the site is now protected and in 1956 a commemorative plaque was unveiled at the site.
Glascar Church
We continued the homeland drive to its final stop , Glascar Church and Schoolhouse, where Patrick had his first teaching post in the 1790s. He was said to have used creative teaching methods in order to bring out the best in his pupils. He was dismissed from this post because he had formed a romantic attachment with one of his pupils. After this incident he took up the teaching post at Drumballyroney schoolhouse and so the Brontë homeland circle is  complete.

In the Glascar Church graveyard we could see many headstones with the Brontë name. Descendants of the Irish Brontës are still being buried here.

We returned to the Drumballyroney Schoolhouse, still enjoying the wonderful views and the countryside that Patrick Brontë knew as a child and a young man. It had been a very interesting and  informative afternoon with Margaret and Finny. One can learn a lot about the Irish Brontë story from books on the subject but having actually seen and visited the sites and having received the information from Margaret and Finny who had so much more to tell about the Irish Brontës and the stories behind the sites, made the Brontë homeland drive so much more interesting to me and gave another dimension to my knowledge on the Irish ancestry.

I was really glad that we had the opportunity of doing the drive with people like Margaret and Finny who knew the places so well. I’m convinced that if we would have had to do the drive on our own, although it is signposted, we would have had great difficulty in finding some of the spots eg Alice McClory’s cottage well hidden behind bushes and ivy. We took our leave from Margaret and Finny, thanking them for the time they had spent with us  and the information we had received.

On our way to the B&B in Rathfriland, very close to the Drumballyroney site, I  reflected on the afternoon and enjoyed the satisfaction that I had finally completed my own Brontë circle.

For further reading, the following books can be recommended:
The Road to Haworth – the story of the Brontës’ Irish ancestry (John Cannon)
The Brontës of Ballynaskeagh ( W. Haughton Crowe)
The Brontës in Ireland (Dr. William Wright)

“The Brontës’ Irish background” (Edward Chitham)

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Brontë Society Conference 2014

Maddalena De Leo, BS President Bonnie Greer, Caterina Lerro 
Maddalena De Leo (Italian delegate) writes:

The Brontë Society Conference was held this year at Warwick University in Scarman Conference Centre from Friday 29 to Sunday 31 August. Its theme was ‘The Brontës and the Condition of England’ and it concentrated on the Brontë sisters' contemporary context, analyzing how it influenced what they thought and what they wrote.

The talks were opened on Friday afternoon by famous Brontë scholar Juliet Barker with her keynote lecture about the Brontës and the ‘world without’ followed in the evening by Melissa Hardie-Budden's work in progress about the Branwell and Carne families from Penzance. On Saturday morning there was a Patrick Brontë panel with a break for questions, followed throughout the day by other two sessions about Religion and Industrial Unrest with Robert Logan, Brian Wilks and Marianne Thormählen as speakers among the others.

On Sunday morning  the second keynote lecture of the conference was Rebecca Frazer’s talk about the woman’s question and Charlotte Brontë, followed by Birgitta Berglund’s brilliant lecture about the Victorian corset debate. Birgitta even showed the audience how difficult for Victorian women was to put on and bear a corset all day, wearing one herself. The last session was about war and empire with Sarah Fermi as last speaker of the conference, and there was a recap at the end by Marianne Thormählen.

Also this year as in 2011, besides the well-known speakers from all over the world, the Brontë Society included some young PhDs who lectured about the chosen topic with competence and skill.

The conference venue, carefully chosen by organizer Sarah Fermi in collaboration with Patsy Stoneman, was the beautiful Scarman Conference Centre with its amenities. A special treat took place after the gala dinner on Saturday when BS President Bonnie Greer OBE gave a speech about the Society's purposes and aims for the future in view of Charlotte’s two hundredth birth anniversary in 2016.

During the conference I took photographs and had the opportunity to speak and change views with my fellow delegates, amongst whom I met with pleasure Jolien Janzing, the author of the novel The Master.

