Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

January 30, 2006

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Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 7:07 pm

Miss Mix by Ch-l-tte Br-nte

This just beats all. It is a ‘condensed’ version of …a novel by someone whose name resembles Ch-l-tte Br-nte. This parody was written by Bret Harte in 1867 and it is… totally mad. Some excerpts:

Upon her arrival at ‘Blunderbore Hall’ Miss Mix has just finished her 7th and started her 8th cup of tea when someone jumps in through the library window- shattering the glass:

“Don’t be excited. It’s Mr. Rawjester,—he prefers to come in sometimes in this way. It’s his playfulness, ha! ha! ha!”

“I perceive,” I said calmly. “It’s the unfettered impulse of a lofty soul breaking the tyrannizing bonds of custom.” And I turned toward him.

Mr. Rawjester is very strong indeed, and a little more than ‘peculiar':

As he absently tied the poker into hard knots with his nervous fingers, I watched him with some interest.

[...]

“Fearful! Call you this fearful? Ha! ha! ha! Look! you wretched little atom, look!” and he dashed forward, and, leaping out of the window, stood like a statue in the pelting storm, with folded arms. He did not stay long, but in a few minutes returned by way of the hall chimney. I saw from the way that he wiped his feet on my dress that he had again forgotten my presence.

[...]

“You are a governess. What can you teach?” he asked, suddenly and fiercely thrusting his face in mine.

“Manners!” I replied calmly.

“Ha! teach me!”

“You mistake yourself,” I said, adjusting my mittens. “Your manners require not the artificial restraint of society. You are radically polite; this impetuosity and ferociousness is simply the sincerity which is the basis of a proper deportment. Your instincts are moral; your better nature, I see, is religious. As St. Paul justly remarks—see chap. 6, 8, 9, and 10”—

He seized a heavy candlestick, and threw it at me. I dodged it submissively but firmly.

“Excuse me,” he remarked, as his under jaw slowly relaxed. “Excuse me, Miss Mix—but I can’t stand St. Paul! Enough—you are engaged.”

He’s also very romantic:

“So you risked your life to save mine, eh? you canary-colored teacher of infants.”

[...]

“You love me, Mary Jane,—don’t deny it! This trembling shows it!” He drew me closely toward him, and said, with his deep voice tenderly modulated,—“How’s her pooty tootens,—did she get her ’ittle tootens wet,—b’ess her?”

There’s a giant ‘negress’ dancing around his bed for awhile- Miss Mix is told this is his ‘first’ but then he throws his boots at her head and that’s an end of that.

And then he robs all of his guests and threatens to kill Jane- I mean Miss Mix if she doesn’t help him. They tie everyone up, he lights the house on fire and proposes to Miss Mix in the glow of the flames devouring his THREE crazy wives (and a bunch of other people).

And they all lived happily ever after… except for the crazy wives, servants, Blanche Marabout, the housekeeper, and little French Nina…

January 29, 2006

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Filed under: Audio Clips,Downloads,Music,Music Theatre,Wuthering Heights — by bronteana @ 9:46 pm

Wuthering Heights by Bernard Taylor

This found me by way of Thisbeciel and Biedroneczka. This is yet another musical. Most of the tracks can be downloaded from Mr.Taylor's website, but there is also a CD which I think includes another 15 songs. I am hoping to coax someone into writing a review for Bronteana. For now, I have some initial reactions to register.

Here is a brief intro to the work:

Taylor's musical was the first stage adaptation of the story to be given the approval of the Brontë Society. The concept album was released by Silva Screen records in 1992, and opera star Lesley Garrett also used two of the songs for one of her best-selling solo albums.A 1994 amateur performance in the Netherlands was very successful and generated discussions for possible other productions. It has been running in repertoire in Poland since 1996 and Rumania since 1997. It debuted in Australia in 1998.

The show requires a minimum cast of about 15, but can be expanded to include a chorus of 20 or more. Orchestrations are available for a pit orchestra of 12.

