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The Life of Charlotte Brontë
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The Life of Charlotte Bronte > Week 1 - Chapters 1-7

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Anastasia Kinderman | 654 comments Mod
Discussion for Chapters 1-7 will take place here.


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Lisa (lisadannatt) | 304 comments I always enjoy descriptions of places as they were with a musing of what they will become. Gaskell describes keighley, imagining that it will become bigger, less quaint. I wonder if she realized that the town would eventually be known because of her friend.

Some pictures
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keighley

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haworth

https://www.bronte.org.uk/


message 3: by Lynn (new)

Lynn B | 10 comments It would be lovely to see these places as they were when Mrs Gaskell was writing.

I am from England and have visited Haworth a few times. Over the years, it has become increasingly popular as a destination and now seems to have coachloads of sightseers, all year round.

Many visitors are from Japan. I wonder what Mrs Gaskell and the Brontes would have thought of the Brontes' popularity with the Japanese.

It is good that so many people are able to enjoy the Parsonage and its surrounds but the downside is that the town has inevitably taken on an overly touristy atmosphere.


Ginny (burmisgal) | 190 comments Lynn wrote: "It would be lovely to see these places as they were when Mrs Gaskell was writing.

I am from England and have visited Haworth a few times. Over the years, it has become increasingly popular as a d..."


Someday I will visit Yorkshire! Mrs. Gaskell spends the first two chapters making the setting for Charlotte's youth vivid and intriguing. I am presently re-reading Barchester Towers, set in a lovely south England cathedral town, and Haworth sounds like it is on another planet. Sounds like the good citizens were quite left-wing. Are they voting for Labour in the upcoming election?


Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 315 comments Lunne, than you for your insights about your experiences with present-day Haworth. :)


message 6: by Lynn (new)

Lynn B | 10 comments Ginny wrote: "Lynn wrote: "It would be lovely to see these places as they were when Mrs Gaskell was writing.

I am from England and have visited Haworth a few times. Over the years, it has become increasingly p..."



Yorkshire is a beautiful and very varied English county. The Yorkshire Dales provide some of England's most attractive scenery and it is a wonderful county for walkers.

On my last visit to Haworth, I walked The Bronte Walk which if I remember rightly, is about 12 miles long and takes in much of the moorland countryside which the Brontes would have walked. It is well worth doing that walk or part of it as there little has changed save that the handful of buildings on the walk are now in ruins.

But Yorkshire also has industrial cities and I would certainly expect that the county as a whole is firmly left wing and a Labour stronghold. Yorkshire is the setting for Mrs Gaskell's Mary Barton if I remember rightly- a grim tale of industrial exploitation and unrest.

The good people of Yorkshire would see themselves as living in a different country from those "soft Southerners" inhabiting Barchester Towers!


message 7: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 304 comments Hi Lynn, this is a weird question. Are there stereotypes associated with each political party- you mention a labor stronghold, would that fit Gaskell's description of the population?

And why "soft southerners", I'm just quizzy.

Incidentally I see that the new Princess has been named Charlotte, an awesome name for the little one to aspire to.


message 8: by Lynn (new)

Lynn B | 10 comments Lisa wrote: "Hi Lynn, this is a weird question. Are there stereotypes associated with each political party- you mention a labor stronghold, would that fit Gaskell's description of the population?

And why "soft..."


Lisa, your question is interesting but not easy to answer. I'll try but know that I'm waffling a bit.... the two main political parties in the UK now are Conservatives and Labour but the Labour party was not formed until the 20th century. Before the emergence of the Labour party as the party of the working classes, the two main parties were Tories (Conservatives) and Whigs. The Conservatives have essentially always been the party of conservatism, while the Whigs were more progressive, being more pro-Parliament and less pro-monarchy and also more sympathetic towards Non Conformists. My guess (but it is only a guess) is that Yorkshire would have been a Whig county in the days of the Brontes; however, there was not universal suffrage in those days so that would have skewed the vote towards the Conservatives. The gentry and the well to do farmers etc of the county would have been Conservatives. I suspect Mrs Gaskell would have been a Whig supporter because she was married to a Non Conformist Minister and one of her children married a Whig politician.

Today the policies of the Labour party are slightly to the left of the Conservative party. The party is traditionally associated with the working classes and there is a clear geographical divide in the way in which the UK votes with most of the Labour vote coming from the North of the country.

It is the same sort of division which is reflected in Mrs Gaskell's North and South in which the Southern family are shocked to find the poverty and hard working conditions in the industrialised North. That book was set in Manchester, Lancashire which is only just over the county border from Yorkshire- Haworth is a short drive from Manchester.

