Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

August 22, 2006

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Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 8:16 pm

Jane Eyre at Edmonton Fringe Festival

The headline of the review is slightly misleading: the show was nominated for several Tony awards, not just the one.


With Jane Eyre HHH (Stage 5, King Edward school), we get to see a Broadway musical that picked up a 2000 Tony nomination for its Paul Gordon score, a version of the groundbreaking 1847 Charlotte Bronte novel. If director Ryan hadn’t taught us that the musical theatre trolls widely for its literary provenance, this would seem, on the surface, like an improbable source: a complex Victorian narrative heavy on exposition. Even if the results are mixed, it is fascinating to see what music brings to an enterprise that travels widely through the years, event-filled. No accident that Brit director John Caird, who wrote the book, is one of the Les Miz team.
What turns out to be a natural fit for people bursting into song is the wincing chemical combination of the repressed and the luridly melodramatic, in the lush tale of the plain and plain-
spoken orphan who overcomes her harsh upbringing and the brutal class system to prevail, a feminist scenario if there ever was one.
In truth, it all seems a little schematic, and the production sketchy, as we fly through Jane’s tumultuous biography en route to the headliner: the love story of Jane and the mysteriously moody Edward Rochester, interrupted by occasional appearances from the lunatic upstairs lodger.
Gordon’s songs, which veer from the gently melancholic (“there is a fever on my brow and I fear the time has come…”) to the climactic pop(ish) anthem Brave Enough For Love, are proficient without being memorable. But the production is welcome on its own behalf, and a talent scout’s delight. In addition to her luminous voice, Nicole Rowley brings intelligence and coiled tension to her role as Jane. The dithery half-deaf housekeeper, played by Myla Southward, gets the show’s wittiest number. Cody Michie possesses vocal chops; youth and bearing conspire against his creating a complex, enigmatic, haunted Rochester. The choral moments reverberate.

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Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 1:07 pm

A Preview, of Sorts…

Until I can once more provide clips of Megwyn Owen’s work in Jane Eyre, I thought I should share some of her work from soon afterwards, which is similar. My apologies to anyone already familiar with Megwyn Owen’s work, and with ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ but this is totally new to me and, although only tangentially related to Bronte studies, I feel it would be of interest to some of my readers for me to post a little about Meg’s role as Hazel Forrest Bellamy.

Megwyn Owen plays Jane Eyre in a 1972 radio adaptation from the BBC, and turns in such a marvellous performance (the finest in the role, in my honest opinion). In 1973-74 she played Hazel in the BBC series Upstairs, Downstairs, which is something like a historical docudrama set in the Edwardian period showing the ‘upstairs’ life of the English aristocracy and the ‘downstairs’ life of the servants who live with them. In the picture above, she is sitting in the centre with her husband to her right and her father-in-law to her left.

Without spoiling too much, she begins as the typist of the master of the family, then marries his son. Like Jane, Hazel is very principled, and unconventional- despite claims to the contrary. She rightly sees herself as ‘an ordinary person with ordinary feelings’ but her unwillingness to adopt the practices of her new class bring down the anger of her husband and her father-in-law:

In this clip, her father-in-law (Richard Bellamy) and former employer reproaches her for ‘meddling in a man’s affairs.’ I still am not able to post clips from Jane Eyre for comparison but there is a slight similarity to how she plays Jane and Hazel. Hazel is bolder, however. And in this clip, her husband (James Bellamy) reproaches her for cooking ‘like a scullery maid’ instead of running the house from ‘upstairs.’ That last clip contains a definate spoiler at the very end, so you might want to stop it just after she says ‘If you can’t understand that…’

Clips and images courtesy of http://www.updown.org.uk

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Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 11:28 am

Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen

An anecdote from the bloglines has reminded me of my own trouble in finding the right book. From a librarian:

Patron: Do you have a copy of Jane EEEEEE-RAY?
ME: Excuse me?
Patron: Jane EEEEEE-RAY by Emily Bronte?
ME: Oh, you mean Jane EYRE (pronounced AIR) by CHARLOTTE Bronte.
Patron: Yes.
ME: Why yes! Let me go get it! (and I wander into the stack to get the book) I have it right here!
Patron: Is it PINK?
ME:Excuse me?
Patron: Is it PINK? I only want the one that is pink.
ME: Well, this copy is a light beige, I guess you could call it pink.
Patron: OK.

I guess if you cannot tell the difference between Charlotte and Emily Bronte, you really can’t tell the difference between beige and pink.

