Tuesday, February 11, 2020

A Review of The Burning Chambers By Kate Mosse

Power and Prejudice: France, 1562. War sparks between the Catholics and Huguenots, dividing neighbors, friends, and family—meanwhile, nineteen-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father’s bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: She knows that you live.
Love and Betrayal: Before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, she meets a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon. Piet has a dangerous task of his own, and he will need Minou’s help if he is to stay alive. Soon, they find themselves on opposing sides, as forces beyond their control threaten to tear them apart.
Honor and Treachery: As the religious divide deepens, Minou and Piet find themselves trapped in Toulouse, facing new dangers as tensions ignite across the city—and a feud that will burn across generations begins to blaze. . .
Minotaur Books
St. Martin's Publishing Group
On Sale: 06/18/2019
ISBN: 9781250202161
592 Pages

The flagstones were cold under her stockinged feet and she could see her breath, white, in the chill air. She slipped into her leather boots, took her hood and green woolen cloak from the stand, put the keys and the book into the purse tied around her waist. Then, holding her gloves in her hand, she slid back the heavy metal bolt and stepped out into the silent street. A spirit girl abroad on a chill February dawn.
I must say a huge thank you to Minotaur Books for my review copy. My huge apologies for taking so long to review another incredible historical saga from the incomparable author, Kate Mosse. I’ve been in awe of her research and writing since Labyrinth way back when. She is a continued inspiration for my passion in research and writing.
The prologue takes place in South Africa during winter 1862. A mysterious unnamed woman stands at a gravestone she can barely look at. This is the day of my death...
The Burning Chambers covers the year 1562 broken down into three parts and three seasons: Winter, Spring and Summer. This year will never be the same for booksellers daughter, Minou Joubert. A letter, an inheritance, a lost relic, a family bible will lead young Minou to find the love of her life and change her life forever as her family secrets come out against the backdrop of The Wars of Religion. All the elements are here in true Dumas fashion: Catherine de Medici, poison, dead husbands, villainous women and treacherous men! 
Nobody brings history to life with more intelligence, heart, violence, blood, rage and love like Kate Mosse.
I cannot wait for the second book in the series, The City Of Tears.

For more information about Kate Mosse, visit. Minotaur Books

Monday, February 3, 2020

Christina Rossetti's Parents: Gabriele Rossetti (1783-1854) and Frances Rossetti nee Polidori (1800-1886)

I've been reading up on the patriarch of The Rossetti Family:  Gabriele Rossetti (1783-1854) out of curiosity. I've just started reading, Dinah Roe's family tome, The Rossettis in Wonderland, and my curiosity has been running wild! 

So, I am including a few fun tidbits from father of Poet, Christina Rossetti and painter and poet, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  First a bit of background:

Gabriele Rossetti was born in Vesto, in Abruzzi, Italy, on the Adriatic coast of Naples. He was custodian in the Museo Barbonico of Naples. He was also a poet as well. He was part of a movement supporting the constitution to Ferdinand I of Naples in 1820. He fled to London after the king revoked the constitution and persecuted the abettors. 

Having settled in London, he married Frances Polidori in 1824 and became Professor of Italian in Kings College. He also published two works on Dante. Later in life, one of his sons, William Michael Rossetti, published his memoirs and letters. 

One Stanza from poem
 Life In Italy by Gabriele Rossetti,

My children, grow, grow up to patriot love
In you the blood and name of me is stored
To England from Abruzzo transmigrate.
Free you were born, and I was born a serf.
O Providence! Mine exiled seemed to me
To dive injustice of a Fate my foe;
But, if mine exiles was to prove
A family like this, I bless the ban.
Yes, for they deadly rage which hurled me forth,
Perfidious Bourbon King, I give thee thanks.

Frances Mary Lavinia Rossetti (nee Polidori)
Drawing by her son, Dante Gabriel Rossetti
(Rossetti Archive)

Frances Polidori was the daughter of Gaetano Polidori. She was English on her mother's side and Italian, from Tuscany, on her father's side. The Polidori's were a prominent family with ties to some who would become some of the greatest Romantic poets of our day. She married Gabriele Rossetti and had four children all academics and poets in their own right: 
Maria Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti.

