Tatiana and Olga 2010

Tatiana and Olga  2010

Monday, August 10, 2020

CHARLOTTE BRONTÉ' AND BRUSSELS


                                               

               

I found an interesting article describing a couple's visit to The Pensionnat Heger from the 1880's. What struck me was the kindness of the Heger family towards the endless visitors seeking the scenes of what was for them, a painful episode. I'm continuing to work on my Bronte novel and plan to post an update soon. Make art and stay safe!


  SCENES OF CHARLOTTE  BRONTÉ'S LIFE IN BRUSSELS




LIPPINCOTT'S MAGAZINE
DECEMBER, 1885



By Theo. Wolfe.


We had "done" Brussels after the approved fashion,—had faithfully visited the churches, palaces, museums, theatres, galleries, monuments, and boulevards, had duly admired the beautiful windows and the exquisite wood-carvings of the grand old cathedral of St. Gudule, the tower and tapestry and frescos and façade of the magnificent Hôtel-de-Ville, the stately halls and the gilded dome of the immense new Courts of Justice, and the consummate beauty of the Bourse, had diligently sought out the naïve boy-fountain, and had made the usual excursion to Waterloo.

This delightful task being conscientiously discharged, we proposed to devote our last day in the beautiful Belgian capital to the accomplishment of one of the cherished projects of our lives,—the searching out of the localities associated with Charlotte Bronté's unhappy school-life here, which she has so graphically portrayed. 

For our purpose no guide was available, or needful, for the topography and local coloring of "Villette" and "The Professor" are as vivid and unmistakable as in the best work of Dickens himself. Proceeding from St. Gudule, by the little street at the back of the cathedral, to the Rue Royale, and a short distance along that grand thoroughfare, we reached the park and a locality familiar to Miss Bronté's readers. 

Seated in this lovely pleasure-ground, the gift of the empress Maria Theresa, with its cool shade all about us, we noted the long avenues and the paths winding amid stalwart trees and verdant shrubbery, the dark foliage ineffectually veiling the gleaming statuary and the sheen of bright fountains, "the stone basin with its clear depth, the thick-planted trees which framed this tremulous and rippled mirror," the groups of happy people filling the seats in secluded nooks or loitering in the cool mazes and listening to the music,—we noted all this, and felt that Miss Bronté had revealed it to us long ago. It was across this park that Lucy Snowe was piloted from the bureau of the diligence by the chivalrous stranger, Dr. John, on the night when she, despoiled, helpless, and solitary, arrived in Brussels.

She found the park deserted and dark, the paths miry, the water "dripping from its trees." "In the double gloom of tree and fog she could not see her guide, and could only follow his tread" in the darkness. We recalled another scene under these same tail trees, on a night when the iron gateway was "spanned by a naming arch of massed stars." The park was a "forest with sparks of purple and ruby and golden fire gemming the foliage," and Lucy, driven from her couch by mental torture, wandered unrecognized amid the gay throng at the midnight concert of the Festival of the Martyrs and looked upon her lover, her friends the Brettons, and the secret junta of her enemies, Madame Beck, Madame Walravens, and Père Silas.

The sense of familiarity with the vicinage grew as we observed our surroundings. Facing us, at the extremity of the park, was the unpretentious palace of the king, in the small square across the Rue Royale at our right was the statue of General Béliard, and we knew that just behind it we should find the Rue Fossette and Charlotte Bronté's pensionnat, for Crimsworth, "The Professor," standing by the statue, had "looked down a great staircase" to the door-way of the school, and poor Lucy, on that forlorn first night in "Villette," to avoid the insolence of a pair of ruffians, had hastened down a flight of steps from the Rue Royale, and had come, not to the inn she sought, but to the pensionnat of Madame Beck.

From the statue we descended, by a quadruple series of wide stone stairs, into a narrow street, old-fashioned and clean, quiet and secluded in the very heart of the great city,—the Rue d'Isabelle,—and just opposite the foot of the steps we came to the wide door of a spacious, quadrangular, stuccoed old mansion, with a bit of foliage showing over a high wall at one side. A bright plate embellishes the door and bears the inscription,

PENSIONNAT DE DEMOISELLES. Héger-parent.

A Latin inscription in the wall of the house shows it to have been given to the Guild of Royal Archers by the Infanta Isabelle early in the seventeenth century. Long before that the garden had been the orchard and herbary of a convent and the Hospital for the Poor.

We were detained at the door long enough to remember Lucy standing there, trembling and anxious, awaiting admission, and then we too were "let in by a bonne in a smart cap,"—apparently a fit successor to the Rosine of forty years ago,—and entered the corridor. This is paved with blocks of black and white marble and has painted walls. It extends through the entire depth of the house, and at its farther extremity an open door afforded us a glimpse of the garden.

We were ushered into the little salon at the left of the passage,—the one often mentioned in "Villette,"—and here we made known our wish to see the garden and class-rooms, and met with a prompt refusal from the neat portresse. We tried diplomacy (also lucre) with her, without avail: it was the grandes vacances, the ladies were out, M. Héger was engaged, we could not be gratified,—unless, indeed, we were patrons of the school. 

At this juncture a portly, ruddy-faced lady of middle age and most courteous of speech and manner appeared, and, addressing us in faultless English, introduced herself as Mademoiselle Héger, co-directress of the pensionnat, and "wholly at our service.

" In response to our apologies for the intrusion and explanations of the desire which had prompted it, we received complaisant assurances of welcome; yet the manner of our kind entertainer indicated that she did not appreciate, much less share in, our admiration and enthusiasm for Charlotte Bronté and her books. In the subsequent conversation it appeared that Mademoiselle and her family hold decided opinions upon the subject,—something more than mere lack of admiration.

 She was familiar with the novels, and thought that, while they exhibit a talent certainly not above mediocrity, they reflect the injustice, the untruthfulness, and the ingratitude of their creator. 