This is the second music theatre adaptation of Wuthering Heights that I have come in contact with. I thought, and still do think, that the novel has a lot of potential for both opera and music theatre. Both of these work best when the emotions stretch beyond the imaginative levels of experience to the mythic. This is why characters in music theatre break into song. But the first version of Wuthering Heights that I heard so failed to reflect the mythic level of WH that it left the whole thing as something of a farce. Heathcliff was far too vulnerable and …well, nice. The music was melodious but lacked depth. I should return to it, because I have only heard some very small selections but these impressions have stuck over repetitions.This production from 1990 is a different story. I am quite impressed with the sensitivity of the score in particular. On the first listen, I was troubled by some of the lyrics but even then I realised that I was simply biased against the very idea of Heathcliff singing. When I got passed that, on a second and third listen, I heard the Arabic rhythms of his theme. I came to think that IF Heathcliff were to sing, he would sing like this. The exclaimations of 'Cathy!' that troubled me before now seem to rumble in the underscore and force their way through into the melody.

Besides this, the songs are beautiful in their own right. In the Prelude there is beauty and a sadness lurking behind it. I get the impression of beginning a celebration and a tragedy. I think this is fitting.

Two of the songs I've gone over are: Cathy! and I See a Change in You.

In addition to Wuthering Heights, Mr Taylor has adapted several other works of literature to music theatre- with equal sensitivity! He has adapted Pride and Prejudice, which captures the period so nicely in its score. The lyrics also are quite good but there's something… off. I think it is his weakest adaptation of those I have listened to so far. He has also adapted Much Ado About Nothing, which I have to admit is delightful. Again, he has managed to encorporate the scales and rhythms popular in the Renaissance into this work. I will take the liberty of recomending Benedick's song on hearing of Beatrice's passion: Madness, performed by Paul McGann as Benedick.

The work has also been the subject of discussion in the journal formerly known as 'Bronte Society Transactions' but now known as 'Bronte Studies.' Mark Seaward, editor of B.S.T. said of the work: "Bernard J. Taylor’s work marks the first time that the true spirit and drama of Emily Brontë’s masterpiece has been captured in a musical." Taken from this page, also on Mr.Taylor's site.

Critics on Wuthering Heights by Bernard Taylor:

"Bernard J. Taylor's big, sweepingly romantic score sustains a feeling of dark passion entirely appropriate for an adaptation of Emily Bronte's novel concerning the ill-fated love between Cathy and Heathcliff." – Show Music Magazine, USA, Summer, 1992.

"This is what stage music should be – passionate, powerful, melodic . . . If you buy only one album this year, make it this one – Mike Gibb, Masquerade Magazine.

"Every number, whether vocal or instrumental, packs the kind of emotional punch that musical performers and audiences cry out for." – Sarah Hopkins, Beneath the Mask, Summer 1994 issue.
"Something to shiver about!" – House & Garden (British edition), March 1992.

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Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 2:33 am

Phew… that’s all I can say.

When I came across this from The Observer, I thought at first that the novel mentioned was ‘Adele’ but that was written by Tennant. No, no this would be much worse:

When, after her death, I went to her house in Clapham and pulled out the drawers of the filing cabinet in which she kept drafts and discards of her work, I hoped to find some unpublished stories, or notes on the novel about Jane Eyre’s stepdaughter for which she’d submitted a synopsis: Adele was going to fall in love with a schoolteacher, seduce her own father and watch her mother being guillotined; it was going to play ‘some tricks with history … But then it is a novel’.

What is that supposed to mean? I’m not a professional writer but I have always found the importance of historical accuracy stressed both by other writers and by readers. But… Adele seducing her father? Why do so many adaptations of Brontë novels have to be so ludicrous? I’ve heard of one in which Mr Rochester’s son is older than Mr Rochester- if you do the math but- really, this is a novel so anything can happen I suppose!

And then, the Duke of Wellington appears and…

You may read the rest of the article here. I’ve never heard of Angela Carter, but I hope she came up with better plots than this.

January 28, 2006

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Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 3:58 pm

Public Domain Jane Eyre 1934

Ever wanted to see the first talkie of Jane Eyre but could never find a copy? Well, if your computer can handle it, you can now download the entire film from www.publicdomaintorrents.com

The version available for download (or purchase for $5.00) stars Virginia Bruce as a very blond, very un-quakerish Jane Eyre, and Colin Clive as the meek, soft spoken master of Thornfield- you know? Mr Rochester?

Just about everyone I’ve talked to about this film hates it, but I find it cute and very interesting. I think it is not so much a film adaptation of the novel as a film adaptation of plays of the novel! When I’ve read a few more of these plays I will return to this idea to see if it is really supported by the texts.

