A Gentleman and a Rogue

Friday, March 25, 2011

Guest Author Series - Author Linda Swift visits with the Brontes


I'd like to welcome author Linda Swift. She's a fellow author with me at Desert Breeze. She has upcoming release with Desert Breeze in April, "Summer Love." Today, she talks about visiting the Bronte estate. Enjoy! You can find Linda on the web at: http://www.lindaswift.net.

Smiles
Steph

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On Easter Sunday as a special gift to me, my husband gave up his much-needed day of R&R so that we could visit the Bronte home in Haworth. Although it was mid April, as we drove from East to West Yorkshire the landscape became more bleak. And the narrow roads grew steep and winding long before we reached the village of the famous literary family.

We left our Ford hatch-back in the car park at the bottom of the hill and joined the people on the cobbled street that led to the dark grayish-brown brick two story building at the top. The sky was a dull gray, hinting at impending rain, and we took our brolly although the chill wind would likely have turned it inside out had we used it.

My first impression was that the parsonage was much more grand than I had expected, even from the photographs I'd seen. An additional wing had been added by a later vicar and I closed my vision to that and imagined it when the Brontes lived there and found it still impressive. We paid the small admission fee and entered the house where we wandered from room to room. We were shown the beds where the Bronte family slept, the kitchen were they ate, the table where the Bronte sisters wrote. We saw the sofa where Emily reportedly died and clothes that Charlotte wore. (For photos inside the parsonage go to: http://www.haworth-village.org.uk/brontes/parsonage/parsonage.asp)

Patrick Bronte's study occupied one of the front rooms and we were told that he spent most of his time here, ignoring his six children who ran wild on the wild moors that surrounded them. Perhaps the world would not have benefitted as much from the Bronte genius had the vicar had better parenting skills and supervised his brood more closely! Patrick was a poor Irishman who became a man of letters, changing his name from Brunty in the process. It is difficult to imagine an Emily Brunty.

Following the early death of Patrick's wife Maria, her sister came to live at the parsonage and the four older girls were sent to a Clergy Daughter's boarding school to be educated. After a year of harsh conditions and meager diet, young Maria and Elizabeth, aged ten and eleven, died of tuberculosis. One of these girls was reported to have exhibited, even at such a young age, greater talent than her famous sisters. Had they lived, we might now have more Bronte literary treasures.


Emily and Charlotte were brought home to be taught by their father, along with their younger sister Anne and only brother Bramwell.I had read of the little books the Bronte children wrote of imaginary kingdoms and how they acted out these stories in their play. Several of these were displayed but I was unprepared for how small the books actually were. Each measured about two inches wide by three or four inches long, with ink lettering so fine one needed a magnifying glass to read it. It is said they wrote in these miniature books to avoid them being read by adults. Bramwell was a talented artist and many of his oil paintings hang in the home and museum. His work is typical of the period and evokes the same melancholy themes as his sisters' books. The deaths of Bramwell 30, Emily 31, and Anne 29, in such a short period of each other, and even Charlotte at 38, further deprived the world of their giftedness. Only Patrick survived to the ripe old age of 84.

Although the exterior of the parsonage had many windows, the interior seemed dark and somewhat depressing throughout. A large well-stocked bookstore adjoined the house and all of the Bronte books were available at a very reasonable cost. We didn't spend a lot of time here as there was so much to explore in one afternoon. Visible from the museum was a garden where a stone statue of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne faced the floor to ceiling windows. Although many people milled about, there was an air of reverence as if we walked in a sacred place where the spirits of departed Brontes still lingered and so it seemed to me.