We were obliged to confess to ourselves that the family have apparent reason for this view, when we reflected that in the books Miss Bronté has assailed their religion and disparaged the school and the character of the teachers and pupils, has depicted Madame Héger in the odious duad of Madame Beck and Mademoiselle Reuter, has represented M. Héger as the scheming and deceitful M. Pelet and the preposterous M. Paul, Lucy Snowe's lover, that this lover was the husband of Madame Héger, and father of the family of children to whom Lucy was at first bonne d'enfants, and that possibly the daughter she has described as the thieving, vicious Désirée—"that tadpole, Désirée Beck"—was this very lady now so politely entertaining us.

 To all this add the significant fact that "Villette" is an autobiographical novel, which "records the most vivid passages in Miss Bronté's own sad heart's history," not a few of the incidents being "literal transcripts" from the darkest chapter of her own life, and the light which the consideration of this fact throws upon her relations with members of the family will help us to apprehend the stand-point from which the Hégers judge Miss Bronté and her work, and to excuse, if not to justify, a natural resentment against one who has presented them in a decidedly bad light.

How bad we began to realize when, during the ensuing chat, we called to mind just what she had written of them. As Madame Beck, Madame Héger had been represented as lying, deceitful, and shameless, as heartless and unscrupulous, as "watching and spying everywhere, peeping through every keyhole, listening behind every door," as duplicating Lucy's keys and secretly searching her bureau, as meanly abstracting her letters and reading them to others, as immodestly laying herself out to entrap the man to whom she had given her love unsought. In letters to her friend Ellen, Miss Bronté complains that "Madame Héger never came near her" in her loneliness and illness.

It was, obviously, some accession to the existing animosity between herself and Madame Héger which precipitated Miss Bronté's final departure from the pensionnat. Mrs. Gaskell ascribes their mutual dislike to Charlotte's free expression of her aversion to the Catholic Church, of which Madame Héger was a devotee, and hence "wounded in her most cherished opinions;" but a later writer, in the "Westminster Review," plainly intimates that Miss Bronté hated the woman who sat for Madame Beck because marriage had given to her the man whom Miss Bronté loved, and that "Madame Beck had need to be a detective in her own house." 

The recent death of Madame Héger has rendered the family, who hold her now only as a sacred memory, more keenly sensitive than ever to anything which would seem by implication to disparage her.

For himself it would appear that M. Héger has less cause for resentment, for, although in "Villette" he (or his double) is pictured as "a waspish little despot," as fiery and unreasonable, as "detestably ugly" in his anger, closely resembling "a black and sallow tiger," as having an "overmastering love of authority and public display," as basely playing the spy and reading purloined letters, and in the Bronté epistles Charlotte declares he is choleric and irritable, compels her to make her French translations without a dictionary or grammar, and then has "his eyes almost plucked out of his head" by the occasional English word she is obliged to introduce, etc., yet all this is partially atoned for by the warm praise she subsequently accords him for his goodness to her and his "disinterested friendship," by the poignant regret she expresses at parting with him,—perhaps wholly expiated by the high compliment she pays him of making her heroine, Lucy, fall in love with him, or the higher compliment it is suspected she paid him of falling in love with him herself.

 One who reads the strange history of passion in "Villette," in conjunction with her letters, "will know more of the truth of her stay in Brussels than if a dozen biographers had undertaken to tell the whole tale."

Still, M. Héger can scarcely be pleased by the ludicrous figure he is so often made to cut in the novels by having members of his school set forth as stupid, animal, and inferior, "their principles rotten to the core, steeped in systematic sensuality," by having his religion styled "besotted papistry, a piece of childish humbug," and the like.

Something of the displeasure of the family was revealed in the course of our conversation with Mademoiselle Héger, but the specific causes were but cursorily touched upon. She could have no personal recollection of the Brontés; her knowledge of them is derived from her parents and the teachers,—presumably the "repulsive old maids" of Charlotte's letters. One of the present teachers in the pensionnat had been a classmate of Charlotte's here. 

The Brontés had not been popular with the school. Their "heretical" religion had something to do with this; but their manifest avoidance of the other pupils during hours of recreation, Mademoiselle thought, had been a more potent cause,—Emily, in particular, not speaking with her school-mates or teachers except when obliged to do so. The other pupils thought them of outlandish accent and manners and ridiculously old to be at school at all,—being twenty-four and twenty-six, and seeming even older. 

Their sombre and grotesquely-ugly costumes were fruitful causes of mirth to the gay young Belgian misses. The Brontés were not especially brilliant students, and none of their companions had ever suspected that they were geniuses. 

Of the two, Emily was considered to be, in most respects, the more talented, but she was obstinate and opinionated. Some of the pupils had been inclined to resist having Charlotte placed over them as teacher, and may have been mutinous. After her return from Haworth she taught English to M. Héger and his brother-in-law. M. Héger gave the sisters private lessons in French without charge, and for some time preserved their compositions, which Mrs. Gaskell copied. 

Mrs. Gaskell visited the pensionnat in quest of material for her biography of Charlotte, and received all the aid M. Héger could afford: the information thus obtained has, for the most part, we were told, been fairly used. Miss Bronté's letters from Brussels, so freely quoted in Mrs. Gaskell's "Life," were addressed to Miss Ellen Nussy, a familiar friend of Charlotte's, whose signature we saw in the register at Haworth Church as witness to Miss Bronté's marriage. The Hégers had no suspicion that she had been so unhappy with them as these letters indicate, and she had assigned a totally different reason for her sudden return to England.

 She had been introduced to Madame Héger by Mrs. Jenkins, wife of the then chaplain of the British Embassy at the Court of Belgium; she had frequently visited that lady and other friends in Brussels,—among them Mary and Martha Taylor and their relatives, and the family of a Dr. —— (not Dr. John),—and therefore her life here need not have been so lonely and desolate as it has been made to appear.

The Hégers usually have a few English pupils in the school, but have never had an American.

Some American tourists had before called to look at the garden, but the family are not pleased by the notoriety with which Miss Bronté has invested it. However, Mademoiselle Héger kindly offered to conduct us over any portion of the establishment we might care to see, and led the way along the corridor, past the class-rooms and the réfectoire on the right, to the narrow, high-walled garden. We found it smaller than in the time when Miss Bronté loitered here in weariness and solitude.?