Two samples from letters written by husband, Gabriele Rossetti to his wife, Frances Rossetti:

38 Charlotte Street, London
29th May 1832

My Dearly Loved Frances,

Every word you wrote pierced like a dagger into my heart. My sweetest Gabriel, there is so ill! My baby Christina suffers with her teeth and has wounded her forehead! Oh my poor children! If the distance were less great, I would come immediately to see my four treasures, and you, my beloved wife, who must be immeasurably afflicted, as I am myself. Good-bye, dearly loved, Frances, I am going to bed for it is 1 o'clock. I bless one by one the infant pledges of our love, and invoke on them health and prosperity. Kiss them for me, speak about me to them, and along with theirs-preserve your precious health, which is my greatest treasure. 

Your most affectionate husband,
Gabriele Rossetti
Gabriele Rossetti drawn by son,
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
(Rossetti Archive)

50 Charlotte Street, London
21 October 1836

My Dearest Frances,

Oh that I had two arms as long as from here to Holmer Green! You would find your neck clasped of a sudden by the warmest marital embrace, and you would then be softly seized hold of and deposited in Charlotte Street, saving you the trouble of the journey by road: Yours should be aerial...The true one treasure of my life is my dear Frances, and to restore her to me renewed in health is to restore my existence. Good-bye to the better portion of myself. Three days hence you, by God's help, will be here with me and I will prove to you how much you are loved by 

Your Husband,

In closing, while reading through my source material; the opening pages consisted of a copied handwritten letter from Dante Gabriel Rossetti, painter and poet, to his mother, Frances Rossetti, a month before his wedding. He talks about his girlfriend, Elizabeth Siddal 'Lizzie'  which he spells (Lizzy not Lizzie), her ill health, and his concerns. The typed version is below the handwritten letter.  

Mrs. Rossetti, photographer unknown.

This miniature is in fact a photograph (probably an albumen print) painted over in gouache. The over-painting has been attributed to Elizabeth Siddall's husband, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the English poet and founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, formed in London in 1848. The lavish frame in gold, opal, sapphires and diamonds (made in London) was added in 1906 by J. Pierpont Morgan, a previous owner, and it was cataloged by G.C. Williamson in the same year as "Mrs. Rossetti." The story attached to the photograph is that, after Siddall's death in February 1862, Rossetti gave it to a nurse who had attended at the birth of Siddall's still-born child, and that it passed to the nurse's daughter, who in difficult financial times sold it to a clergyman (see G.C. Williamson, "Catalogue of the Collection of Miniatures, the Property of J. Pierpont Morgan," vol. 2, London: Chiswick Press, 1906, p. 116). This story is also told by Williamson with some variations in "Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan's Pictures, the English Miniatures, V.," Connoisseur, 8:70, June 1907, pp. 71-76, p. 75; "Stories of an Expert," 1935, pp. 36-39; and "The Cases of an Art Expert, II, The Rossetti Miniature," Country Life, 80, 11 July 1936, p. 35-6.). The costume is correct for ca. 1860 and the portrait shows strong resemblances to Siddall as depicted in several studies and paintings by Rossetti. The pose recalls the posthumously completed painting "Beata Beatrix" (ca.1864-70), Tate Britain, London, N01279. --  Archived at The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD.

 Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Frances Rossetti (DGRs mother)

SOURCE for letters from Gabriele to Frances Rossetti and poem
Gabriele Rossetti: A Verified Autobiography by Gabriele Rossetti, Translated by William Michael Rossetti, London, 1901

SOURCE for letter from Dante Gabriel Rossetti to his mother, Frances Rossetti
US Edition: Handwritten version:  Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Family Letters by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Volume II, Boston, Roberts Brothers, 1895.

UK Edition: Typed version:  (same book as above), Volume II, London, Ellis + Elvey, 1895.