From the front of the parsonage, to the right across the lawn, was the family graveyard. We have visited many cemeteries across England but had never seen tombstones that resembled thick concrete doors laid horizontally on low supports. These were about four by six feet and had inscriptions engraved on them that were quite lengthy.We walked among them and read quite a few and I wished later that I had copied some of them.
(For enlarged photo of graveyard, go to: http://www.bronteparsonage.blogspost.com)

The illustrious Bronte family, except for Anne, were entombed in vaults inside the adjacent church. The church was just beyond the graveyard and we visited it briefly as it was not the original building where Patrick Bronte had served as vicar. We walked to the rear of the parsonage, along a fenced corral that must have contained animals in earlier days. And although spring flowers bloomed along the path, they did little to dispel the overall feeling of gloom. From here we could look out across the rugged moors, now green, and see the placid sheep grazing on the hillsides. But I could imagine how it must have looked in winter covered in snow with gales howling across the moors. It was easy to visualize Catherine and Heathcliff meeting in the mist. It seems inevitable that Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre were created from this environment by daughters of this tragic family. I could not imagine a Pollyanna story emerging here!


Looking back now, walking on that Easter Sunday afternoon where Emily and Charlotte had walked was akin to a religious experience. And I treasure it among my favorite memories of the time I was fortunate to live in Yorkshire County. But on that dismal day, as we wandered down from the hilltop, I welcomed my husband's suggestion that we take tea to warm our insides against the chill before we headed home to Hull. And all thought of Brontes was replaced with visions of shortbread to accompany it.

34 comments:

  1. Very well expressed. I feel as if you have taken me there.
    Julie

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  2. LINDA--I'm always struck by the places real people lived, worked, and died...when we think of them as characters more than humans just like us. How sad the Bronte sisters died so young. I knew the books were very small, but had never heard a reason. I'd say that was clever. Someone with vision like mine could not read it at all.
    Thanks for sharing the photos and your travelogue. Very well done, as usual. Celia

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  3. Thank you, Julie. It warms my heart to know that my words made the visit real for you. I am so glad you stopped by.

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  4. Hi Celia.Thank you for visiting the Bronte home with me. And I agree, I always feel as if the spirits of the people's homes or graves I visit are hovering over me. Especially people who have had such great impact on the world as the Bronte family.

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  5. There is a wonderful site that shows the graveyard adjacent to the Bronte home and has a very good view of the flat gravestones that I have never seen anyplace else. Check at
    http://www.urban75.org/photos/hebden-bridge/haworth-church.html

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  6. Fantastic blog, Linda! So atmospheric.

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  7. Hi Heather, thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the blog. My stay in England was one of the greatedst experiences of my life.
    Linda

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  8. Lovely atmospheric description, Linda! I'm ashamed to say I haven't been to Haworth yet, although I've been to other parts of Yorkshire several times (I'm in Scotland). But it's on my list of places to visit, as Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books.

    I like your blog, Stephanie, and I'm so impressed with your writing output!

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  9. Sounds amazing. I hope to visit it too someday. What a great description. Thanks!

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  10. Hi Rosemary, thank you for your kind comments. I was so fortunate to live in Yorkshire Country for almost two years and visit many castles, minsters, abbeys, etc. but Haworth stands out in my memories. We visited Scotland three times while there and I love your country, too. I'd like so much to return again.

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  11. Thanks, Raquel, for visiting today and for your comments. I hope you can visit this area. It is so inspiring for an author. And I hope I can return again, too.

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  12. This brought back memories of visits to Haworth - not been there for many years now, but I remember those small notebooks with minuscule writing. There were also some dresses worn by the sisters - notably Charlotte's wedding dress, if my memory serves me right - and it was so tiny!
    Thanks for the memories!

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  13. Linda,
    I know I'm late, forgive me. It's my work hours. I ABSOLUTELY loved your post. I felt like I was right there with you and I could feel the inspiration the visit gave you in how reverently you wrote about the Haworth.

    I hate to admit I haven't read Bronte, but you've definately piqued my interest. Thanks so much for visiting the Moonlight, Sweetie.

    Smiles
    Steph

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  14. Hi Linda,
    Thank you for sharing your visit to Haworth with us. You made me feel like I was visiting the place with you. I could almost feel those cold winds and the pervasive gloom of the place. I think the saddest thing was learning how young they all were when they died. What a loss to the literary world.

    Jana

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  15. What an awesome experience that must have been. Your husband must be a great guy!