 Mademoiselle Héger explained that, while the width remains the same, the erection of class-rooms for the day-pupils has diminished the length by some yards. Tall houses surround and shut it in on either side, making it close and sombre, and the noises of the great city all about it penetrate here only as a far-away murmur. There is a plat of verdant turf in the centre, bordered by scant flowers and damp gravelled walks, along which shrubs of evergreen and laurel are irregularly disposed. 

A few seats are placed here and there within the shade, where, as in Miss Bronté's time, the externals eat the luncheon brought with them to the school; and overlooking it all stand the great old pear-trees, whose gnarled and deformed trunks are relics of the time of the hospital and convent. 

Beyond these and along the gray wall which bounds the farther side of the enclosure is the sheltered walk which was Miss Bronté's favorite retreat,—the "allée défendue" of her novels. It is screened by shrubs and perfumed by flowers, and, being secure from the intrusion of pupils, we could well believe that Charlotte and her heroine found here restful seclusion. The coolness and quiet and—more than all—the throng of vivid associations which fill the place tempted us to linger. 

The garden is not a spacious nor even a pretty one, and yet it seemed to us singularly pleasing and familiar,—as if we were revisiting it after an absence. Seated upon a rustic bench close at hand, possibly the very one which Lucy Snowe had cleansed and "reclaimed from fungi and mould," how the memories came surging up into our minds! How often in the summer twilight poor Charlotte had lingered here in restful solitude after the day's burdens and trials with "stupid and impertinent" pupils! 

How often, with weary feet and a dreary heart, she had paced this secluded walk and thought, with longing almost insupportable, of the dear ones in far-away Haworth parsonage! In this sheltered corner her other self—Lucy Snowe—sat and listened to the distant chimes and thought forbidden thoughts and cherished impossible hopes. Here she met and talked with Dr. John. Deep beneath this "Methuselah of a pear-tree," the one nearest the end of the alley, lies the imprisoned dust of the poor young nun who was buried alive ages ago for some sin against her vow, and whose perambulating ghost so disquieted poor Lucy. 

At the root of this same tree one miserable night Lucy buried her precious letters, and "meant also to bury a grief" and her great affection for Dr. John. Here she had leant her brow against Methuselah's knotty trunk and uttered to herself those brave words of renunciation which must have wrung her heart: "Good-night, Dr. John; you are good, you are beautiful, but you are not mine. Good-night, and God bless you!"

 Here she held pleasant converse with M. Paul, and with him, spell-bound, saw the ghost of the nun descend from the leafy shadows overhead and, sweeping close past their wondering faces, disappear behind yonder screen of shrubbery into the darkness of the summer night. 

By that tall tree next the class-rooms the ghost was wont to ascend to meet its material sweetheart, Fanshawe, in the great garret beneath yonder skylight,—the garret where Lucy retired to read Dr. John's letter, and wherein M. Paul confined her to learn her part in the vaudeville for Madame Beck's fête-day. 

In this nook where we sat, Crimsworth, "The Professor," had walked and talked with and almost made love to Mademoiselle Reuter, and from yonder window overlooking the alley had seen that perfidious fair one in dalliance with his employer, M. Pelet, beneath these pear-trees. From that window M. Paul watched Lucy as she sat or walked in the allée défendue, dogged by Madame Beck; from the same window were thrown the love-letters which fell at Lucy's feet sitting here.

Leaves from the overhanging boughs were plucked for us as souvenirs of the place; then, reverently traversing once more the narrow alley so often traced in weariness by Charlotte Bronté, we turned away. From the garden we entered the long and spacious class-room of the first and second divisions. A movable partition divides it across the middle when the classes are in session; the floor is of bare boards cleanly scoured. There are long ranges of desks and benches upon either side, and a lane through the middle leads up to a raised platform at the end of the room, where the instructor's chair and desk are placed.

How quickly our fancy peopled the place! On these front seats sat the gay and indocile Belgian girls. There, "in the last row, in the quietest corner, sat Emily and Charlotte side by side, so absorbed in their studies as to be insensible to anything about them;" and at the same desk, "in the farthest seat of the farthest row," sat Mademoiselle Henri during Crimsworth's English lessons.

 Here Lucy's desk was rummaged by M. Paul and the tell-tale odor of cigars left behind. Here, after school-hours, Miss Bronté taught M. Héger English, he taught her French, and M. Paul taught Lucy arithmetic and (incidentally) love. This was the scene of their tête-à-têtes, of his earnest efforts to persuade her into his faith in the Church of Rome, of their ludicrous supper of biscuit and baked apples, and of his final violent outbreak with Madame Beck, when she literally thrust herself between him and his love. From this platform Crimsworth and Lucy Snowe and Charlotte Bronté herself had given instruction to pupils whose insubordination had first to be confronted and overcome.

 Here M. Paul and M. Héger gave lectures upon literature, and Paul delivered his spiteful tirade against the English on the morning of his fête-day. Upon this desk were heaped his bouquets that morning; from its smooth surface poor Lucy dislodged and fractured his cherished spectacles; and here, now, seated in Paul's chair, at Paul's desk, we saw and were presented to Paul Emanuel himself,—M. Héger.

It was something more than curiosity which made us alert to note the appearance and manner of this man, who has been so nearly associated with Miss Bronté in an intercourse which colored her whole subsequent life and determined her life work, who has been made the hero of her best novels and has even been deemed the hero of her own heart's romance; and yet we were curious to know "what manner of man it is" who has been so much as suspected of being honored with the love and preference of the dainty Charlotte Bronté. 

During a short conversation with him we had opportunity to observe that in person this "wise, good, and religious" man must, at the time Miss Bronté knew him, have more closely resembled M. Pelet of "The Professor" than any other of her pen-portraits: indeed, after the lapse of more than forty years that delineation still, for the most part, aptly applies to him. He is of middle age, of rather spare habit of body; his face is fair and the features pleasing and regular, the cheeks are thin and the mouth flexible, the eyes—somewhat sunken—are of mild blue and of singularly pleasant expression. 