I won’t ruin the pleasure of being surprised by all of the changes, but I would like to point out one thing that alone redeems this production from being a ‘guilty pleasure.’ I have seen all but one of the extant versions of Jane Eyre- and several that are not supposed to exist. This film, with 1934 talkie before you, is the only film version in which Jane extinguishes the fire in Mr Rochester’s room by herself as in the novel. The only other time this happens is in the Gordon/Caird musical- but this film is closer to the text in this regard. Mr Rochester doesn’t wake up until the flames are fully extinguished (you can see this scene in one of the frames above- third frame from left, 3rd row from the bottom). Here’s a brief run down of the history of this scene- as I remember it:

1934- Jane tears down the burning curtains and smothers the flames with her feet, then she wakes Mr Rochester.
1944- Jane wakes Mr Rochester who vigorously smothers the flames while Jane rushes in with water.
1956- I’m waiting to see, but I hear that the flames and smoke are never shown in the same shot as the actors…
[I don't know if the two 1960s versions are extant- ask the BBC]
1970- Rochester puts out the flames.
1973- The fire is still burning at “Is there a flood?” Jane and Rochester are shown putting the rest of the flames out together.
1983- Mr Rochester puts out the flames while Jane stands by looking scared.
1996- The fire is still burning at “Is there a flood?” Mr Rochester puts the flames out himself, but Jane has cut her hands on roses from a vase she emptied.
1997- Mr Rochester puts out the flames.
2000- (the musical) Mr Rochester wakes up just in time to see the flames go out. Jane smothers some flames on her nightdress hem.

I’m finding it hard to visualise the 1997 and 1970 versions, so I’ll have to check them now. ;)

ETA: 1970- Mr Rochester and Jane put out the flames, but Rochester is shown for most of this scene with Jane getting a few shots.
1997- Jane wakes Rochester then watches him put out the flames.

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Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 3:04 pm

The Brontës Caught up in Scarborough Heritage Row

From the Yorkshire Post Today:

A CORNER of Scarborough’s past fired the childhood imagination of Susan Hill and helped turn her into a leading writer – she even used it as a setting for one of her short stories.
Now the children’s author and playwright has been horrified by plans to turn the Wood End Natural History Museum, which once belonged to the Sitwell literary family, into a suite of offices from April.

[...]

Ms Hill was a frequent visitor to Wood End in the 1940s and has fond memories of the conservatory put up by Sir George Sitwell to house his tropical plants and trees, populated by parrots and canaries, and the goldfish pond in the middle of the house.

Years later she wrote a short story about it, called In the Conservatory, while the Sitwell Room has also played on her creative imagination.

“Scarborough was my growing up town and has haunted my imagination ever since, especially that house and that room,” she added.

But comparing the building with the Brontë parsonage in Haworth, West Yorkshire, and calling for a campaign to “save” it, has got her into a “ding-dong” with local conservationists, who argue that the proposed Creative Industries Centre is the only way of preserving the fabric of the structure.

The only concern of Scarborough Civic Society is that some public access is ensured to the Sitwell Room – possibly by having open days.

Society chairman Roger Foster said: “It is all very well mentioning the Brontës, but there are 200,000 visitors a year to the Howarth [sic.] Parsonage and I very much doubt we have 200 visitors a year to Wood End.

See the rest of the article here.

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Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 2:42 pm

Reader, I Married Him, by Michèle Roberts

I think I will just post the entirety of this review from The Guardian. Commentary just doesn’t seem to add anything:

The only thing you can be certain of in this skittish comedy of menopausal lust and Italian cuisine is that the gun taken out of the wardrobe in chapter one will be fired before the heroine thinks of going back to her north London deli in chapter seven. The rest – whether three-times widowed Aurora is the Wife of Bath or a plump, mature Jane Eyre, whether the Brigandine nuns of Padenza are really a front for drug-smuggling, and just how far Michèle Roberts’s escapist fantasy can stretch to accommodate knowing literary references – is left tantalisingly open until the final sentence. If you think Jungian synchronicity, then Aurora’s journey to visit a radical-feminist-turned-mother-superior, which ends up with her bumping into her nagging stepmother, bedding an Armani-wearing priest and finding a possible fourth husband while eating delicious meals and pondering her Catholic upbringing, makes perfect, amusing sense. But it demands a leap of faith to believe in all the twists in Roberts’s absurd plot. There will be plenty of doubting Thomases who take Aurora’s line: “Ridiculous … It’s much too neat. Too many coincidences.”