It works both ways. I don’t bother buying books from Chapters anymore but when I called to see if they had The Eyre Affair in stock, I believe only the fact that the book was in stock saved them from thinking I was making a crank call:

Me: J- I mean, The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde. Spelt-
Clerk: (obviously insulted) I know how to spell ‘air’! A-I-
Me: No, Eyre as in Jane Eyre. That’s why I almost said Jane before. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte… E-Y-R-E…
Clerk: Hmn. (pause)
Me: Oh, and that’s Fforde with two Fs… and an E.
Clerk: …
Me: … I think it’s Welsh (laughing nervously for it is getting very tense on the other line. And of course it’s Welsh).
Clerk: … (dryly) I guess so.

And, yes, it was very like the Bookshop skit from Monty Python. (“That’s David Coperfield with one P, I want David Copperfield with two Ps by Edmond Welles.” or “Grete Expectations by Charles Dikkens, the well-known Dutch author”).

August 21, 2006

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Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 6:04 pm

Ah, Summer Reading…

Students are being given summer reading, including the Brontes. Surprising, isn’t it? Well, it is even less surprising for me since I’ve had not only those internet searches for character sketches of characters from the novels poking around the blog, but on certain messageboards people have been bold enough to ask for chapter by chapter summaries, and quotes. The level of laziness involved in going online, and through all the trouble of posting such a message and waiting for a reply… instead of simply opening the book and looking for quotation marks is utterly mind-boggling.

But, here’s an article about why teachers are bothering with at least trying to get their students to read over the summer.

August 20, 2006

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Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 10:24 am

Charlotte Bronte Handwriting Analysis

I have been looking through the archives of my private journal- which in 2004 was already swamped by Bronte posts. Among them is this: an internet-generated analysis of Charlotte Bronte’s handwriting based on a manuscript page of Jane Eyre. I have only included exerpts because the analysis is rather long. Some observations seem very like CB and others are just silly. (This was generated based on my description of her handwriting):

Charlotte has a very unusual lower zone y loop. If the data input is correct, Charlotte’s y or g is large and opens up to the left side of the page. This is not a common trait, but the implications are very interesting. As you begin to study handwriting analysis, you will learn any loop indicates imagination. This lower loop indicates the amount of imagination Charlotte has regarding sex and physical things. So, her lower zone stroke is large, so her sexual imagination is large and open. Furthermore, because the loop is incomplete and extends to the left, this indicates a particular fascination with certain aspects of sexuality that have not been fulfilled, yet. In a nutshell, Charlotte is open to some very new ideas sexually and is willing to try anything once.

Something is incomplete in Charlotte’s life. She feels frustration relating to her physical needs and desires. Somewhere in her life there is some disappointment, non-fulfillment, and interruption. This is very likely to relate to Charlotte’s sexual needs.

Charlotte has a temper. […] One way Charlotte punishes herself is self directed sarcasm. She is a very sarcastic person. Often this sarcasm and “sharp tongued” behavior is directed at herself. […] Charlotte is capable of seeing far into the future. She plans two, three, even ten years in advance. Charlotte has high goals and can literally see them being reached. She is very self-confident and has a high self-esteem. Charlotte will reach whatever level of success she desires. Charlotte has the self-concept that is possessed by less than two percent of the population. That two percent contains the most successful people in the world. […]

In reference to Charlotte’s mental abilities, she has a very investigating and creating mind. […] She has the best of two kinds of minds. One is the quick investigating mind. The other is the creative mind. Her mind thinks quick and rapidly in the investigative mode. She can learn quicker, investigate more, and think faster. Charlotte can then switch into her low gear. When she is in the slower mode, she can be creative, remember longer and stack facts in a logical manner. She is more logical this way and can climb mental mountains with a much better grip.

Diplomacy is one of Charlotte’s best attributes. She has the ability to say what others want to hear. She can have tact with others. She has the ability to state things in such a way as to not offend someone else. Charlotte can disagree without being disagreeable.

Charlotte will be candid and direct when expressing her opinion. She will tell them what she thinks if they ask for it, whether they like it or not. So, if they don’t really want her opinion, don’t ask for it!

Charlotte is moderately outgoing. Her emotions are stirred by sympathy and heart rendering stories. […] Charlotte will be somewhat moody, with lows and highs. Sometimes she will be happy, the next day she might be sad. She has the unique ability to get along equally well with what psychology calls introverts and extroverts. This is because she is in between. Psychology calls Charlotte an ambivert. […] When convincing her to buy a product or an idea, a heart rendering story could mean a great deal to her. She puts herself in the same situation as the person in the story, yet she will not buy anything that seems overly impractical or illogical. Charlotte is an expressive person. She outwardly shows her emotions. […] Charlotte is a “middle-of-the-roader,” politically as well as logically. She weighs both sides of an issue, sits on the fence, and then will decide when she finally has to. She basically doesn’t relate to any far out ideas and usually won’t go to the extreme on any issue.