We found him elderly, but not infirm; his finely-shaped head is now fringed with white hair, and partial baldness contributes an impressive reverence to his presence and tends to enhance the intellectual effect of his wide brow. In repose his countenance shows a hint of melancholy: as Miss Bronté has said, "his physiognomy is fine et spirituelle;" one would hardly imagine it could ever resemble the "visage of a black and sallow tiger." His voice is low and soft, his bow still "very polite, not theatrical, scarcely French," his manner suave and courteous, his dress scrupulously neat. He accosted us in the language Miss Bronté taught him forty years ago, and his accent and diction do honor to her instruction.

 He was, at this time, engaged with some patrons of the school, and, as his daughter had hinted that he was averse to speaking of Miss Bronté, we soon took leave of him and were shown through other parts of the school. The other class-rooms, used for less advanced pupils, are smaller. In one of them, the third, Miss Bronté had ruled as monitress after her return from Haworth.

 The large dormitory of the pensionnat was above the long class-room, and in the time of the Brontés most of the boarders—about twenty in number—slept here. Their cots were arranged along either side, and the position of those occupied by the Brontés was pointed out to us at the extreme end of the long room. It was here that Lucy suffered the horrors of hypochondria, so graphically portrayed in "Villette," and found the discarded costume of the spectral nun lying upon her bed, and here Miss Bronté passed those nights of "dreary, wakeful misery" which Mrs. Gaskell describes.

A long and rather narrow room in front of the class-rooms was shown us as the réfectoire, where the Brontés, with the other boarders, took their meals, presided over by M. and Madame Héger, and where, during the evenings, the lessons for the ensuing days were prepared. Here were held the evening prayers, which Charlotte used to avoid by escaping into the garden. This, too, was the scene of M. Paul's   readings to teachers and pupils, and of some of his spasms of petulance, which readers of "Villette" will remember. From the réfectoire we passed again into the corridor, where we made our adieus to our affable conductress. 

She gave us her card, and explained that, whereas this establishment had formerly been both a pensionnat and an externat, having about seventy day-pupils and twenty boarders when Miss Bronté was here, it is now, since the death of Madame Héger, used as a day-school only,—the pensionnat being at some little distance, in the Avenue Louise, where Mademoiselle is a co-directress.

The genuine local color Miss Bronté gives in "Villette" enabled us to be sure that we had found the sombre old church where Lucy, arrested in passing by the sound of the bells, knelt upon the stone pavement, passing thence into the confessional of Père Silas.

 Certain it is that this old church lies upon the route she would naturally take in the walk from the Rue d'Isabelle to the Protestant cemetery, which she had set out to do that dark afternoon, and the narrow streets of picturesque old houses which lie beyond the church correspond to those in which she was lost. Certain, too, it is said to be that this incident is taken directly from Miss Bronté's own experience.

 A writer in "Macmillan" says, "During one of the long holidays, when her mind was restless and disturbed, she found sympathy, if not peace, in the counsels of a priest in the confessional, who pitied and soothed her troubled spirit without attempting to enmesh it in the folds of Romanism."

Our way to the Protestant cemetery, a spot sadly familiar to Miss Bronté, and the usual termination of her walks, lay past the site of the Porte de Louvain and out to the hills a mile or so beyond the old city limits. From our path we saw more than one tree-surrounded farm-house which might have been the place of M. Paul's breakfast with his school, and at least one old-fashioned manor-house, with green-tufted and terraced lawns, which might have served Miss Bronté as the model for "La Terrasse," the suburban home of the Brettons, and probably the temporary abode of the Taylor sisters whom she visited here. 

From the cemetery are beautiful vistas of farther lines of hills, of intervening valleys, of farms and villas, and of the great city lying below. Miss Bronté has well described this place: "Here, on pages of stone, of marble, and of brass, are written names, dates, last tributes of pomp or love, in English, French, German, and Latin." There are stone crosses all about, and great thickets of roses and yew-trees,—"cypresses that stand straight and mute, and willows that hang low and still;" and there are "dim garlands of everlasting flowers."

Here "The Professor" found his long-sought sweetheart kneeling at a new-made grave, under these overhanging trees. And here we found the shrine of poor Charlotte Bronté's many weary pilgrimages hither,—the burial-place of her friend and schoolmate Martha Taylor, the Jessy Yorke of "Shirley," the spot where, under "green sod and a gray marble headstone, cold, coffined, solitary, Jessy sleeps below."




Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Summer Update

 

 Summer Update and Romanov videos

I thought I would post this ABN collage I made ...in 1978. It's interesting how in our past, often there are  glimpses of our future. The image is a photo copy. There was a time when they came out that  ghostly grey. The pressed leaves and flowers I found in an 1906 copy of " The Tenet of Wildfell Hall"  It pleased me to think they had bloomed while Arthur still lived. So indeed, Rev. Nicholls has been on my radar for some time .

 Brontë Novel

For years I thought if I simply string together all the many , many scenes I have written into their correct chronological order, my Bronte novel will be completed

( HAHAHA!!!)

Pardon my laughter

I now realize that is like putting up a fine, sturdy scaffolding and calling it a building

Nope; there's much more to it than that.

 However I love the feeling of a new, creative  wave arising within to deal with the situation , to fill out the scaffolding and also, the freedom one has because the scaffolding is there.

This is a process and every step is necessary. I tell people it's like climbing Everest, one step at a time; that's what is required. Charlotte said  something similar when her siblings were dying all about her and so much was up to her...she said endeavored to look forward;  if she looked down or  back around , she'd likely lose her nerve.  My situation is not nearly as dyer as hers of course, but I think I know what Charlotte meant. If I thought about all there is yet to do , I would be overwhelmed and often I am ...the only thing that helps is to get back to work . Keep paddling for shore.  

Learning patience has been a great lesson in this experience ...you are leaving on the field, giving much to the project in life force and years, which at ,my time of life, one will never replenished. In such a project, you are asked do to that. But I will point out, one does not get to keep the years and life force if you don't hand them over for what you deem worthy of the gift. They will be spent or not, but you don't get to hoard your stores, a what would be the point? The evening will and is drawing in...go out with a blaze instead of a flicker, go out open handed instead of in a fist.

