For the next week or so, I’m going to be celebrating the bicentenary of Emily Brontë’s birth. She was born on the 30th July, 1818, as the fifth child to Patrick and Maria Brontë. She had an interesting and eventful life, despite never really leaving her Yorkshire home. After catching a cough from her brother’s funeral, Emily developed tuberculosis and died at the age of 30 on the 19th December, 1848.
If you haven’t visited my blog before, you probably won’t be aware of how much I love the Brontë family. Despite Charlotte being my firm favourite, all the members of this family hold a special place in my heart. I wanted to start off the celebration by telling you about my journey with the Brontë sisters.
I have been connected to Haworth, Yorkshire, for a long time now. My dad has an ardent interest in steam trains, so every few years he’d take us along to Haworth. He’d drop us off on Main Street whilst he went along to a train convention. I can remember the independent shops decorating the steep, cobblestone pavement leading up to the church. I can distinctly remember the apothecary shop, you know the one where Branwell regularly bought his opium from, as it’s my mum’s favourite shop. I can remember the rugged and untamed moors that surround this little village. Those moors that are either blooming in heather, or drowning in a tainted orange colour. It is, quite honestly, my favourite place to be.
However, I wasn’t actually introduced to the Brontë sisters and their work until 2014. I was holidaying in Stratford-upon-Avon when I randomly bought the Wordsworth Classics edition of Jane Eyre because it was £1.99. On that same holiday, I also purchased the Penguin Classics edition; I don’t know why, I just knew I’d love it. Despite never having read any of their books before, my dad took me to the Brontë Parsonage a year later. I fell in love immediately. As the domestic sphere that played a fundamental role in not only their personal but literary lives, I became utterly obsessed. The house was so rich with history, and I learnt something new in every room. On the way out, I bought a new edition of Jane Eyre alongside a copy of Wuthering Heights. As soon as I got home, I made a start on the former.
That year, 2015, was also the year I started university. On one of my modules, ‘Reading English’, I had an exam on Emily’s Wuthering Heights. As a part of my revision, the university organised a trip to the Brontë Parsonage, so I ended up visiting it twice within about four months of each other. Coming back to the house having read some of their work only furthered my interest in them. I could appreciate the displays because I was familiar with them. I also received a lecture from a member of the Society in a church located to the left of the Parsonage. As soon as I got back to my halls, I made a start on re-reading Wuthering Heights. At first this was an average read for me, but this re-read made all the difference. It went from being rated three stars to five. I noticed things I had previously missed tucked away in every corner of the novel.
In my second year, I got the chance to study Jane Eyre in-depth. I learnt a great deal about Charlotte, the novel, and its position in the Victorian society. I analysed how Charlotte challenged Victorian ideals by pushing the boundaries of female independence and religion, whilst also examining why she conformed to some patriarchal norms. To me, 2017 was the year I really fell in love with the sisters. I visited the Parsonage another two times, all within a couple of months of each other. It became my sanctuary. My family take me here whenever I’m feeling low in spirits. In preparation for my third year dissertation, I spent the year reading all their unread novels: Villette, Shirley, The Professor, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I even started reading biographies on them, in addition to their letters and diary papers.
I couldn’t be stopped. I became consumed by them. They lived such fascinating and peculiar lives, and it was fun getting to unpick it with every new biography I read. The sisters were so different from each other, yet they were remarkably similar. The family dynamics were endearing and sweet, yet saturated with death. It got to the point where I kept reading biographies on them, despite basically knowing everything there is to know, because their lives were so interesting. Their father was supportive and loving; their brother troubled and trusting; Charlotte was fierce and headstrong; Emily was free-spirited and caring; and Anne was moral and passionate. All so different from each other, yet all working happily within this family unit.
So, what about 2018? Well, I’m currently writing my 8,000 word dissertation on the sisters. I couldn’t let my knowledge and passion for them go to waste. I can’t go into detail about this just yet; I want to avoid any issues occurring. You’ll have to wait until I publish my English @ LJMU: Third Year, Semester Two post, unfortunately. Not only has this given me an excuse to ramble on about them for 8,000 words, but it has allowed me the chance to thoroughly research the sisters and learn more about their literary position. I would love to put this knowledge to use one day in some form of writing, but I think that will probably be in the far future.
For now, I enjoy spending my spare time reading biographies on the family, annotating their poetry, and re-reading their novels. I hope to continue sharing my passion for them via this blog, as you can never have too much of the Brontë family!
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you on Friday with another Brontë post.