Two-hundredth Anniversary of Charlotte Bronte’s Birthday

Today is the two-hundredth anniversary of Charlotte Bronte’s birthday!

She was an incredible author – her book Jane Eyre impresses itself upon a reader’s heart and remains there – it excites powerful,  unexplainable, and in some cases unidentifiable emotions – it fills heart and soul with feeling – and the author who created it must have possessed an incredible gift – so honour her today, and think on the wonder of what she created.

I have written an article – or rather, as I have no real argument, but rather a few little ones, a piece of writing containing my thoughts – on Jane Eyre in honour of the occasion. It is very long, however – too long for anybody to read in one sitting – and for me to finish today. So I will publish it in parts from this day onwards – starting with her childhood.

Note: (in the following parts of this the plot will be given away – so do not read unless you have read the book. Besides, if you have not, you ought to be reading it right now straight away, and not wasting time reading anything else!)

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Of these death-white realms I formed an idea of my own: shadowy, like all the half-comprehended notions that float dim through children’s brains, but strangely impressive. The words in these introductory pages connected themselves with the succeeding vignettes, and gave significance to the rock standing up alone in a sea of billow and spray; to the broken boat stranded on a desolate coast; to the cold and ghastly moon glancing through bars of cloud at a wreck just sinking.

I cannot tell what sentiment haunted the quite solitary churchyard, with its inscribed headstone; its gate, its two trees, its low horizon, girdled by a broken wall, and its newly-risen crescent, attesting the hour of eventide.

The two ships becalmed on a torpid sea, I believed to be marine phantoms.

The fiend pinning down the thief’s pack behind him, I passed over quickly: it was an object of terror.

So was the black horned thing seated aloof on a rock, surveying a distant crowd surrounding a gallows.

How very strongly is the coldness, the emptiness, the loneliness of her feelings conveyed in the manner with which she finds sympathy with the broken and the lonely objects in the pictures, ‘the cold and ghastly moon glancing through bars of cloud at a wreck just sinking’. She feels like the ‘broken boat, stranded on a desolate coast’ and like the rock, ‘standing up alone in a sea of billow and spray’. ‘Of these death-white realms I formed an idea of my own’. The ‘ghastly moon glancing through bars of cloud’ is intresting. The metephor ‘bars of cloud’ makes one think of prison bars – could the moon be in some way a personification of Mrs Reed – watching Jane’s wreck sink, behind, perhaps, the bars of a cruel nature? Or it might be the other half of Jane herself, behind the bars of timidity, of fear. For there is a feeling always that she needs to brake out of something. This might explain the feeling of most incredible relief, like the lifting of a heavy weight, when, a little later in the book, Jane expresses her hatred for Mrs Reed.

“…I had been trodden on severely, and must turn: but how?…I gathered my energies and launched them in this blunt sentence –

“I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you; but I declare I do not love you…”

Mrs. Reed’s hands still lay on her work inactive: her eye of ice continued to dwell freezingly on mine.

“What more have you to say?” she asked, rather in the tone in which a person might address an opponent of adult age than such as is ordinarily used to a child…Shaking from head to foot, thrilled with ungovernable excitement, I continued –

“I am glad you are no relation of mine: I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. I will never come to see you when I am grown up; and if any one asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty.”

“How dare you affirm that, Jane Eyre?”

“How dare I, Mrs. Reed? How dare I? Because it is the truth. You think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so: and you have no pity. I shall remember how you thrust me back—roughly and violently thrust me back — into the red-room, and locked me up there, to my dying day; though I was in agony; though I cried out, while suffocating with distress, ‘Have mercy! Have mercy, Aunt Reed!’ And that punishment you made me suffer because your wicked boy struck me—knocked me down for nothing. I will tell anybody who asks me questions, this exact tale. People think you a good woman, but you are bad, hard- hearted. You are deceitful!”

Is there not, in these lines, a wild joy of relief and revenge? You want to cheer her on. She expresses herself the feeling of it –

“Ere I had finished this reply, my soul began to expand, to exult, with the strangest sense of freedom, of triumph, I ever felt. It seemed as if an invisible bond had burst, and that I had struggled out into unhoped-for liberty”

With Jane in this state of relieved triumph I will leave this section of the book – say a few words on her eight years at Lowood school, and then pass on to Thornfield.

The part of about Lowood may be slightly – or more than slightly – autobiographical. As a child she endured the hardships of a school much like Lowood – and two of her sisters died there. This may have been what gave the scene of Helen Burn’s death such tragedy – Charlotte knew what it was like.