I can see where's the book is at and is going and that nurtures me greatly. But I well  understand why it's harder for others to wait. They can't see the vision . I wish they could and eventually I hope  they will , once the book is done. All I can do until then is keep working.

In Praise of Papa  Brontë, and

 author, Dudley Green




 Anyone writing about the Brontes, or is simply  interested in the family ,  owes author  Dudley Green, many thanks. He collected  and edited Patrick's letters, which are a treasure trove,  and Mr. Green also  wrote an excellent biography of Rev Bronte as well. It happens also to be very good over all portrait of the family. As I say else where, Mr. Green's rendition of the events leading to Charlotte's wedding( just as an example )  is better than some books about Charlotte! His Papa centered  books are a must for the  Brontë, enthusiast, in my opinion.

I've uploaded a number of Romanov videos lately. The family is reasserting themselves again! I very much look forward to painting them after the novel is finished...and Arthur and Papa Bronte too...eventually Charlotte, of course.

Romanov Videos  

 The titles are live links


The Romanovs. Young OTMAA

The Romanovs. Olga Nicholaievna

The Romanovs. Dance

 The Romanovs. Dance Two

The Romanovs.  Olga and Alexei : A sister's smile  


 The main reason I am posting so many Romanov videos is my internet copper wire  connection will end ...like tomorrow. It's an old system, my older PC is not in great shape either , however it's the system I know and it works. But copper, they tell me,  is out . Indeed, I maybe one of the last ones holding on to my landline to the end. Well the end is here.  Consequently  I have been busy finishing  and uploading a good many  Romanov  videos which were " in production " , some for years. I'm gratified the videos  get a good many views and somehow have I nearly 500 subscribers !

Okay, have a great summer, see you later, and now  it's back to work!


 Grand Duchess Maria 1915

 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Let's talk about the writing




When people talk about Brontë novels, it seems to me , the discussion centers on the exciting  Gothic plots. But let's look at the writing....which is amazing in my view

Here is a piece
 __________________

It was a deep voice, and foreign in tone; yet there was something in the manner of pronouncing my name which made it sound familiar.  I turned about to discover who spoke, fearfully; for the doors were shut, and I had seen nobody on approaching the steps.  Something stirred in the porch; and, moving nearer, I distinguished a tall man dressed in dark clothes, with dark face and hair. He leant against the side, and held his fingers on the latch as if intending to open for himself. 
  ‘Who can it be?’ I thought.  ‘Mr. Earnshaw? Oh, no!  The voice has no resemblance to his.’ ‘I have waited here an hour,’ he resumed, while I continued staring; ‘and the whole of that time all round has been as still as death. I dared not enter. You do not know me? Look, I’m not a stranger!’ A ray fell on his features; the cheeks were sallow, and half covered with black whiskers; the brows lowering, the eyes deep-set and singular.  I remembered the eyes.

_________________________________

That last sentence is so simple, imperative and modern, it is startlingly. This is, of course,  when Heathcliff returns. Nelly Dean is speaking. She knew him from childhood, yet she was unsure who this was... it was  the deep memory of his eyes that convinced her.  

He leant against the side, and held his fingers on the latch as if intending to open for himself.

Here Emily's shows the danger, and Nelly's notice right away...wow. 
 

 Reading Brontë....they don't use Victorian language because they are not Victorians...if anything they are romantic Georgians , a spectacular throw back to an earlier age, its last, brilliant crescendo ....indeed, most, if not all the novels, are even set in that earlier age.  If Charlotte had lived, she would have likely  found it difficult to keep write as she would  in the increasingly straitjacketed Victorian years ahead. The cries of " coarseness ! " would have increased  to even more of din as the age wore on.

As it was in 1857, Mrs Gaskell spent a good deal of ink  to  apologize  and make excuses for Charlotte's supposed "coarseness" when she was dead...One can see  the difficulties CBN , the living author would have had.  The Victorians were embarrassed by their free wheeling ancestors....a clamp down trend that  continued  to tighten until  the 1890's began to loosen it  and WW1 broke up the social straight jacket altogether.

Renewed interest in  the Brontës cropped up every decade during the last half of the 19th century as almost a permissible relief ( They were dead and long ago after all) ...it's fun to read the Victorian articles declaring, " Surely, interest in the Brontës must finally wain? " lol...Why, no, it won't and it hasn't. 

What is also interesting in reading  the fragment of Charlotte's last effort," Emma", she seemed to be  returning to her "sober as  Monday morning " kind of novel. She  always answered one kind with another. There was  quite "The Professor" and then " oh damn it! I'll write as I please,"  "Jane Eyre.". The purposely prosaic "Shirley"  and then she indulged herself again with " Villette" ....an emotional  see saw which answered to Charlotte's duel nature of  forbidding sober sides and molten lava fount  lol 

Perhaps it's because I'm writing myself ,and for years now, but I see and experience reading differently ...and my admiration for the Brontë's writing grows. As I have said, if you would know these young women, read their books.

In researching for a historical novel it's a mistake  to only look for information....information and facts  are vital of course, I stick to them ...but you must stop , consider, even dwell on,  how your protagonists felt. That  is what bridges our time to theirs. How such information as you just read in a source material, would have effected them emotionally? It's simply information to us; to them it could be a life and death development . 

The aim and point of an historical novel is to show the reader how the people felt. If you have the desire to show that, you should do well, or at least be able to jog on. If it wasn't for the emotions in the story, my book would be three pages long. But I have read about this story for decades,  written about it for years and have talked about it for hours at a time. Emotion is the jet fuel .



Meanwhile I'm working away. There is awhile yet until it's done, but the pieces/ scenes  are coming together. What is interesting is running into an idea or insight  placed in different scenes. Such as the observation that in all the eight years Arthur was at Haworth, before his proposal to Charlotte, there was never a moment where he could declare himself, until he did. Arthur did so at the first real opportunity.

It was only a little over a month into Arthur's  Haworth career when Mr. Robinson sacked Branwell . So there were the years of young Patrick's decline and the ensuing domestic upset to go though. Then everyone is dying , then Arthur learns Charlotte is a world renowned author, with London calling for her presence. ( How even further beyond his grasp she must of seemed then.) So it was a bit ingenuous of Papa to storm Arthur had " long hidden his aim!". When during all that turmoil could ABN have spoken up? 