In conclusion I can say that this was again a great Brontë weekend and still another important occasion to share a wonderful Brontë-related experience.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Dyddgu Pritchard Owens

Sally McDonald writes:
Mrs Dyddgu Pritchard Owens passed away on 12 August.
Dyddgu was a truly popular and well known figure in the Society who was at every AGM weekend I can remember until this year, and her absence this year was noticeable. She won friends with her cheery nature and passion for the Brontes and Haworth.  The Society offers deepest sympathies to Dyddgu's family.

Welcome back, Kate Bush

Kate Bush, a terrific singer and performer, brought a significant number of new members to the Brontë Society after the release of her 1978 single Wuthering Heights, and turned many others towards actually reading the novel. She is still popular with many aficionados, even though not an enormous amount seems to have happened for an incredible thirty-five years.

Now she has come back to live performance - in Hammersmith and then in Manchester. It is one of the big musical events this year. We'd love to have your review, so send it to the blog at

Marina Saegerman writes:
I went to the opening night on Tuesday 26 August. The atmosphere of anticipation beforehand, waiting outside with the crowd to get in the concert hall, was really magical. You could feel the excitement everywhere!

I loved the first part of the concert, which was a series of songs followed by a theatrical performance of The Ninth Wave: Kate gave a spectacular show, she had a very strong voice and the whole story was fascinating to watch.

The second part after the break was less interesting, still spectacular in a way but also very confusing. Less strong than the Ninth Wave performance. The anticipation and expectations in the concert hall grew with the encore, and although she performed two beautiful songs, you could feel that the audience was waiting for Wuthering Heights, which did not come. The audience was applauding for more, but Kate did not return to oblige. That was a little bit of a disappointment, but I was glad to have been there and seen it all. 

It was certainly a magical evening. Something to treasure always.

Benjamin Lovegrove writes:
I was there last night (Saturday 6 September). Like many people, I wanted to hear Wuthering Heights but Kate does Cloudbusting for the finale which is a worthy alternative. For me the highlight was Kate's son Bertie singing the male vocal in An Architect's Dream. Before this we heard classic songs like Running Up That Hill and Hounds of Love.

The song cycle Ninth Wave was dark and intense, contrasting well with the summery themes of the songs from Aerial. This included some of Kate's more experimental work featuring birdsong.

It was a very emotional experience as well as a rare chance to see her play live and I recommend anyone who is able to should go and see her. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

From one Haworth to another...

Beth Potter, Friends of the Haworth NJ Library, writes:

I'm president of the Friends of the Library in Haworth, New Jersey, USA.  Our library here is trying to reach out to Brontë fans everywhere to get some help for its expanding library.   I figure anyone who's read and appreciated Jane Eyre or Villette or Wuthering Heights or Agnes Grey must have a soft spot for a place named Haworth.   Haworth, New Jersey, is, in fact, named for Haworth, England - in 1872 a railroadman and land developer named John S. Sauzade named this little station stop Haworth in honor of the Brontë sisters' hometown.  Sauzade was himself a novelist, and, obviously, a huge admirer of the Brontës.  
John S Sauzade

Within our new local history room, we hope to have a plaque on the wall, honoring the sisters - and the British town - that gave us such a special name.   We're also going to have a new children's room and a meeting room.  

The new addition will have a glass 'Donor Wall' with names honoring the people and groups that have donated to our expansion, and it occurred to me that it would be meaningful to have the Brontë Society listed as a donor, because without the Brontës, we wouldn't be a Haworth.   And a library in a town called Haworth is a very relevant place to remember the Brontë sisters.  

If you'd care to help, there's a Paypal "Donate" button on the library website,  We sure would appreciate your support.   Small donations from lots of people add up to a large donation!  And come visit us sometime...  a lot of folks from here have visited your Haworth and had a grand time.  

