Saturday, 12 May 2012

Charlotte's Ebb

One of the few benefits of hundreds of books being tossed arse over tit in the wardrobe is that some come to light I don't remember buying, let alone reading.  One such little treasure is The Bront√ęs by I. Cooper Willis, first published in 1932.  The copy I have is almost fifty years old.  I started reading it recently because I was interested to find out more about the Brussels period, but the rest of the book is fascinating too.  It's full of intimate detail about their life in Haworth.  Portraits of Emily, Anne and, particularly, Charlotte are strong and feel very immediate.  Letters and reminiscences inform most of the book, although the author does witter on a bit with psychological theory.

Rather uncomfortably, I can see myself in Charlotte.  She refers often to a lowness of her "animal spirits", which I recognise.  'She says somewhere in Villette, speaking as Lucy, that she could never resist the impulse to like anyone who was kind to her.'  This was in reference to Charlotte's unrequited love for M. Heger, who ran the pensionnat in Brussels.  Oh, you and me both, girl.  It's like the sun suddenly coming out, just for you.  It's like a safe haven somewhere dangerous.  And it's really really not good if you mistake kindness for something else.

Charlotte married her father's curate, got pregnant soon after and then died, probably from extreme morning-sickness, following all her siblings to a very early grave.  She did appear to be very happy though, in the few months of her marriage.  So a happy ending of sorts.

I'm also reading about British serial killers, a much more healthy subject. 

1 comment:

  1. The Brontes, well some of them, were born in what is now a butchers in a little village called Thornton. It's not too far from Haworth but not many people know this. It has a little plaque on the wall. I only know cos I'm from this village. The local church once made a video about their early lives here and I was Anne and got to ride in a little horse-drawn cart. They were quite an extraordinary family, I think, though you may be right that serial killers is a healthy subject! Axxx