This insight could be placed in a number of areas and was. Now I have to choose exactly in which scene to place it for good. I love also how things mentioned earlier come into play later...that redoubles the effect later. I have some themes that pop up and develop though out the book.

I have been thinking of painting Romanovs again...it's been four years ( amazing) since I finished my painting of the Tsar and Alexi. I do intend to take up painting the family again some day. It's too much fun not to! When you engage in a creative project, be it painting or writing, you truly enter into your subject's world. Meanwhile I recently uploaded a new video 

The Romanovs. Olga Nicholaievna

Okay ,  til next time, back to work!
.
OTMA and the railroad children 1916



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Monday, February 11, 2019

Update and New videos . Hello, 2019

Arthur in old age


A friend of mine said this blog as been quite and they kindly asked for a book  update. I assured them; silence means I'm at work and it is going well. This is one of the most fulfilling times during this project

It's fascinating that things often do not  turn out as we expect. I expected to put together my scenes and thus form the book in a straight forward manner ...yet even as I do so, more material is coming in to be included. I also expected to dread this time of pulling the many scenes into one coherent piece, but I love it. 

What has also been interesting lately is that as I isolate myself in order to have more time for the book , Emily has come to the fore more. While this is Arthur and Charlotte's story , I had some scenes with Emily of course. But as I have somewhat duplicate her chosen life of , at least mental, solitude, in order to steep myself into a creative endeavor, her emotional voice resonates more and a few more scenes with her were created.

It's said Emily Jane Brontë is a mystery....but it's no mystery to me why she wanted to be left mostly alone, even by her nearest and dearest. It was in order to dwell as undisturbed  as possible within her own world....to not feel the yank  of " the chain" , as she described the sensation of being wholly in her body and sensible only to the outer world we all inhabit.

 Household chores, moor walks, music and certainly writing , do not intrude upon that world like every day human discourse does. The types of attention these two conscious states call for are very different . ..and remember; Emily was expected to follow Victorian social modes while interacting ...not use our far more casual ways. I can see her  fostering  a cantankerous reputation with a purpose....besides likely being cantankerous!  We cannot imagine Emily would find us bores to avoid too...well, likely she would have. lol.

 Whatever mental distress is in the news, Emily seems gets saddled with it. I seem to recall over the years she has been described  as being" Bi-polar", " Bulimic,"  having "Asperger," "Autism,"  "Turrets Syndrome " etc. I may be  forgetting one or two. Anything; but she was a mystic,  a woman of genius, who wanted to be left alone!  If you want to know this young woman on her terms, read her novel and her poems. Much is right before us.


                                                              THE OLD STOIC.

                                                   Riches I hold in light esteem,
                                                      And Love I laugh to scorn;
                                                  And Lust of Fame was but a dream,
                                                    That vanished with the morn.

                                                And if I pray, the only prayer
                                                    That moves my lips for me
                                                Is '' Leave the heart that now I bear,
                                                     And give me liberty!"

                                               Yes, as my swift days near their goal,
                                                  'Tis all that I implore:
                                                In life and death a changeless soul
                                                   With courage to endure.


                                        

                                                                                                     EJB


When I think of the great material we have to know the Brontës ; their books, I'm a little overawed. The Brontë mind is open to all who read their books. For example, when was the last time you read "  Wildfell Hall "?  Good Lord, its like being invited to the Parsonage sitting room itself. ..particularly the early parts when village life goes under the Brontë magnifying glass.  I have found it very helpful to periodically look again and again where one has looked before. Far more often than not, one sees something "new" .

 And Charlotte's letters! How many have read only the passages that are quoted in biographies ? If one cannot afford the Oxford  three volume edition of CB's letters, Clement K. Shorter's book of Charlotte's letters is available, free, online..

 Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, by Clement K. Shorter

While there are omissions and mistakes in a publication over a hundred years old, you will still find Charlotte's voice there, in her own words.

Video Round Up

I recently upload some videos on my You Tube channel

Mr Nicholls in Banagher 1904

This is a video I made using photos I had taken on our trip to Banagher, and two of the three photos we have of him in old age. It also features my painting of The Rev Nicholls. About the picture of ABN and the little girl, she  was Helen Sharrard,  the Rector's daughter, she coincided Arthur  her extra "grandfather ."


The Brontes. Where You Are 

This next one was made when I heard a great Josh Groban song," To where you are"  and it seemed perfect for the Arthur's story. It's a tribute to his ever lasting love for and the Richmond portrait of , his wife, Charlotte.The prints of this portrait, which everyone has seen many times,  bares little resemblance to the original.The original is stunning. Charlotte is not frowning at all as she appears to be doing in the prints...and I have a  2016 photo I took of it at the end. I can see why Arthur loved it.

Here are a group of Romanov videos

One of the  interesting thing about being an enthusiast for both  The Brontës and Romanovs is the vast difference of valuable images  between them. With  the Brontës, it's very  limited.
I have to reused a good number of them already posted  in my video " The Brontës. To the Marriage of True Minds"

Then there is  the tens of thousands photos of the Romanovs! Every month there seems to be more " new " ones posted. The family all had cameras and they loved recording everything. The only photo we have of a Bronte, is Papa. I wish Branwell had taken up  the  then fledgling art of photography instead of painting. Then we would have Brontës photos. He got even Emily to pose for him !
_______
The Romanovs. What was and will never be again.

The Romanovs. Their faces

The Romanovs children. Remember the beauty

_____________________________

I was surprised to see recently this blog listed as a" Brontë  blog" on the web. I'm flattered, but here I thought I  was toiling away in obscurity ...but no!  Also  my pics files have  appeared elsewhere,  from now on they will have a watermark. I have long said one should not leave their insights in the comments of other blogs...now it seems I should muzzle discoveries and working methods on this blog as well. I'm sitting on a lot and will continue to do so, and keep it for the book . Last December was 6 years I have been working on my Brontë novel. I have to say I'm enjoying the work as never before. I use to bemoan how long it is taking, now I just enjoy the ride.