Charlotte tends to write a bit smaller than the average person. When a person’s letters are small and tiny, this indicates an ability to focus and concentrate. This character trait is a huge asset in careers like math, science, race car driving, and flying planes. However, if Charlotte writes tiny all of the time, she will also display characteristics of someone who is socially introverted. Charlotte will often sit on the sideline and watch others get the attention at parties. she might be willing to open up and be warm, but only in small groups or a select group of people. When she is busy working on a project, it is common for all other noises and distractions to just fade away and her ability to focus is incredible. When she says she didn’t hear you… really, she didn’t hear you.

August 19, 2006

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Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 6:27 pm

More Bronte Wares

There are a few other handmade Bronte items for sale at Etsy.com including a wooden Charlotte Bronte doll:

Hand-turned wooden figurine of Tasmanian white sassafras, hand-painted by Jilli Roberts of the Deepings Dolls. Each Deepings Doll is individually crafted and unique.Charlotte Bronte, author of several novels including the much loved Jane Eyre, was one of the three Bronte sisters of Yorkshire, who wrote novels under male pseudonyms, and all died young. Charlotte was the eldest and longest-lived of the sisters, and also the most prolific writer. She is pictured here in a rich burgundy/grape coloured crinoline dress, in the Victorian fashionDeepings Dolls are approx. 13cm. in height, the perfect size for a dolls house, or to adorn your bookshelf or mantlepiece.

Below are a few other items available:

An ‘Eyre, Bronte bird kette pendant charm.’ The same seller has little books- “büchli/buechli”- , and other ‘charm’s and things with random-seeming fragments of quotes from Jane Eyre on them.

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Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 12:38 pm

Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights Book Purse

This handmade item is currently for sale on Etsy.com, a website for selling handmade items of all sorts. It fills me with horror… I hope the text met a natural end and wasn’t scooped out so the binding could be made into a purse!


The listing reads: Another one of a kind purse made from an old hardback copy of Jane Eyre’s Wuthering Heights. Perfect for the bibliophile, your favorite librarian, or just someone who likes having the coolest, most unique purse on the block. This is fully lined with quality cotton fabric and has a reinforced bottom.

Don’t fret. We’ve also seen: ‘Charlotte Bronte by Jane Eyre.’ What is worse is that it was possibly an illustrated edition. I recognise it. I have not seen the illustrations of Wuthering Heights, but all of the illustrations from this edition of Jane Eyre are available on the Bronteana Resource Site here: Jane Eyre Illustrations Page One. Just scroll down to the illustrations by Munro S. Orr.

August 18, 2006

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Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 6:30 pm

Would the Brontes Survive BookScan?

This article from The Australian warns us of the dangers of publishing becoming more and more like manufacturing industries (such as asperagus canning). BookScan is a publishing technology which keeps track of sales information for every book purchased. The fear is that publishers will use the information to cut talents from their lists because they are not big sellers.

The world of fiction writing is full of tales (and some fantasies) about manuscripts that almost failed to be published and that went on to sell well and become beloved classics. Think Bronte, think Potter (Harry). It is possible that if sales are the only marker by which works of fiction are to be selected, will the Bovaries and the Heathcliffs and the Potters never see the light of day? Would that matter? I happen to think it would, because readers would be denied the joys of those particular excursions into the world of the imagination. So what to do?

Well once upon a time, I have been led to believe, when publishing was a funny old gentleman’s club, when the Penguin paperback had not been born and when you carried your manuscript around in a battered suitcase that you might absent-mindedly leave on the platform at Paddington, publishers were silly enough to subsidise the publication of risky novels and collections of weird poetry by the sales of sure-fire bestsellers. Perhaps even then they were books about diets and how to get the bloodstains out of the carpet after a party. Is it really no longer possible to do that?

Why not gamble on the Flaubert of Flemington, the Sartre of Sans Souci, the Charlotte Bronte of Bronte Park in the sure and certain hope (Book of Common Prayer) that they might one day pay off, come home, sell a bomb?

This does confuse me somewhat. At least in Canada, publishers still are silly enough to invest in works they believe in but know will not sell. And, yes, they do pay for them by selling a lot of really bad books that people will buy. Independent bookstores are forced to do the same to survive. Whether or not the Brontes would suffer if they were publishing today is an interesting question but if we are basing our views on the sales of the novels in the 1800s, BookScan would not be an issue. They would not go up to the Parsonage and say ‘sales are a bit down this quarter: mind spicing things up a bit?’ The question would rather be one of style- I think, and of length. Consumer criticism of the Bronte novels tend to revolve around a few areas: lack of appreciation for poetic description, complaints about length, and complaints that there isn’t any sex in the novels.