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Milton Rosmer as Heathcliff

Milton Rosmer
One of the historic films shown regularly on television is Goodbye, Mr Chips, which was on larger screens in picture houses in 1939. We'll be seeing it again soon, because of its main theme, which deals with the deaths of young men in the First World War. The main stars were Robert Donat and Greer Garson. One of the lesser-known principals was Milton Rosmer, who played a character called Chatteris. Look out for him next time the film comes round, because back in the 1920s he played Heathcliff in a lost, silent, version of Wuthering Heights, which was made by the Ideal Film Company in and around Haworth, directed by Arthur Bramble. Only a few stills remain as visual evidence of this first adaptation of Emily Brontë's novel.

The film might have gone the same way as many others: made of nitrate stock, it may well have exploded, or turned to dust in a forgotten canister. The script, however, has been found, and has been bought by the Parsonage from a West Sussex book dealer, along with nearly two dozen pages of production notes. It will go on display early in 2015.

In 2006, the lost film was front page news in the Brontë Society Gazette:

Friday, 18 July 2014

Film rights of The Master/De Meester sold

Congratulations to Jolien Janzing! The Master, her novel about Charlotte Brontë's secret love, will soon become a film!
Listen to this interview (in Dutch) on Belgian National Radio about Wuthering Heights and Haworth which was made following the passage of the Tour de France through Yorkshire:

Here is the official press release about the film rights:

Klik hier om de webversie te bekijken.
De Arbeiderspers | A.W. Bruna Uitgevers
              Foreign Rights Department
                      Manager: Laetitia Powell
Stop press! Film rights of The Master sold to David P. Kelly Films Limited
The Master/De Meester written by Jolien Janzing on the big screen
Dear Friends,
I am very pleased to announce you that the Film Rights of The Master/De Meester, a beautiful historical novel about the secret love of Charlotte Brontë written by Jolien Janzing have been sold to DAVID P. KELLY FILMS LIMITED. This is  absolutely wonderful news and sometimes two excellent things happen around the same time. The Turkish rights have also been sold and this to Güldünya Yayınları.
I am looking forward to see this marvelous novel on a big screen. David Kelly has made numerous films such as The Last Station with Helen MirrenThe Desert Flower and is currently working together with Ralph Fiennes on the costume drama Two Women which is in Post-Production.
I would like to let you know that 2016 will be the memorial year of Charlotte Brontë's birth. We can provide you with a full English Translation of The Master/De Meester (proof copy). If you would like to know more about The Master by Jolien Janzing do not hesitate to contact me,
All the best,
Laetitia Powell
Foreign Rights Manager                                                                                                  - 0032 495 26 64 61
Explore here our Foreign Rights Catalogue
About the producent
Who is David P.Kelly?
David P.Kelly has 19 years experience of producing, co-producing and executive developing in international Independent film and television drama. He has just recently financed a  co-production on the film ‘TWO WOMEN’ starring Ralph Fiennes and become a partner with a new Cinema Exhibitor, Shortwave Cinema ltd.

David is a former chairman at First City features, a UK and European Industry recognised Film Producer he has wide ranging experienced having worked at MGM studios in L.A., Working Title Films London, Alibi Television, Eggoli Tossel-Berlin and Rezo Films –Paris.
David has a comprehensive understanding of the Film Industry across production, financing, distribution and exhibition. He has developed high quality film scripts from Oscar-winning writers to emerging talented newcomers across a wide range of genres.
His latest film (he is the lead UK Executive producer) is TWO WOMEN and stars Ralph Fiennes. It will be released internationally in 2015.
Before that he worked on numerous International co-productions including, ‘The Last Station’ starring Helen Mirren and James McAvoy, which was Oscar nominated in 2010.
About the author
Who is Jolien Janzing?
Jolien Janzing (1964) is a Dutch author and journalist who lives in Flanders. She became well known for her controversial reports in Humo. In 2009 she debuted at De Arbeiderspers with her novelGrammatica van een obsessie (Grammar of an obsession). She is a connoisseur of nineteenth-century English literature.
About the book
Charlotte Brontë, a parson’s daughter from Yorkshire, England, fragile yet fearless as a young fox, longs for adventure, self-fulfillment and passionate love. She conceives the idea of going abroad to study languages. She manages to persuade her sister Emily to accompany her. Brussels, the capital of the brand-new kingdom of Belgium, with its Catholic liberalism and French wine, represents a culture shock. The Pensionnat Heger is run by Madame Claire Heger, an elegant, shrewd lady. Charlotte falls in love with her husband, monsieur Constantin Heger…
Charlotte’s story is interwoven with that of Arcadie Claret, the young mistress of Leopold I, king of the Belgians. Charlotte first sees the girl on the beach in Ostend. Arcadie is so attractive, dearly loved and beautifully dressed, and stands in such sharp contrast to herself, that Charlotte becomes violently jealous of her.
A historical novel about the love of Charlotte Brontë for the Brussels teacher Constantin Heger, based on actual events (1842 – 1844). The story is set in Brussels and in West Yorkshire.
The Master has been selected for Books at Berlinale. 