Back to work! See you next time!


Tatiana and Alix  1905


 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Brontë Novel Update : And now the typing



Patrick Brontë's birthplace

  So, as planned,I spent the summer amassing together what sections of my Brontë novel I have typed into the computer, order to produce a draft.Grand! But then I saw a difficulty; I have dozens and dozens of filled notebooks and untold number of notes yet to be typed into the computer. 
  
 Opps... How did I forget that reality??


laundry basket full 


An over stuffed bin
 
These are but the main deposits.
Every time I move something, or clean, I find more notebooks! 


Over the door storage
But wait, there's more!

I also have innumerable notes made on scraps of paper as the inspiration struck. Much as Emily would stop her house work in order to write a note with her pencil. One can't be so foolish as to say," I'll remember ". You won't. I always have a paper and pen with me. Besides the words itch to be written and you'll have no rest until they are! 

Just some of the notes
So much work is still ahead.


There is a lot reading I have deferred to the end. Well it's time to gather what I have to read and read it. How easy it is to say along the way, " Oh I'll do that later." Then later arrives!

I have also run into a substantial amount of new to me source material in my research that needs assessing and incorporation. The Brontë  fields  may have been mowed and  thoroughly gleaned again and again over the years, but the Nicholls, Bell and Adamson ones have not....and what is found there, sheds light on Arthur and consequently, the Brontës...at least the part of their story that I am portraying.

And new scenes are still coming in. Besides the main figures, others from the story are coming forth. People whose importance have been over looked imo, are having their say. It will be awhile yet until there is a completed draft....particularly since I type with one finger! lol However I figure if the author, Christy Brown, could  type with only his left foot, I can type with one finger.

 So I plug on.

One of the most interesting aspects of this gathering together of material has been to see , how often, over the years, I wrote the same scene,but used different words. However the most important words ( often, the dialogue) are the same. It's fun to take scenes written years apart and fit them together in their proper sequence. Many have expanded over time, to included their prequel or a sequel.

It will be 6 years in December since I started this novel . At this point, time is no longer worrying me. The writing is nearly done. What is left is the shaping...and that can take a good deal of time too. But I think time worries us most when we are unsure of a project's out come. Now I know if I just keep working, I'll get there. I already have.

Enjoy your Autumn!

Okay, back to work


Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna
Великая Княжна Татьяна Николаевна




Wednesday, June 6, 2018

There's someting to be said for deadlines

For one technical  reason or another, the computer I have been using doesn't have long to go. I had a good number of tribute videos for both Romanov and Brontës that have been " in production" some, for years, waiting for art work  I had planned  to do for them. I know how to make and upload from this current system....( that's another thing. My internet server wants me to "upgrade". 

Whenever I see the word, " upgrade" my veins " run ice" as Charlotte would say . Along with the order to upgrade, they always enthuse " you will be able to do more!" after the upgrade.

Indeed one does more! Because " upgrade " invariably means  tasks are now more complicated to perform lol ) anyway, rather than my original  and grander plans,  I decided to put in a few watercolors and or moor photos , finish and  upload the videos . There was plenty in the videos already to warrant a  go ahead 

The Romanovs are front and center in this post as we are very near to  the 100th anniversary of their deaths 

Romanov video


 A remarkable milestone; when I became interested in the family, the children would have been in their 60's!  This video is about the time Marie went off with her parents in April 1918. Many people do not realize the Romanovs were separated for a brief time during their captivity . 

In April of 1918, officials arrived, supposedly to take the Tsar to Moscow for trial . Alexis was simply too ill to travel; so Olga , Tatiana and Anastasia stayed with him.  This was why the executioners  did not find a corset of jewels on  Marie's body, like they did with her sisters. The corsets were fashioned after Marie left with her parents and Alexandra  sent a coded message back to the other daughters.  It has been speculated Marie did not have hidden jewels because she was not trusted...hardly!
Ural Soviet claim the Romanovs

 There is also  good deal of speculation as to just where the Romanovs were  going. Her parents sent Marie to the guard's train car to find out. The guards themselves must not have known, because Marie didn't learn anything!  Eventually, after a good bit of traveling, the train was blocked, there  was a stand off and the family was handed over the Ural Soviet. They were then taken to Yekaterinburg. In May, Alexis and his sisters joined their parents and Marie, so the family was together again; only to be murdered on July 18, 1918.  

Just in time for this milestone, Helen Azar's  new book

In the Steps of the Romanovs: : Final two years of the last Russian imperial family (1916-1918) (In their own words)

I find the last part of the Romanov history among its most interesting. It has long been shrouded in mystery, particularly for the English reader ...but no more ! Thanks, Helen!

Brontë video

Here is Brontë video  long in production. The Brontës. To the Marriage of True Minds

Many hold the vision of the Brontë sisters, forever unfulfilled, pining on the moors; unhappy.That is not my vision. One of them at least knew the full measure of love and really if any of them were destined to do so, it would be Charlotte, the author of " Jane Eyre ". 

It's astonishing what Charlotte did in order to marry Arthur Bell Nicholls. She met Arthur secretly on the moor, behind her father's back.  Then Charlotte took on Papa in two, epic Parsonage shaking battles. Please don't tell me she was dragged to the alter! lol  Adding immeasurable to the her drive, imo, was the desire to  know physical love. Charlotte was not to be denied that.  For her, it had to be achieved within a marriage and so marriage became Charlotte's  aim. I believe her marriage to Arthur  was all she dreamed of in that regard .

The summer of a first draft 

I found this definition bought on by completion,( be it video or whatever)  effected my work on the  Brontë novel as well . I can see its shape at last and committed to a first draft in the fall . Up to now I could not apply  a  time resistant on it, not having a clue of what I am doing. 

But I feel now I can and my husband plans to take vacation time then to edit the manuscript. I have dyslexia ...believe me, I need an editor more than most! In fact I could not  read properly until I was 12.