August 17, 2006

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Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 11:44 pm

Bronteana Book Meme!

Glaukopidos informs me that I’ve been tagged for a book meme that has been circulating on Classics blogs. I’ve never posted a meme on Bronteana before, and it isn’t news or an anecdote. So, I suppose this is an interview with myself.

1. One book that changed your life:

Villette, by Charlotte Bronte. It was only after I read Villette that I became interested in the Brontes. And this was not that long ago either: perhaps two years ago. I took it to heart, and owe to it my determination to become a Bronte scholar.

2. One book that you’ve read more than once:

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. I imagine that the novel will change when I read it again. It is a totally different experience each time.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte (really, are you surprised?).

4. One book that made you laugh:

An Aislinge MacConglinne (The Vision of McCongline), annonymous medieval Irishperson. Well. It has a saga in it about the ‘mighty peerless chieftains of the tribes of food,’ with such characters as Cakey MacWrist-y-hand and Filch MacSmooth-juicy-bacon.

5. One book that made you cry:

Shirley, by Charlotte Bronte. I believe it is the only book that made me cry, while Villette came very close.

6. One book that you wish had been written.

I wish Charlotte had finished Emma. Those were some of her finest opening chapters. The rewrite, by Clare Boland was not convincing.

7. One book that you wish had never been written.

Wide Sargasso Sea would be the smart answer, just so I would save time in explaining that it and Jane Eyre are not narratively compatible. I can’t say I wish any book were not written. No, wait… There Was Mr. Cristi. I helped publish the thing. I edited it. I nearly went mad trying to write backcover copy for it. ‘Just pretend to like it- say why people should read it.’ I drew a blank for so long that I finally snapped and, looking at the Penguin copy for Charlotte’s The Professor which makes it sound like a tale of seduction, I set to work. I believe I did use the phrase ‘Mrs. Christi sucks the marrow out of life’ but only in desperation. I even hinted at illicit goings-on and sinister implications surrounding the completely benign Mr. Bedlington, but as the publisher said: ‘the backcover is the only place where hyperbole and lies are encouraged.’ (Thus, in an anthology I am actually published in I am hearalded as one of Canada’s emerging authors (very emergent- as that is my one and only publication to date). And that the books is ‘the best ever’. I kid not). Anyway, no one- the publisher, the author’s family, the 30 or so editors working on it- thought it had the slightest merit as a novel. I think we went with Gritty Realism in the end, which is good for anything!

8. One book you’re currently reading:

I am currently between books. I just finished Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:

North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell. Would you believe it, they don’t have a copy in the entire library system of this city!

10. Now tag five people: I tag Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog, Mysticgypsy, Frankengirl, Pennyforyourdreams, and Austenblog!

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Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 8:26 pm

Bronte News.

It is time to catch up on a few more items I have indexed. Firstly, it is now possible to order tickets online for the BFI September 16th screening of the BBC’s new mini-series of Jane Eyre in London.

WOWIO, a new online audiobook ‘store’ launched this month. It is not quite a store. Users download audiobooks free of charge but these books include ‘dynamic advertisements’ to ‘compensate publishers.’ Considering how much publishers make on each book, seems like a good plan. But how will we care for adverts in the middle of Wuthering Heights? Read more about it here.

The Things That Matter: What Seven Classic Novels Have to Say About the Stages of Life,By Edward Mendelson features chapters on what Wuthering Heights can teach us about childhood, and Jane Eyre about growing up. The book is reviewed here.

Each of his chapters is devoted to how these novels help us understand the phenomena of birth (“Frankenstein”), childhood (“Wuthering Heights”), growth (“Jane Eyre”), parenthood (“To the Lighthouse”) and so on. The brooding “Wuthering Heights,” for example, subverts the values of adulthood; Catherine and Heathcliff, hankering after the intense, visionary bond they formed as children, want nothing to do with the values of grown-ups: “Childhood, in this novel, is a state of titanic intensity,” Mendelson writes, “adulthood a state of trivial weakness.” (Though Mendelson doesn’t make the parallel, this is similar to what J.D. Salinger gets at in “The Catcher in the Rye.”)

Jane Eyre in the park. If I understand correctly, Penguin Books will be placing shelves of classics in London parks as part of a celebration of the 60th anniversary of their ‘sub-brand’ ‘Penguin Classics.’ Their slogan? ‘The Best Book Ever Written.’ Their selection of ‘the best book(s)’ includes our very own Jane Eyre.

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