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Lion visits The Dirty Monk: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow visits Alfred, Lord Tennyson: 15-18 July 1868

Home of Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Farringford House
Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight, United Kingdom

American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow nicknamed 'The Lion' visited Poet Laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson at his home Farringford House on the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom during 15-18 July, 1868. He was accompanied by his two sisters, brother-in-law, 3 daughters, son, and daughter-in-law. The Longfellow clan stayed  at the Plumbly's Hotel and then Henry Ribbands' Bonchurch Hotel. 

On Thursday, July 16, 1868, Longfellow walked through the front entrance doors of Farringford House. Upon entering, the walls were lined with pictures including the length of the stairway. At the foot of the stairway was a bust of Dante on a table. Walking through a narrow passage that led to the breakfast room, you then continued on to The Drawing room filled with furniture; armchairs, sofa, desk in front of one oriel window. A small mask of Shakespeare hung  on the wall over the bookshelves. 
Lady Tennyson
wife of Lord Tennyson
Photograph by Oscar Rejlander

Mrs. Tennyson received Longfellow and family in the dining room. He describes Lady Tennyson:

A very lovely and attractive lady, exceedingly delicate looking in health - dressed in black silk deeply trimmed with crape - with a most simple bit of white lace edged with silk gimp falling from the front of her head back, and down to her shoulders - plain black hair tied behind at the neck with a broad black ribbon the ends trimmed with crape.

The Longfellow family had lunch with Alfred and Emily Tennyson. However, Alfred was the last to enter the room. As he passed each member of the Longfellow family, he shook each hand individually eventually making his way to take his seat at the head of the table next to his wife. They dined on mutton they raised themselves.

The following day, there was afternoon tea on the grounds of Farringford House with Longfellow and Tennyson seated next to Mrs. Tennyson. Around twenty women were invited to approach Longfellow to shake hands with him. Mrs. Tennyson held Longfellow's hand at one point thinking he was nervous but he was very agreeable and reportedly enjoyed the day. 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron
July, 1868, Isle of Wight, UK

A funny story was reported by Mrs. Tennyson how neighbor to Tennyson, photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron residing within walking distance at her home, Dimbola Lodge, Isle of Wight, heard that Longfellow was visiting Tennyson that July week and came bounding up the road to Farringford House to talk to Alfred about having the American poet sit for her so she could photograph him. Alfred warned I mean told Longfellow that she was a friend and neighbor and he basically had no choice. Needless to say, they visited Dimbola Lodge with Tennyson departing with these words...

Longfellow, you will have to do whatever she tells you. I'll come back soon and see what is left of you!

Below is one surviving stanza of a poem Longfellow wrote to Tennyson.

To Alfred Tennyson 
By Henry Wadsworth Longellow

Poet! I come to touch thy lance with mine;
  Not as a knight, who on the listed field
  Of tourney touched his adversary's shield
  In token of defiance, but in sign
Of homage to the mastery, which is thine,
  In English song; nor will I keep concealed,
  And voiceless as a rivulet frost-congealed,
  My admiration for thy verse divine.
Not of the howling dervishes of song,
  Who craze the brain with their delirious dance,
  Art thou, O sweet historian of the heart!
Therefore to thee the laurel-leaves belong,
  To thee our love and our allegiance,
  For thy allegiance to the poet's art. 

Anne Longfellow Pierce, 'A visit to Farringford,' Boston University Studies in English, (1955) 96-8.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A prayer and a poem by Julia Margaret Cameron - March and July 1871

Julia Margaret Cameron and her daughter Julia Hay Norman
unknown photographer

Julia Margaret Cameron wrote a prayer during her first pregnancy with her daughter, Julia, dated,July 8, 1838. It is entitled, 'Prayer written when I quickened with my first child'. In October, 1871, she  included it in a letter to her son, Hardinge, who was living in Ceylon. This prayer was written on one sheet of paper separated into four leaves by lines across each section.