    ~JoAnn

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  16. Thanks for visiting today, Paula. And yes, there was clothing on display. I don't know why I forgot to mention that. And the furniture was very interesting. I could have spent a week there instead of a day and not absorbed it all. We also took a coach (bus) tour of the surrounding moors and that was nice.

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  17. Steph, I completely understand and I marvel at all the things you do, and do so well. But you must read both the Bronte sisters because their stories are something that would inspire you for the kind of writing you do. If you want a HEA in the end, read Jane Eyre by Charlotte. And if you can handle gloom and doom and unrequited love, then Wuthering Heights by Emily is the one to read first.
    Again, thank you for having me here on your blog today. And I'll be around tomorrow to talk to any latecomers.

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  18. Hi Jana. I agree with you. What a loss their early deaths were. And especially the two little girls who died as a result of the harsh school where they were sent. But Charlotte and Emily made their mark with only one book, as did Margaret Mitchell so I guess their lives were fulfilled in the end.

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  19. Yes, JoAnn, my husband is a great guy. Because of his consulting work, I lived places I would not have lived otherwise. And England was the greatest experience of all. We traveled with National Holidays almost every weekend he was not working. And were the only American's on these tours so we got to see these places as the locals saw them, not as "tourists" from out of the country.

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  20. Really enjoyed reading about your visit to Haworth as you experienced it. You have such a wonderful way of sharing that it's like taking a walk with you through these historical places! So happy that you got to visit and enjoy them in person.

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  21. Hi Kaye, thank you for visiting. I think the visit to Haworth was my favorite place in all of England. Probably because I've always been a big fan of both Charlotte and Emily Bronte and it was such an emotional experience to walk where they had walked.

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  22. I enjoyed your lovely post about the Bronte writers. Thanks for sharing.

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  23. Hello Gail. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to leave you nice comments. I guess you have to be a fan of the Brontes to enjoy going to Haworth as much as I did. That day is a treasured memory for me.

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  24. Thanks for a fascinating glimpse into the world of the Brontes.

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  25. Thank you, jrlindermuth, for visiting and for your comments. Yes, the Brontes were a fascinating family, their real-life story equaling anything Charlotte or Emily wrote. Wouldn't Patrick Bronte/Brunty make a wonderful character in a book?

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  26. Hi Linda,
    Just catching up on my mail between a signing yesterday and a launch party this afternoon for a book I edited. Thanks for a lovely atmospheric post about the Brontes. I shivered with the bleak loneliness of Haworth.

    Steph,
    Greetings from a fellow New Hampshirite and NaNo winner (2001-2010)! Lovely blog.

    Nikki Andrews
    Framed
    Chicken Bones
    A Windswept Star

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  27. Hi Nikki, thanks for visiting and for your nice comments. I hope the launch and signing was successful. I speak from experience that the book had a great editor. I wish you spring days now. And you can put away your snow shoes for a while. Linda

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  28. You my friend, are an author. Your words moved me and I love your muse! Thanks for a great blog. Not the usual thing, something really moving for a change! Good job!

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  29. Mary, your words warm my heart. I'm so happy that the story touched you, and others. It's been a few years now since I was there but I can still see it all in my mind as though it were yesterday. I talked by phone with one of my dear Yorkshire freinds this afternoon and it made me homesick to see England again.

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  30. You described that experience so beautifully! Thanks for sharing!

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  31. Nikki,
    ((Hugs)) right back at you. It's always nice to find someone from NH in my writing travels. And congrats on NaNoWriMo! I did it 2009 & 2010 and found it very challenging, but very rewarding as well.

    Smiles
    Steph

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  32. Thank you, Destiny, for visiting and for your heartwarming words. This was such an emotional and unforgettable experience for me and I enjoy sharing it with others. Liinda

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  33. Thank you Linda for your vivid description of the Brontes and their home. It rekindled fond memories of my past visits to Haworth. Anne Bronte is buried in the graveyard of St Mary's Church, Scarborough, overlooking the harbour and the beautiful curve of the east coast landscape. Sylvia Broady

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