Okay, one bit of commentary. Jane Eyre and the Wife of Bath in the same sentence… More information on Michèle Roberts can be found here at her BBC profile. Reader, I Married Him is available here from Amazon.com.

January 27, 2006

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Filed under: Anecdotes,Bronteana,Wuthering Heights — by bronteana @ 1:10 am

When Wuthering Heights is a Punchline!

I don't usually post every mention of anything Brontë-related, especially when the link is so tenuous as this, but I couldn't resist- it's so cute. This comes from an article on wireless communication! 'Are Wireless Benefits Being Oversold?'

Self-appointed experts need to be brought down to earth by being shown what a " technological benefit" really means at the user level.

For instance, I recently overheard a conversation between two businessmen, one of whom appeared to be staring for a long time at his handheld. The other man asked: "Is that WAP?" The first replied: "No, Wuthering Heights."

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Filed under: Bronteana,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 1:02 am

Brontë Answered by the Deep South From a Blogcritics review of the DVD 'Other Voices, Other Rooms.' There's something about certain depictions of the American South of the 1920s and 30s that reminds me of 19th century gothic/romance novels. I don't know if Brontesque is a word; as in reminding one of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, but the air of mystery and gloom that seems to surround old decrepit plantations certainly can give the moors a run for their money. The South may lack the fogs and crags for people to get lost in or fall down, but it has its own share of dangers. Mysterious swamps filled with ghosts and spirits ready to steal your soul. Not to mention more down to earth dangers like rattlesnakes whose bite can kill you or bogs that could swallow you whole. Heat and humidity are every bit as oppressive as cold rains and mists, and poor dissipated Southern gentry can have just as many secrets as their brooding English counterparts. Change the mysterious old faithful servants from white to black, and the brick manor house with drafts to a disintegrating pre-civil war plantation house and the transition is complete. In the face of overwhelming evidence, 'Brontë' (adj.) along with its variants: 'Brontëan' and 'Brontësque' should be added to the OED.

January 25, 2006

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Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 12:26 am

In Search of the Brontës, but which ones?

From an obituary for Michael Wharton:

A mainstay of his column was the fantasy world of Stretchford, a town populated by such grotesques as the excruciatingly trendy Bishop Spacely-Trellis, who eternally exhorted his flock to jettison “outdated concepts such as God, the Saints and the Incarnation”; Jack Moron, the boorish Fleet Street drunk whose bellicose refrain was “Wake up Britain!”; an appalling tribe of Hampstead liberals, the Dutt-Paukers; and not least the ridiculous social scientist, Dr Heinz Kiosk, who would conclude his monologues by protesting: “We are all guilty!” In Wharton’s universe, everyone remembers the famous Swedo-Albanian war; the famous fifth Brontë sister, Doreen Brontë; Stretchford’s beleaguered Aztec community; and the huntin’ an’ shootin’ Ernest Hemingway’s decision to move to Britain’s most virile town, Bournemouth.

…But…

I thought Doreen was 6th.

In case you were not aware, among the many websites devoted to real actual Brontës there had been at least one which is devoted entirely to fictional ones- a site that sounds like: Brontës R Us. It is sadly no longer with us.

January 24, 2006

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Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 10:44 pm

Brontëana is News!

Thanks to ‘Curious’ for this very curious bit of news! Brontëana has been mentioned, briefly, in the most recent edition of the Brontë Society Gazette:

From the “In Brief” section on page 7:

“Jane Eyre: The Musical closed in Toronto a decade ago, but is still a matter for discussion and dispute in certain circles. The Canadian undergraduate who runs the constantly interesting Bronteana website is currently gathering material on the show, which was panned by local critics for being ‘bloated’.”

If it wasn’t for ‘Curious’ I would never have known. I am not a member of the society, and I have no idea where I would get a copy of the Gazette otherwise. I should probably thank Mr.Wilcocks at The Bronte Parsonage E-Magazine Blog as well. I have a feeling that he is responsible for this particular honour!

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