Prayer written when I quickened with my first child by Julia Margaret Cameron

Most merciful Lord God who in Thy loving kindness dost bestow upon me blessings which I deserve not & in Thy mercy dost spare me punishments which I most justly deserve listen oh listen I beseech thee to the voice of this Thy Servant who would lift up her heart in thanksgiving & pour out her soul in prayer to Thee. With every power of my heart do I thank & praise thee most holy God for the blessed hope and promise of offspring which thou hast granted me. Oh perfect I beseech Thee the great work of creation which Thou hast now quickened with the breath of life my in due time be safely born into the world and may thro Thy care & blessing be preserved to be a comfort to its Parents and thro Thy grace 7 guidance a glory to Thy Church. Preserve me if such by Thy will thro' the pain and peril of Childbirth and spare my life, enabling me thro Thy assistance to perform my duties to Thee, to my best beloved and darling Husband, and to the Child or Children with which Thou mayst bless me. enable me with a firm soul and a steady heart to support the hour of my trial feeling strong in Thy strength and resting firm dependence on the promise that Thou wilt allow no danger to befal me no accident or evil to come near to hurt me which is not ordered in Thy wisdom for my clerical good & that of those most dear to me. And on this hope do I most heavenly Father wholly & entirely set my trust, only beseeching Thee if Thou should'st think fit to remove me from this world to bestow in mercy a double portion of Thy tender care on my poor desolate husband and Motherless Child. For my Husband I more especially entreat Thy protection. In mercy hear the cry of my soul and be unto him a Father and a Friend, a God of love and of Campassion, a Saviour, a Comforter and a Redeemer. Most blessed Lord forsake him neither by night nor by day. take thy watch about his path and about his bed and direct all his ways. Thou alone dost know how fondly dear This my husband is to me, how great is his tenderness, how true is his love. Thou knowest that I have only been too prone to make him my earthly Idol and thus have feared to offend Thee-thou knowest also that his constant tenderness has sweetened every hour of my life & that my only grief has been that his faith is not yet fixed on the Saviour, the Rock of Ages in whom I trust & to whom I make my prayer. Thine eye canst see what no human eye has beheld & my secret sorrow is not hidden from thee. If it be then Thy will that I should die in Childbirth my last prayer is that Thou shouldst grant me in death the blessing I have so earnestly desired in life and enlighten his mind so as to enable him to see more clearly & to believe more fully spiritual things. Grant that in becoming a Parent his heart may be touched with Thy mercies and He may more earnestly seek & desire Thy favour, and when he seeks oh grant in mercy that he may find. Open to him the veil of Thy sanctuary and engrave upon his soul the blessed truths of thy gospel so that the Saviour may become to him his only hope & the Saviour's blood seal him with the seal lof redemption. When he is in affliction and his widowed heart doth mourn for heaviness do Thou send him that peace which this world cannot give-comfort him with Thy love and enable him to fix a steady eye of faith on the hope which is my abiding trust & joy that we may thro' our Saviour's merits be finally reunited in the realms of bliss above-and having implored This thy Heavenly Care and Watchfulness for one who is more dear to me than tongue can tell I would beseech thee to calm my mind and enable me to leave this earthly scene without regret having made my peace with Thee. Now that I have time left me on earth may I endeavour unceasingly to finish the work of my salvation and to prepare my mind simply to believe and that i may believe may I be constant in prayer fervent in spirit serving the Lord. Now whilst I have health may I make the Saviour my friend so that if the dangers of Childbearing are great I may bear them with a quiet soul having made my peace with Thee. And in the hour of death let not my heart be troubled but enable me to enter Eternity with humble faith in that Redeemer who is sufficient to save the greatest of sinners who pout their trust in him. But should I be spared to rise from my bed of sickness and know the fullness of a Mother's joy oh grant that I may live to praise and magnify Thy Holy name for all thy mercies towards me. Grant me the assistance of Thy Spirit in enabling me to watch over the body & soul of my Infant & spare me to be a tender and loving wife to my husband giving us both joyful and contented hearts that we may gratefully receive the blessings of which a Parent's heart must be full. And when possessing the gifts-may we not forget the Giver of all good but so walk in this world as to secure a continuance of thy mercy both here and in the world to come. through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour & Redeemer.