 What is interesting about that is,  I can clearly remember the moment I understood these markings, words , were meant to create a picture in one's mind. Then  the realization crashed in " like lighting". It was a Random House, Landmark biography of  Annie Oakley.If you are of a certain age, you'll remember them. It was a series of biographies  written for children, but by pronate authors. Remarkable idea. Back in the day ,what displeased  me when I opened it was, there were very few illustrations . It was mostly all text and  I was use to pictures helping me to figure out what was going on.

However then came the moment after slogging along, when the words themselves created a picture in my brain. It actually had a physical sensation. So by the time I closed the book for the day, the world had altered forever  and I became a constant reader...indeed, besides during the day, I would read with a flashlight under the bed sheets. I had  a lot of catching up to do

 So I'm committing to a draft in the fall...Still, new scenes are coming in ALL the time, often prequels to scenes I wrote years ago, which is fun. And just the other day I decided to make a point  to incorporate  the character's dreams that have popped up along the way . Having characters speak of  their dreams is interesting. It's fiction within fiction and events are even more free .....and heaven knows the Bronte's fiction  itself is full of dreams! Fewer people appreciated an altered state more than the Brontës!

What it takes to write 

What it takes to write something this involved, vast and complex, is just about all one has ; particularly if one is more than middle age like myself .  I had an interesting conversation with someone. We were speaking of my book and writing. Turns out they would like to do that themselves. I was encouraging of course. They asked me if I belonged to a writer's group. I said "No". Then they said , " Well maybe you should start one." I said "  I can't , I'm writing."

Writing, folks, is writing. It's not talking, blogging or tweeting about writing. 

I will go on to say, the more one speaks/ reads  about writing ,the further away one gets from it. It's actually helpful to cut things out so one must turn to the writing itself.  

I'm also not allowing new friendships to develop, as there's no spare wherewithal for them and it would not be fair. I can barely retain old ones, and in some cases, I haven't. I'm hard driving a streaking  chariot that will not stop for anything as it may not start again. There have been points in my life where I did stop my life for others. I can't at the moment. Things will be different once the book is done. But this is how it is now. People will understand better when  they are elderly themselves or they won't and that's fine.

Another things needful to write is to be able to say, " I approve of me and that's enough" and mean it . Old age is great in this way . If enlightenment hasn't happened in the course of life, the lack of energy that occurs  in old age's wake,  brings it on lol. One is too tried to care about the little stuff  =  Zen Master.

The difference in energy is, I believe , a main cause for the "generation gap" . Doing anything costs the older person far more of their energy budget than it does for a young one....so we may disapprove of what  seems, no, what would be for us, a wasteful side track ... because we haven't as full an energy bank account to draw upon lol. We know from experience there isn't all the time in the world!

 Another thing that drives me on, is I so want to share this with other Brontë fans. I believe they will love it and really, it is other Brontë fans who  will mostly see how I weaved in  the history...and much history not found in a Wikipedia post.

Brontë shopping bag / 1990s / artist ; Mark Summer


It's a small Arthur World  

Last May when my husband and I were in Haworth, we had an interesting meeting, though we didn't know it at the time how interesting it was! Driving from the airport, we had seen yellow berries on the moor and saw a small bush with the same in the Parsonage's garden. A lady was tending the front garden and we asked her about it . She could not have been nicer and more helpful!

We were taken with her little dog who , so faithfully stood guard over her as she worked and I took several photos of him to send to her later via the Parsonage. We did not exchange names. I was going to send the photos addressed to " The garden lady c/o the Brontë Parsonage."

On patrol at the Parsonage


But  months later I learned who she was and the name of the little dog in an amazing manner. Well after our Haworth visit , a  friend told me there was a new novel told from Arthur's view point!  Naturally I went looking to learn about it. It is called, " The last Brontë "  and when I read about it, and saw the author's facebook page, I found the garden lady at the Parsonage was the wife of the author! Wow.

It would have been something if when we spoke to her, I had mentioned we were in Haworth because I'm writing a Bronte novel based on Arthur Bell Nicholls!  I think she might have dropped her trowel lol!  How many people are doing that? Not many I would think.  Most authors seem to concentrate on the Professor it seems to me .  I have to marvel when I think how we met her! It's a small Arthur world after all lol! 

"  The Last Brontë " is about Arthur Bell Nicholls and is written by S. R. Whitehead. I can't read it myself while I'm writing my own. I want to keep my own vision of Arthur, clear.  However Mr. Whitehead offers the first chapter online and I read that to experience the Arthur " voice" the book has. I was relived to see its " voice" was different from mine.

It's interesting  that Mr. Whitehead and I both choose to have Arthur believe CB was a child when he first sees her. However in my version, ABN merely sees her on the lane and as she comes closer, realizes his mistake . I have to say Mr. Whiteheads scene is much better and far more amusing! I look forward to reading how he handles their letters etc. because what I have read in the first chapter is very well written . The book has rightly been met with acclaim. Bravo!

There was another Arthur based Brontë novel published last year as well " Mr. Nicholls ; A Brontë Story " by Juliet Heslewood. But the story is told  from another person's perspective  and an interesting one too ; Johnny Robinson. Johnny was  pupil of Arthur's and he certainly  appears in my book since he was a real person and  spoke of Arthur in his own old age. He was a witness to the wedding and more besides!  I look forward to reading this book down the road as well when my own is finished!

Cézanne Portraits at the National Gallery of Art,      Washington D.C,

 My husband and I recently traveled to Washington to see the Cézanne Portraits at the National Gallery of Art. The show is a mind blower. When one thinks of Cézanne, one think of Province landscapes and apples still life ! Being a portrait painter myself, this was a particularly noteworthy show for me...and I suggest people do not miss it . Not only are the portraits  great, but I can see his other works better after attending this show. Cézanne is indeed the father of Modern Art . 

Our Lily  2001-2017  


Lily in the studio

Late last year we lost our beloved cat, Lily. In fact she passed the same day Emily Bronte did, Dec 19. Lily was ...well words fail me.  We are so blessed to have these beings in our lives and really; who cares for who? They are looking out for us. If you have had and lost a dearly loved pet, you'll understand.

Love 'em while you have them .

Okay, back to work! Have a great summer!


Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna