Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

March 23, 2006


BBC Jane Eyre 2006

Now has it's own page on the Internet Movie Database. There is nothing there at all- just the title, date, and that it will be produced by the BBC. Nothing new, therefore, but news might break there in the near future. Also, somewhat new, I have a report from Yorkshire than filming began two weeks ago outside of the reporter's village. Correction, there is one bit of news- if the page is to be trusted, Jane Eyre 2006 will be a mini-series.

On a lighter note, I've been thinking how odd it is that we have no interviews with Ruth Wilson yet, but we have two descriptions of Toby Stephens' sideburns, grown especially for Jane Eyre. I wonder if he will merit a write up in Chops Quarterly.

CQ is an internet blog with no posts whatsoever, but a fabulous mandate to celebrate sideburns of all shapes and sizes. Although they haven't been updated much, especially when they were founded in 1854 and there still aren't any posts (well, to be fair, there wasn't an internet then either), I have already learned so much about sideburns! For instance, I always assumed that any long, wooly sideburn was a 'mutton chop' but this is not so! Mutton chop refers to having two long sideburns joined via a moustache.

Charlotte's husband, Arthur Bell Nicholls also had fine chops:


March 22, 2006


Filed under: BBC,Interviews,Jane Eyre (BBC 2006),Media,Productions,TV,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 11:29 pm

Toby Stephens prefers the Conflicted Man

Here are a few more tidbits for those desperate to hear more from our newest Rochester. From 'I'm much happier playing messed-up guys rather than the heroic lead. It's dull playing those parts'

With his striking good looks and an acting dynasty to die for – no less than Dame Maggie Smith and the late Robert Stephens for his parents – you'd think that Toby Stephens would be cornering the market in dashing, romantic leading roles.

Instead, his forte seems to be quite the opposite; crazed Bond villains (Die Another Day), tormented Cold War intellectuals (Kim Philby in Cambridge Spies) and, about to start filming, the enigmatic and mysterious Mr Rochester in a new BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre.

'I'm much happier playing messed-up guys rather than the heroic lead,' says 36-year-old Stephens. 'It's dull playing those parts. I'd rather play someone conflicted. They're always more challenging, and you've got more to work with.'


Right now Stephens' physical profile is extremely striking; he's darkened his hair and he's growing some pretty impressive sideburns in preparation to play one of English Lit's most troubled and misunderstood anti-heroes, Rochester, in Jane Eyre.

'The perfect messed-up guy – what more could I ask for?' he laughs

Yay! Sorry… I mean, splendid…


Filed under: Anecdotes,Bronteana,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 9:41 pm

"You have broken my heart today"

This post turned into something of a rant. I hope it is not entirely irrelevant.

This is what I said to someone I was having a very pleasant chat with today. I only met him recently, but he is the younger brother of one of my high school chums. He was not aware of my literary leanings, nor my intention of becoming a Bronte scholar. This is probably why he felt free to let loose a lengthy tirade against Emily, Charlotte, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights (at least Anne remained safe from his bile, although she was implied by the phrase: "three sisters who all died because they wrote bad novels." At the start, I averted my stunned gaze while he went on, not noticing my distress. My friend, seated next to me was in a similar state of shock. She, like most people in this particular area of Canada, had never read the Brontes. But she at least knew of my passion for their works- of Jane Eyre in particular.

"Jane Eyre wrote terrible novels! …"

…I think I may have become slightly more distressed.

"What's her name? Em-"

"Charlotte! …Charlotte…"

So, finally he just stopped on his own, and after a brief silence my friend turned to me and said: "Are you going to rebuff him for saying that?" I smiled, turned to him and meekly informed him that I'm going to be a Bronte scholar. And that Jane Eyre is my favourite book of all time. It was his turn to be alarmed, and he then attempted to "soften the previous outrage" and to stoke and soothe me into placidity, to coin a phrase. I am not easily vexed, so I engaged him in a discussion of Wuthering Heights. It turns out that the Brontes are now taught at my high school, where previously they had not. But he said that WH was taught "as an example of bad literature," and that "the whole concept of writing a novel around an anti-hero is terrible." Can I believe that this is true? Well… unfortunately, I cannot say it is outside of the realm of possibility but I intend to look into this.

My highschool was remarkable, unconventional, and extraordinarily liberal. One semester I had modern dance class before maths, geography, visual art, and vocal music. I spent about 80% of class time in some art class. The English program was horrid. I hated English until I entered university. English education, until grade 13 (now abolished), consisted of reading very bad Canadian fiction (such as the tale of an overweight teenage girl from a rich family who, depressed, goes to an island where she accidentally poisions herself until she is thin- and now she is happy, thin, and rich! Oh, and has a boyfriend). Doing plot diagrams, (which baffled me. I still do not understand their purpose, nor how one is constructed), and filling in charts of symbolism. I remember almost nothing from 4 years of English in this system- and only learned English grammar in university Latin.

In addition, the librarian was known as 'the Book-Nazi' (pardon the trivializing term- it is derived from the 'soup-Nazi' from Seinfeld). Upon entering the library all of your belongings were confiscated and placed in a detention area. The fiction section was forbidden, and the stairs leading to it were blocked with a chain. The librarian would select works of fiction each semester- they never seemed to change- and placed them on a table for us. You could be expelled from the library for sleeping, doing homework, or reading anything besides a book from the library itself. I had a friend who, early in the regime of this particular librarian, confronted her and said: "I refuse to obey these rules until you give me a reasonable explaination!" I thought: Why is she doing this to me? I will never read again! But somehow I escaped punishment.

And so, you see, I really can believe that WH would be used as 'an example of bad literature' at my dear old school! Do not be alarmed, grade 13 was completely different. It was run by a poet who demanded the best from us, and got it or else (there was at least one outburst of irrational rage per semester but we learned to expect them). And we learned to write proper essays, we wrote poetry and short stories, and begin to discuss books in a sane maner.

I really did love this school, honestly! I just don't comprehend why the English program was so ridiculous. I hear that my poet-teacher is now in charge of English there, and that the situation is much improved (and the Book-Nazi's chain has been sundered, and fiction flows freely once more). The school board also bears some responsibility. I uncovered a plot to annihilate the library system. I took out a book on Yeats' essays (I was an odd young woman) and the librarian unthinkingly said: "Oh, this book hasn't been taken out in a few years. This book should have been destroyed…" In their wisdom, the school board believed that the internet would make libraries redundant so they had an official policy of burning books not signed out for a certain period of time. They were not allowed to give them away, or to sell them. She offered to let me 'find' the book. I took out a shelf-full of books to save them. This policy was confirmed by other teachers. I only hope this too has changed!

March 21, 2006


Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 4:09 pm

BBC Jane Eyre 1973 Review

Thisbeciel found this while… studying for her final. Yes. That’s what she was doing. It is always nice to hear about this production, which I remind readers is set for release in June, only 33 years after it was produced by the BBC. Also, note: the production is actually in 5 parts but the first part was not shown in the United States.

The New York Times
July 21, 1982

THE idle question comes to mind with the start tonight at 8 o’clock of a four-part dramatization of ”Jane Eyre” on WNET-TV, and it asks whether anyone reads the Charlotte Bronte novel in its print original anymore [emphasis mine].

Certainly ”Jane Eyre” has over the years become almost as familiar on film and television. Its attraction for those who work in eye and ear is obvious, what with the story’s linear development and exterior action between people, that is, its lack of dependency on interior thought in one person’s mind. Its language is a mannered, ornate English that can only delight a performer and a listener. Also, a general spookiness and a tendency toward catastrophes do not hurt in this respect.The new series, made by the BBC, brings us this 19th-century melodrama about caste and class in old England and about the steadfast honesty of a young woman seeking happiness while out to do the right thing. It is impeccably done, to judge from the first part, and appears to be faithful to the book, but perhaps because of this faithfulness it does not catch fire. It is an enactment from the book, and one must judge for oneself whether to honor or deprecate it for its literary fidelity.