The following poem, Farewell of the Body to the Soul, was written by Julia on March 19, 1871 and included in a letter to her son, Hardinge in Ceylon, on October 19th, 1871.

Farewell of the Body to the Soul by Julia Margaret Cameron

Sweet soul of mine! my closest dearest Friend
Forgive me ere we part all injury done
All warfare now between us has an end
Thy frail companion now his race has run

How oft when soaring with a wish divine
I've dragged thee down, and laid thee in the dust
Tricked with false promise glorious hopes of thine
Dwarfed all thy stature, made thy brightness rust

And thou didst ne'er resent, but oft and oft
In the night watches would'st invoke me still
In accent loud and strong-or sweet and soft
To give thee liberty to have Thy will

How oft in playful combat we would strive
If sweet cajolery would win the race
Now thy pure essence free of me shall live,
We part sweet soul! Smile on my pallid face.

Thou wingst thy flight art thou of me so tired?
Let us be friends at least-oh why that start?
Thou find'st thy freedom oft so much desired
Forgive and love me-flow-distinct-apart

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Review: The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis

Before they became legendary writers, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, and Anne Brontë were detectors in this charming historical mystery…

Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters—the Brontë sisters—learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.

These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent “lady detectors.” Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, “detecting is reading between the lines—it’s seeing what is not there.”

As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril…

Hardcover | $26.00  

Published by Berkley a division of Penguin Random House
Sep 10, 2019 | 304 Pages | 6 x 9| ISBN 9780593099056

“For it seems that in the early hours of this morning the second Mrs.Chester’s bedchamber was found empty, except for great quantities of blood painted across every surface with no signs of the young woman, nor her remains. She is feared dead of course, but it cannot be determined with any certainty, as she is quite vanished.”

What happened to Elizabeth Chester?  Was she murdered and taken from Chester Grange?

Travel back to summer, 1845, Yorkshire, where the Bronte sisters: Anne, Emily, and Charlotte find out about a death at Chester Grange located just a few miles from Haworth Parsonage. The sisters governess friend, Matilda French works there. They must pay her a visit and give their condolences. If they happen to take a look around Chester Grange and start ‘detecting,’what’s the harm in that?

UK Cover 

Can I just say how very much I loved this book!  I’m not sure if the author, Rowan Coleman intended for her dialogue scenes between the three Bronte sisters and brother Branwell to be funny but I was laughing out loud during chapter one. I could picture all of them in my head and the writing is just so clever. 

I loved following the Bronte sisters on their visit to Chester Grange as they met some of the Chester family and employees. I felt as if I was right there with Charlotte, Emily and Anne as they put the pieces together of the disappearance of the vanished bride, Elizabeth Chester. 

There are twists and turns behind the life of the second Mrs.Chester. I found myself happily surprised at how the mystery unravels. The Vanished Bride is just good fun to read and a good mystery as well. I have to thank Berkley for sending me a review copy.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Dante Gabriel Rossetti napping and Lizzie Siddal

D.G. Rossetti Napping by Ford Madox Brown
Writing on right side reads:
as seen
August 18/79

I love the way he’s balancing his legs on the top of the sofa.

Rossovestita by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1850

Note Rossetti’s name on top:
Dante Rossetti
Fece in Londra

This was the first time Elizabeth Siddal modeled for Rossetti.

St. George and the Princess Sabra by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1862
 Elizabeth Siddal sat for this just a few days before her death.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Review: The Mother of The Brontes by Sharon Wright

At long last, the untold story of the mysterious Mrs Brontë.

 They were from different lands, different classes, different worlds almost.

 The chances of Cornish gentlewoman Maria Branwell even meeting the poor Irish curate Patrick Brontë in Regency England, let alone falling passionately in love, were remote.

 Yet Maria and Patrick did meet, making a life together as devoted lovers and doting parents in the heartland of the industrial revolution. An unlikely romance and novel wedding were soon followed by the birth of six children. They included Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë, the most gifted literary siblings the world has ever known.