An integral English translation is now available.


Thursday, 12 June 2014

June Weekend - Friday

Friday 13 June, 6.30pm, West Lane Baptist Centre, Haworth
A talk followed by a performance by Simon Warner, David Wilson and Adam Strickson. Preceded by a Harp Quintet and a meal.
An evening of artistic responses to the landscape that influenced the lives and works of the Brontës by musician David Wilson, artist Simon Warner and poet Adam Strickson.
Throughout 2012 David composed music inspired by the Haworth landscape and carried out research into the music played and appreciated by the Brontës. Simon will show film shots in and around Haworth in response to David's musical compositions, while Adam reads poetry by the Brontës and others, including Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes and Charlotte Mew alongside his own compositions. Pennine Harps will play a selection of music and will complete their set with an arrangement of an Emily Brontë peom set for the harp by a Society member.   
Tickets: £15 (performance only)

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Charlotte Brontë’s Scottish jaunt

A record of Charlotte Brontë’s Scottish jaunt in the visitors’ book at Abbotsford, Walter Scott’s home
Helen MacEwan, Malcolm Morrison (Abbotsford guide), Kathleen Shortt

Helen MacEwan writes:
On a trip to Edinburgh on 10-11 May I met up with Kathleen Shortt, the Brontë Society’s representative for Scotland. We went south to the border country for a tour of Sir Walter Scott’s house, Abbotsford, by Malcolm Morrison, a BS member who lives in Melrose and works at the house as a volunteer guide. Scott’s literary creations were of course hugely influential on the Brontës, as on so many other writers of the period; in 1834, advising her friend Ellen Nussey on which novels to read, Charlotte Brontë had written: ‘For fiction read Scott alone – all novels after him are worthless’.

Abbotsford, his amazing and highly personal creation in stone, was to ruin him financially, though he eventually managed to write his way out of debt. We were privileged to have not only a private tour of the house with Malcolm but also a private viewing of the visitors’ book that covers 1850. The book, whose binding is in too fragile a condition to allow it to be permanently displayed, was brought out for us by Sandra Mackenzie, the Heritage and Learning Officer, and opened at the page where Charlotte Brontë and George Smith signed it during their visit to Abbotsford on 5 July of that year along with 17 other visitors. . Charlotte had joined her publisher for a couple of days’ sight-seeing in Scotland when he and his sister went to fetch their younger brother home from his school in Edinburgh for the summer vacation. She was originally to have joined the Smiths for a longer tour of Scotland but her time with them was curtailed, probably because of the disapproval of Ellen and others of her jaunts with the unmarried Smith.

Charlotte and George Smith signatures in the visitors' book

Despite the brevity of her Scottish trip Charlotte waxed lyrical in letters about her glimpse of Edinburgh, Abbotsford and Melrose, telling her friend Laetitia Wheelwright that ‘Edinburgh compared to London is like a vivid page of history compared to a huge dull treatise on Political Economy – and as to Melrose and Abbotsford the very names possess music and magic.’

The visit to Abbotsford was magical for us too, since apart from the fascination of the house itself there was the thrill of seeing Charlotte’s signature – a record of a trip she enjoyed so much, at the height of her friendship with her handsome young publisher.