I must move on – though I could write a novel’s worth about each part of this wonderful book, I have only so much time. The rest, however, will be saved for tomorrow – or for in a few days.

 

 

 

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Cloaked in Diamonds

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She woke early – as soon as the first rays of silvery morning light began peep through the curtains and fill the room. It was the morning of the first day of May – and Armida had resolved yesterday to wake early, and bathe her face in the dew, gaining beauty for the coming year. It was not so much because she was vain that Armida did this every May Morning – but because the idea that those beautiful, shimmering, glistening drops bring beauty appealed to her – and because she wanted an excuse to wake up early and enjoy the beauties of the young day alone.

She slid open the window – it creaked – but nobody woke up. She shut her eyes, and dropped herself down, onto cool, wet grass. A chill of cold ran through her – and as she slowly opened her eyes, another of wonder.

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Silvery in the cool half light of the morning, and cloaked in glistening dew as a fair lady might be cloaked in diamonds, the trees and bushes stood. Like a silver glaze when seen from a distance, and like tiny, shimmering, crystal clear orbs close up, the droplets of morning dew were fair beyond the most precious jewels.

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They hung, trapped, in the faint spiders webs – they settled, large and clear, in the petals of a few white crocuses which had lasted a little longer than usual, standing in clutches about the shimmering ground – they meshed in the long grasses that rose, waving, to one side.

Armida’s mouth, the only brightly coloured thing in this world of silver, was parted slightly in amazement as, half soaking her white nightgown with the diamond-like drops, she pushed her way through the clump of trees that shrouded the lake.

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Silver stood the water – and still – save for the occasional clear ripple breaking the glassy reflections for a moment or two.

‘It is – so lovely,’ breathed Armida, to the trees and water. ‘It is such a pity, though, that this moment with so soon fly by – for I may never experience it again. Certainly I shall not. Even if I did see another morning as beautiful as this – which I almost certainly shall not – I will be changed by then, and so it will be changed.’

‘I might take a photograph – but even should I manage to capture the beauty in it, I should never capture the feeling. And it will not be the same without the feeling! It is odd to think that some people in the world have minds like photographs. They might see this wonderful lake and trees – and view it only as a pretty picture – the wonder of the scene might not find its way into their emotions at all.’

‘But I think I will take a photo; anyhow, it is better than nothing. It will – hopefully – capture the outer beauty at least, and it will remind me of how I felt at the time.’ And she ran back to the window to fetch her silver camera.

‘I can almost see Odette – gliding, a snowy swan, or a silver swan even, over the waters. I think that I will dip my face in the lake water, as well as in the dew. I am sure that must make you beautiful too – or make something good happen. I am just sure of it.’

She dipped her face into the silver waters – and let out a little cry as she felt the iciness of it. But she was certain it had done her good – she felt the goodness spreading through already.

Later, Armida sat in her room with the warm light of mid-day flooding in, admiring her photographs. It was when she came to the last of them that she saw, gliding along the water, the faint, ghostly, silvery outline of a swan – with a silver crown that glinted like the dew upon its head.

‘Why, it must have been a special photograph. It did capture what I was thinking, for there, upon the lake, is one of my thoughts! I suppose the morning made them too strong to be put aside.’

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See what I wrote for the first challenge Here

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Part Four of Bronte Country, In which Presents are opened.

 