Yorkshire people have a reputation for being very outspoken and for "calling a spade a spade" and would still look down on Southerners as being soft. They have an identity of their own http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_...


Anastasia Kinderman | 654 comments Mod
Lisa wrote: "Incidentally I see that the new Princess has been named Charlotte, an awesome name for the little one to aspire to. "

I didn't realize they'd named her until I saw your post. What a beautiful name!


Ginny (burmisgal) | 190 comments Just finished Ch. 3. Oh my! My first thought--not very academic--Patrick Bronte was completely bonkers. And impact is added by the fact that Mrs. Gaskell is writing about him in the present tense. Not only was he still alive; I understand he had commissioned her to write the book. Malnourishment nourishes character. What a concept. It certainly paints a vivid picture of what their early childhood was like.


message 11: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 304 comments Thanks Lynn


message 12: by Lynn (new)

Lynn B | 10 comments Ginny wrote: "Just finished Ch. 3. Oh my! My first thought--not very academic--Patrick Bronte was completely bonkers. And impact is added by the fact that Mrs. Gaskell is writing about him in the present tens..."


I agree Ginny and according to the foreword to my edition of the book, Patrick was very pleased with the book when it was published!

Just finished Ch 4.

By today's thinking, his behaviour in not removing his younger daughters immediately from Cowan Bridge School after the double tragedy is so shocking...


message 13: by Sara (last edited May 07, 2015 11:49AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara (phantomswife) Just some thoughts:

1. I was very interested in her descriptions of the area and its people because local plays such an important part in the Bronte's novels. The moors are almost another character and understanding them and the general character of the inhabitants makes understanding the fictional events easier.

2. It is so tragic that so much of the experience at school parallels the events in Jane Eyre. Thinking of "Helen" as "Maria" made me very sad indeed.

3. I think people in this era took the loss of children (and indeed spouses) as normal events. Failure to blame the school and extract the remaining children seems so callous and cold, but in that time it probably wasn't perceived that way. Even writing from a bit of a remove, Gaskell doesn't seem shocked in the way we are by this.

4. Gaskell's description of Charlotte is so like Charlotte's description of Jane that it is impossible not to believe she saw her heroine as being very much herself. This is not to say she didn't take creative license, but just that when Jane looked into the mirror it must have been Charlotte's face she saw.

I have just reached Chapter Seven. I have moved Shirley and Villette up on my list of must-reads. I am ashamed that I have never attempted anything of Charlotte's other than Jane Eyre


Ginny (burmisgal) | 190 comments Not for the first time, I am struck by Mrs. Gaskell's brilliant research and writing. "Wild, strong hearts, and powerful minds, were hidden under an enforced propriety and regularity of demeanour and expression, just as their faces had been concealed by their father, under his stiff, unchanging mask."


Ginny (burmisgal) | 190 comments Sara wrote: "Just some thoughts:

1. I was very interested in her descriptions of the area and its people because local plays such an important part in the Bronte's novels. The moors are almost another characte..."


Thanks for these perceptive comments. I had not remembered that the school was very new--and essentially a charity. What a difference good public education might have made for all the children, but especially the girls. As well, I can't help but wonder how things would have been different if Patrick had simply included the daughters in the devoted lessons he provided for his son.


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Lisa (lisadannatt) | 304 comments I'm wondering about the children's relative isolation before going to school. They only had each other for company & obviously had some imagination between them, they were exciting influences on eachother!

Sara, you're write. Death of a child at boarding school would cause a furore nowadays. I wonder if it had been Branwell passing on at school, would Patrick have removed the others sooner if he lost an only son?


message 17: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara (phantomswife) Ginny wrote: "Sara wrote: "Just some thoughts:

1. I was very interested in her descriptions of the area and its people because local plays such an important part in the Bronte's novels. The moors are almost ano..."

How true. Public education for both sexes is so taken for granted today. I am always taken by the amount and nature of serious reading that children were exposed to at that time, however, and how much more quality was contained in their education. That the mind was more important than the body to the educators seems doubtless when you read how poor their diet and how little concern for their comfort.


message 18: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara (phantomswife) Lisa wrote: "I'm wondering about the children's relative isolation before going to school. They only had each other for company & obviously had some imagination between them, they were exciting influences on ea..."

I don't honestly think so. I think he might have suffered more at the loss of his only son, but I don't think he would have reacted any differently. He was a stoic who believed that such things were God's will and should be accepted. It seems cold to us today, but I don't think it would have seemed at all the same to his contemporaries.


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 352 comments Ginny wrote: "Just finished Ch. 3. Oh my! My first thought--not very academic--Patrick Bronte was completely bonkers. And impact is added by the fact that Mrs. Gaskell is writing about him in the present tens..."

Yes I'm midway through Chapter 3 & assumed the Bronte children were malnourished from poverty. But there was good food available but their father felt a potatoes diet only was better for them! Bizarre!


Ginny (burmisgal) | 190 comments Lisa wrote: "I'm wondering about the children's relative isolation before going to school. They only had each other for company & obviously had some imagination between them, they were exciting influences on ea..."

It certainly seems that Branwell was favoured and that Gaskell was angry about this for Charlotte's sake. Re the plan to enroll Branwell in the Royal Academy to study art, we are told that his art is "not much better than sign-painting." And: "These are not the first sisters who have laid their lives as a sacrifice before their brother's idolized wish. Would to God they might be the last who met with such a miserable return!"


message 21: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara (phantomswife) Ginny wrote: "Lisa wrote: "I'm wondering about the children's relative isolation before going to school. They only had each other for company & obviously had some imagination between them, they were exciting in..."

Branwell's painting is criticized, but I thought the painting he did of his sisters showed some talent and potential. I think Branwell was a person who regardless of his talents would never apply himself to anything. It is sad that the least admirable and motivated child should have had all the loving advantage, but I think we see that frequently in families. Perhaps parents are drawn to the one that they feel needs them to "fix" the most.


message 22: by Lynn (new)

Lynn B | 10 comments I presume that this picture is the one described as not much better than sign painting. Certainly it is flattering to Charlotte if the other pictures I have seen of her are truer likenesses.

http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/sea...


Ginny (burmisgal) | 190 comments Lynn wrote: "I presume that this picture is the one described as not much better than sign painting. Certainly it is flattering to Charlotte if the other pictures I have seen of her are truer likenesses.

http..."


Thanks for this. Gaskell says that Charlotte is the one on the right, while the gallery seems to think she is in the middle? And the post covers up Branwell's self-portrait. How funny.


message 24: by Lynn (new)

Lynn B | 10 comments Ginny wrote: "Lynn wrote: "I presume that this picture is the one described as not much better than sign painting. Certainly it is flattering to Charlotte if the other pictures I have seen of her are truer like..."

At the foot of the linked page, it says:

"This is the only surviving group portrait of the three famous novelist sisters - from left to right: Anne, Emily and Charlotte Brontë. The portrait was known from a description of it by the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell who saw it in 1853. It was thought to have been lost until it was discovered folded up on top of a cupboard by the second wife of Charlotte Brontë's husband, the Reverend A.B. Nicholls, in 1914. In the centre of the group a male figure, previously concealed by a painted pillar, can now be discerned; it is almost certainly a self-portrait of the artist, their brother Branwell Brontë."


message 25: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara (phantomswife) Ginny wrote: "Lynn wrote: "I presume that this picture is the one described as not much better than sign painting. Certainly it is flattering to Charlotte if the other pictures I have seen of her are truer like..."

Gaskell was a personal acquaintance of Bronte and would surely have known which of three she was, so I am sure Charlotte is the one on the right. Branwell himself removed his image from the painting he had done according to Gaskell.


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 352 comments Charlotte looks to be a capable artist (although I'm still trying to figure out the neckline on that portrait of her friend Ellen!) http://bjtanke.com/bronte/page3.htm


message 27: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara (phantomswife) ***Carol*** wrote: "Charlotte looks to be a capable artist (although I'm still trying to figure out the neckline on that portrait of her friend Ellen!) http://bjtanke.com/bronte/page3.htm"

lol. Yes, that neckline does give one pause. I think she was a rather remarkable artist. Seems her talents were vast.


message 28: by Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ (last edited May 13, 2015 07:33PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 352 comments I've just looked at a slide show of Bramwell's. His artwork could most politely be described as uneven.

"http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintin...


My copy of this book has a close up of Charlotte's painting of the spaniel - it's really beautiful.


message 29: by Anastasia Kinderman, The Only (new) - rated it 3 stars

Anastasia Kinderman | 654 comments Mod
Something I noticed, Gaskell mentions that the people think fondly of how things were "in Oliver's days". Wasn't Oliver Cromwell thought of as harsh....? Would this differentiate them from the rest of England?


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