As its heroine, Sorcha Cusack makes an uncommonly strong, yet reserved, Jane. She is not pretty but has a quiet beauty enhanced by a slight smile and an expression that is attractively quizzical. Her soft voice supplies bridging text from the book between scenes. Michael Jayston is craggily handsome and strong and more theatrical in his portrayal of Rochester, the imperious, troubled master whose service she enters and whose heart she captures.

The settings and casting are exactly what one imagines ”Jane Eyre” should look like if translated from writing. Perhaps this series will encourage viewers to take the book off the shelf or, contrarily, it might have the effect of relieving them of guilt for not having read it. They will already know how it all works out.

Note on picture- yes, that is indeed a moth perched on Mr Rochester’s palm! And as for fidelity to the book making it not ‘catch fire’ (…what doesn’t catch fire in this film?!) I will say that I first saw this production after having watched all of the other, commercially available films of JE. I was very critical by that point, and skeptical. And yet I experienced bliss in hearing such poetry, and seeing such fine acting from almost the entire cast. I had just finished presenting a paper on Mr Rochester for a Bronte seminar, and I was literally amazed to see what I had discovered actually visible in Michael Jayston’s performance. I was stunned. The first episode also contains a hint, setting up a very subtle correspondence. In the ‘missing’ first episode, there is a scene at Lowood where vignettes of the classroom are shown. One of these is of Miss Temple giving a geography lesson, just before we leave her to move on to another class, she begins to tell the girls about the Sargasso Sea, near Jamaica.

March 19, 2006


The Butterfly, by Emily Bronte I've just finished transcribing Sue Lonoff's translation of Emily's Belgian devoir entitled 'Le Papillon' ('The Butterfly'). I've transcribed the translation rather than the original French this time so that the anglophone readers of Bronteana can enjoy some of Emily's work as an essayist as well. I will transcribe the French at a later date. The transcript is available here. I have also begun to scan the rest of the illustration I have for Villette, and these will soon be appearing on the site. Thereafter, I have some for Shirley, The Professor, and Jane Eyre to add in time. Le Papillon is my favourite of Emily's devoirs, at least of those I have read so far. Here are a few excerpts from the transcript: In one of those moods that everyone falls into sometimes, when the world of the imagination suffers a winter that blights its vegetation; when the light of life seems to go out and existence becomes a barren desert where we wander, exposed to all the tempests that blow under heaven, without hope of rest or shelter– in one of these black humors, I was walking one evening at the edge of a forest. It was summer; the sun was still shining high in the west and the air resounded with the songs of birds. All appeared happy, but for me, it was only an appearance. I sat at the foot of an old oak, among whose branches the nightingale had just begun its vespers. "Poor fool," I said to myself, "is it to guide the bullet to your breast or the child to your brood that you sing so loud and clear? Silence that untimely tune, perch yourself on your nest; tomorrow, perhaps, it will be empty." But why address myself to you alone? All creation is equally mad. Behold those flies playing above the brook; the swallows and fish diminish their number every minute. These will become, in their turn, the prey of some tyrant of the air or water; and man for his amusement or his needs will kill their murderers. Nature is an inexplicable problem; it exists on a principle of destruction. Every being must be the tireless instrument of death to others, or itself must cease to live, yet nonetheless we celebrate the day of our birth, and we praise God for having entered such a world.

March 18, 2006


Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 12:44 pm

One wedding and a proposal.

Thisbeciel was good enough to upload more clips for us! This time there’s probably my favourite scene from the Westinghouse Studio One Summer Theater Jane Eyre from 1952, with Katherine Bard and Kevin McCarthy. This scene is the interrupted wedding. It’s pretty silly, as you will see. Especially Rochester’s reaction to Mason’s arrival. Bertha’s revelation, and Jane’s departure all follow swiftly from there. I commented on all of this before- Bertha’s revelation here is simply unnecessary and absurd.

The other clip is the proposal scene from the BBC’s 1973 Jane Eyre with Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston. There isn’t much to say, except that it follows the novel very closely, and that it is a pity the BBC did not film it in the gardens at Renishaw. The first part of the scene, not shown in the clip, was filmed at Renishaw- complete with ‘rustic seat’ around the tree and even a moth! As it is, this studio garden is not very convincing. The acting more than makes up for it.

March 17, 2006


Filed under: Anecdotes,Bronteana,Fan Art,Fun,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 5:47 pm

Spreading the Word…

I finally recieved material from the Master's program in English. They are offering me a graduate assistantship. It seems like a good time, therefore, to discuss interior design. Professors at my university are very creative in how they choose to decorate the doors of their offices. I remember that in first year I stumbled upon the door of the writer in residence- now one of Canada's foremost authors. There was a feather taped to the door beside a cartoon of goats standing on a stove with the caption "Home on the Range". Below this was an old teacher evaluation from the 1960s. Scrawlled across it in an uncertain hand were the words: "That lecturer dude was rad." Below the scrawl, in elegant writing was: "____ ____ rocks Romanticism." Another professor- my mentor- has a magazine cover with a photo of an actress of the same name- I don't think she knows anything about Homer, though. And there's also an insultingly witty ancient Greek epigram bashing Challimachus. The Classics department is rife with puns. A poster of the she-wolf of Rome suckling Romulus and Rhemus has the caption: "Got Classics?" Another has a list of useful conversational Latin such as "If catapults are outlawed only outlaws will have catapults."

I have already stored a few items for the day when I too will have an office, and a door of my own. I don't know if I will have a door… I will certainly have a wall, and perhaps a chair and a desk… maybe a few walls. At least three. This poster, courtesy of the Association of the Librarians of the Czech Republic will definately have a place of honour on my wall.

March 16, 2006


Filed under: BBC,Films,Jane Eyre,Jane Eyre (BBC 2006),Media,Productions,Reviews,TV — by bronteana @ 5:16 pm

Confirmation on Jane Eyre 2006

From Frankengirl, a brief interview with Toby Stephens:

As the son of two of this country's finest actors, Toby Stephens would understandably prefer to be recognised in his own right. I'd be happy to oblige, but as we queue for the lift at ITV's South Bank studios, I fail to connect the scruffy figure in the wonderfully actorish ensemble of knee-length red corduroy coat, scarf, narrow jeans and trainers with Gustav Graves, the epee-wielding, electronic-armour-wearing master villain in the most recent James Bond film.'I'm deeply envious of my mother's talent because it's not something I possess'
But then I get a good look at his face. Those finely cut features are framed by long red sideburns – serious, costume-drama sideburns.
Touché! Stephens, son of Dame Maggie Smith and the late Sir Robert Stephens, has indulged his facial hair to play Rochester in a forthcoming BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre.

Well, I hope by 'indulge' they don't mean mouchachioes- villainous or otherwise!

While he admits that his upper-class image works both ways – helping with roles like Mr Rochester – the class thing rankles. Particularly, he says, when he sees actors who went to far smarter schools than Seaford pretend they're working-class.

It is a fact universally acknowledged that this is causing some concern in the circle of Jane Eyre enthusiasts:

Unfortunately for him, he possesses one of the best sneers in the business. Even when he's smiling, it looks like a sneer. "It's something that happens with my face," he says, insisting that he often doesn't realise he's doing it.


Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 12:46 am

“I will like it, I dare like it!”

I bring more video clips from difficult to find Jane Eyre. Firstly, another clip from the BBC’s 1973 5-part mini-series starring Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston. This clip is the end of the scene where Mr Rochester tells Jane about his affair with Celine Varens, and then muses as he gazes at the facade of Thornfield Hall. The Thornfield in this clip is the lovely Renishaw Hall, once the home of the poet Edith Sitwell. The clip shows some of the grounds, as Jane and Rochester make their way through the ornamental gardens to the house front. Of Renishaw, Michael Jayston once remarked that he could imagine the fire which destroys Thornfield happening there, but not at Norton Conyers, which he visited. His thoughts on Norton Conyers was that it would be possible to escape from the upper floors. A nice way of saying he was working in a death trap… I kid. The interview this was taken from, as well as a photo of Michael Jayston sitting in a tree at Norton Conyers is floating around in the Brontëana archives somewhere. .

The second clip is from the 1952 Westinghouse Studio One Summer Theatre Jane Eyre starring Katherine Bard and Kevin McCarthy. This scene is the equivalent of the Hay Lane scene, with a few changes. You be the judge. Personally I think Mr Rochester sounds like an American pretending to be an English gentleman pretending to be a cowboy…

Who is that strange man, limping into the garden?

March 14, 2006


Filed under: Emily Bronte,The Belgian Essays,The Brontes' Works — by bronteana @ 8:32 pm

Excerpts from Emily Bronte's Devoirs

For the Anglophone readers, here are a few excerpts from Sue Lanoff's translations of Emily's Belgian devoirs. These quotes are more or less random, except that I particularly like Emily's conclusions, so several are from the end of her essays. The first one is from a devoir which is interesting for several reasons. There are several versions of it in this book, showing M. Heger's corrections, and then a rewrite he did for Elizabeth Gaskell- presenting it as emily's work when it clearly has been rewritten in a very different style. The ending is particularly unbalanced by Heger's recasting. Emily's line is full of quiet, natural nobility, while Monsieur's line is artificial and distant- not to mention clumbsy.

From Le Roi Harold (King Harold):

As visible to men as to his Creator, the soul divine shines in his eyes; a multitude of human passions awake at the same time, but they are exalted, sanctified, almost deified. That courage has no rashness, that pride has no arrogance, that indignation no injustice, that assurance has no presumption. He is inwardly convinced that a mortal power will not fell him. The hand of Death, alone, can bear the victory away from his arms, and Harold is ready to succumb before it, because the touch of that hand is, to the hero, what the stroke that gave him liberty was to the slave.

From L'Amour Filial (Filial Love) (about the commandment 'honour thy parents'):

The hour will come when conscience will awake; then there will be a terrible retribution. What mediator will plead then for the criminal? It is God who accuses him. What power will save the wretch? It is God who condemns him. He has rejected happiness in mortal life to assure himself of torment in eternal life.

Let angels and men weep for his fate — he was their brother.

From Le Papillon (The Butterfly):

God is the god of justice and mercy; then surely, every grief that he inflicts on his creatures, be they human or animal, rational or irrational, every suffering of our unhappy nature is only a seed of that divine harvest which will be gathered when, Sin having spent its last drop of venom, Death having launched its final shaft, both will perish on the pyre of a universe in flames and leave their ancient victims to an eternal empire of happiness and glory.

Of the devoirs I have read so far, Le Papillon is the most masterful. There isn't any other way to describe it. I believe Charlotte was right in saying that 'Ellis Bell' was at 'his' best as an essayist! I would also add that she seems to be an expert in sprezzatura. She manages to write in a precise Classical manner with language which is direct, unaffected, and natural. I can imagine these essays being composed in her head before setting them down, rather than working out a structure on paper before hand.

Incidentally Heger's version of the first passage reads as follows:

Harold is no more a man; his passions bubble up, they become exhalted, but shedding their egotism, they are purified; they are sanctified: his courage has no more rashness; his pride has no more arrogance — his assurance is without presumption; his indignation is without injustice.

Let the enemy come! still the victory is Harold's. He feels that all must retreat, fall, before him…..But Death?…–to him who fights in defense of his native soil, the stroke of death is the stroke given to the slave, to liberate him and set him free.

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