In all the excitement, I had nearly forgotten about birthday presents. I had been given the clothes for the journey, but I generally get more presents than that. However, after the hubbub of arriving had subsided, Mum and Dad went down to the car to fetch the presents which we had carried with us from our house. I was more than a little amazed when they staggered through the doorway bearing a huge old chest of wood bound together with strips of rusty metal; a perfect Wuthering Heights chest – outdoing even the chest in which Catherine finds the folded napkins (which she though to be some ancient treasure) in Northanger Abbey. There was a large rusty keyhole, and a huge key, and they all stood round as I put the key to the lock and slowly, slowly, as though it was Pandora’s Box I lifted the lid. (Though it was not dread as with Pandora’s Box that made me open it slowly, but delight – I wanted to make that wonderful moment last as long as possible.) The lid was opened; but whatever was in it was covered with a thin layer of tissue paper. Lifting the tissue paper, I saw that each thing was wrapped round with the same material. The first thing I picked up was large, covering nearly half the opening of the chest, and the corner of the picture frame was showing. I lifted it up, and the tissue paper, falling away as I did so, revealed a black and white sketch, depicting a half ruined house, half way between Ponden Hall and a cottage, with a stone wall in front of it. In the distance was a far rolling view of fields and moors. The whole thing seemed slightly distorted, as though it was the reflection in a stream, and captured strangely the feeling of the moors. The picture was stirring to look at, and the very paper and ink seemed to cry out ‘Wuthering Heights!’ Thanking all in the room for the gift, with a bursting heart I drew out the next present. It was a real Victorian cap of lace and rose silk, to be worn either in the house or under a bonnet. Next was a pair of dainty white kid gloves, such as worn by all Victorian ladies, even in summer. But what small hands and what long fingers Victorian ladies must have had! I am only ten years old, and my hand are small for my age, and yet they would barely fit on, and when they did the fingers where twice as long as my own. I lifted out then a black fur ‘tippet’ a sort of neck-scarf worn by ladies in Victorian times (look it up on Google images). There came then a fur muff, with ribbon attached so I could hang it round my neck, and a black woolen cape with fur round the hood and pretty clasp, that would look wonderful billowing out behind me when we went for a walk on the Bronte moors (and Mum had promised we would). As well as these two things I received a lovely lacey cloth, to put around the shoulders of my recency dress. But even better was to come. After opening a few more, I pulled out a very large present, the larges yet except perhaps the picture, and on pulling off the paper I found a large round pink box, with a pink string for a handle. Lifting the lid I found more tissue paper inside. I lifted it off, and from underneath took out a brown felt bonnet, lined with pale pink silk, and with a pink ribbon tied around it. It fitted exactly. I was in raptures already; but I soon found that there was a second layer of tissue paper beneath the bonnet, with something else under it. It was another one; more of a poke bonnet this time, made of cotton with pink roses on it. It was bendy, and could be made into different styles of bonnet if you fiddled around with it. Both of these my loving Mum had made me. I remember the day when she made one of them (the brown felt one); I had actually already suspected it was a bonnet, but then Dad came in, looked at it very secretly, came out of the room and then said loudly ‘Nice bonnet!’ So that present was not quite a surprise, but I had never guessed it would be as wonderful as it was.

Before this entry ends, I will relate a couple more presents. For a brake from Victorian things (though who would ever need one? Victorian things are so lovely! That is, until you put them on, when they are very uncomfortable) I will talk about some of the more ordinary presents. Among other things, there were two lovely dresses my aunt gave me with roses on them, one blue and purple and one black and white, with shiny bits round the neck. There was also some little hair clips my aunt gave me, and a lovely old book about calligraphy (I have been trying to learn calligraphy, having always been obsessed with illuminated manuscripts) with lots of illustrations, that my Dad got me. I don’t know about you, but I think we can go back to Victorian things now, given it’s not the putting them on part that I’m writing about. So I’ll tell you about some gorgeous Victorian dresses I opened. There were three of them. The first had pink and red flowers on it, two stripes of red down the bodice, and a red bow. The second was an evening dress, a little shorter than the others, with off-the-shoulder sleeves, and a pattern of gold flowers on red. The third, my favourite, was peachy pink, and made of material like crepe silk, with a collar of beautiful lace, and a sash with a bow. Now there is only the last present left to be related, the most – what should I say? – the most ‘Golly!’ of them all. It was a crinoline, that huge stiff hoop petticoat that makes Victorian skirts poof out so far.

But wait, that is not the last – there is one present, the best present off all, that I have not yet told about. One of the best moments of my life must have been the moment when I drew out that wonderful present. It was a folding writing desk, made of dark shiny wood, inlaid with mother of pearl; and inside it was lined with yellow velvet, and a pattern in gold was etched round the edge. There was a special place for the ink and for the pen, and inclosed inside was a shiny wooden blotter, with flowers painted on it; some sheets of calligraphy paper in their own special compartment, and a beautiful little brooch in a jewel box. There was also a dip pen and a quill. The place where you put the ink unfolded to reveal secret little doors, wherein to hide private letters.

All the best presents have now been written about, and for now I leave you, until next-time, when I will be writing about my first look into Catherine Eearnshaw’s box bed.

 

 

In both pictures I am wearing the peach coloured dress, the brown felt bonnet, and the lace and pink silk cap, which peeps out from beneath my bonnet. If you click on picture 2 to make it bigger, and look closely, you will notice my expression is a bit stormy, just like Catherine Earshaw. It actually just happened to look like that!

 

First signs of spring

These photographs were taken in the garden yesterday, on a January evening. I was out with my brother playing, and as the evening was beautiful I borowed my dad’s phone and took some photos. The smallish brick house with the sun and shadow on it and the plant pots by the door is where I live, and the doorway of the larger house with the fanlight above the door is my grandmother’s house. Both houses share the shame garden. The little boy walking up the lawn in the picture of my house is my brother, Tasgall.

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