 Her children inherited her intelligence and wit and wrote masterpieces such as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Yet Maria has remained an enigma while the fame of her family spread across the world. It is time to bring her out of the shadows, along with her overlooked contribution to the Brontë genius.

 Untimely death stalked Maria as it was to stalk all her children. But first there was her fascinating life’s story, told here for the first time by Sharon Wright.

By Sharon Wright
Imprint: Pen & Sword History 
Pages: 200
Illustrations: 32
ISBN: 9781526738486
Published: 8th July 2019
Last Released: 7th October 2019

‘A few days since, a little incident happened which curiously touched me. Papa put into my hands a little packet of letters and papers, telling me that they were mamma’s, and that I might read them. I did read them, in a frame of mind I cannot describe. The papers were yellow with time, all having been written before I was born. It was strange now to peruse, for the first time, the records of a mind whence my own sprang; and most strange, and at once sad and sweet, to find that mind of a truly fine, pure, and elevated order. They were written to papa before they were married. There is a rectitude, a refinement, a constancy, a modesty, a sense, a gentleness about them indescribable. I wish she had lived, and that I had known her.’  (Charlotte Bronte in a letter to Ellen Nussey. Sharon Wright, Author, page, 157).

This is such a special biography of Maria Branwell, a Cornish woman, who married Patrick Bronte and birthed three legendary genius female sisters and authors. The likes of which will not come again. I’m so thankful to Pen & Sword for my review copy and for the authors incredible research into a woman scarcely known about until now.

Chapters covering both Maria and Patrick’s early life, siblings, education, help to humanize them while lifting the veil shrouded by myth and legend. Exciting for me were the chapters charting the course for that fated meeting between Maria Branwell and Patrick Bronte. The author went further including nieces, close friends, landowners, religious factions, etc. 

I read this biography from the perspective of finding parallels between mother Maria and her daughters. It was fascinating to glimpse similarities in disposition between mother and daughter, Charlotte even at her tender age of five years old. There were a few interesting situations or events that might remind one of parts of Jane Eyre but I won’t go there. 

Reading about the history of Haworth pertaining to the arrival of Rev. and Mrs. Bronte was wonderful. Ponden Hall as well includes mentions of Robert Heaton which jarred my memory back to another recent Bronte novel, The Girl at the Window which I loved.

I would definitely recommend, The Mother of The Brontes to any Bronte fan. The epilogue at the end of the book was helpful and Maria’s letters are there to read as well. None of Patrick Brontes letters to his wife survive but I hold out hope of discovery one day!  

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Soon to be published Bronte article

I am very happy to share the news that my article on the friendship of Charlotte Bronte and Ellen Nussey will be published in a Bronte themed issue of an online magazine to be published early next year. I will post the link upon publication. For now, I’m waiting for the editor to send me the edits for approval. 


Sunday, September 22, 2019

Review of The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman

A house full of history is bound to have secrets... 

Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It's also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from... 

Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead. 

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present... 

  • Imprint: Ebury Press (Fiction)
  • ISBN: 9781785032462
  • Length: 464  Pages
  • RRP: £7.99

  • The bedroom inside Ponden Hall in Yorkshire believed to inspire Emily Bronte to begin to write, Wuthering Heights complete with box bed and the window where Cathy’s ghost wraps on.

    “This is what I understand about love, now. Love isn’t a transaction, it’s not a quid pro cuo. 
    It’s a force that goes far beyond that, a promise and a vow. It’s a declaration that says ‘I will always be at your side, even when you are far from mine. I will never leave you without an ally. I am yours.’ ”

    Author, Rowan Coleman, uses a Wuthering Heights reference for the title of her deliciously spooky and compelling novel, The Girl at the Window. The title eludes to the opening scene in Wuthering Heights where Cathy’s ghost wraps on the window wanting to come inside. The author brilliantly and cunningly takes the gothic tropes from Emily Bronte’s novel, Wuthering Heights  and uses them as the basis of Trudy and Abe’s storyline juxtaposed against the dual narrative of the seventeenth century love story of Robert and Catherine. I am incredibly impressed by this novel; especially, Rowan Coleman’s beautiful writing style and storytelling abilities. This is my introduction to the author but not the last of her novels I shall read.

     Let’s just say Trudy has a contentious relationship with her mother who did not approve of Abe. After Abe disappears, Trudy leaves her home and takes her ten year old son, Will back to her childhood home, Ponden Hall where her mother still resides. I loved reading the chapters between mother, daughter and grandson to see how their relationships mature and old wounds heal. 

    If you enjoy love stories that are wrapped up in historical, fairytale magic, sprinkled with hardships and gothic elements, than this novel is for you! The Girl at the Window is unputdownable especially if you believe in a love that transcends time. 

    Thank you to Ebury Press for my review copy.

    This novel is not published in the United States but can be purchased internationally and or locally at Amazon UK

    Sunday, July 28, 2019

    Charlotte Bronte: The Last Surviving Bronte Sister Gets Married

    Rev. Arthur Bell Nicholls and his wife, Charlotte Nicholls (née Bronte)

    The evils that now and then wring a groan from my heart lie in position not that I am a single woman and likely to remain a single woman but because I am a lonely woman and likely to be lonely. But it cannot be helped and therefore imperatively must be borne and borne too with as few words about it as may be. (Charlotte Bronte written in 1852 before her marriage in 1854)

    In reading Charlotte Bronte’s letters, my hope is to provide an understanding of who Mrs.Nicholls was as a married woman and vicar’s wife; taking the focus off the author of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte.  You see, her letters clearly show a spinster well aware of her duty to care for her aging and ailing father. Especially since by the time of her engagement, she was the sole remaining sibling. 
    I11 April 1854, in a letter to her dear friend, Ellen Nussey,

    Dear Ellen, I am engaged.
    I am still very calm very inexpectant. What I taste of happiness is of the soberest order. I trust to love my husband. I am grateful for his tender love to me. I believe him to be an affectionate a conscientious a high principled man and if with all this, I should yield to regrets that fine talents, congenial tastes and thoughts are not added it seems to me I should be most presumptuous and thankless. 
    Providence offers me this destiny. Doubtless then it is the best for me. Nor do I shrink from wishing those dear to me one not less happy.
    It is possible that our marriage may take place in the course of the Summer. Mr.Nicholls wishes it to be in July. I mean the marriage to be as quiet as possible. There is a strange half sad feeling  in making these announcements. The whole thing is something other than imagination paints it beforehand: cares, fears come mixed inextricably with hopes. Mr. Nicholls - Arthur as I now call him.

    One of the few remnants from Charlotte’s wedding to Arthur Bell Nicholls, is a fragment of a letter to Elizabeth Gaskell explaining her feelings about her wedding dress, etc.,

    My conscience is satisfied a sort of fawn colored silk and a drab barrage with a little green spot in it. Of the third the wedding dress I wholly decline the responsibility. Nothing would satisfy some of my friends but white which I told you I would not wear. Accordingly they dressed me in white by way of trial vowed away their consciences that nothing had ever suited me so well and white I had to buy and did buy to my own amazement but I took care to get it in cheap material there were some insinuations about silk, tulle, and I don’t know what but I stuck convulsively to muslin plain book muslin with a tuck or two. Also the white veil I took care should be a matter of 5s being simply of tulle with little tucks. If I must make a fool of myself it shall be on an economical plan. Now I have told you all.   CB. 

    Charlotte Bronte and Arthur Bell Nicholls married on 29 June 1854.  They honeymooned in Wales first, then throughout the South West Coast of Ireland to stay with Arthur's family. 

    This is my favorite bit of her life; when our beloved authoress chooses love, life, and joy albeit briefly. She left Charlotte Bronte (CB) behind to become CB Nicholls, vicar's wife.  It was her husband who didn't want any of her letters to survive.  I'm so grateful to her dear friend Ellen Nussey for keeping her letters. For it may truly be one of the only ways we discover the soft, feminine side of this married woman. Dear Reader, Charlotte Bronte was in love!

    The following excerpts are from Charlotte's letters, in her own words, written during her honeymoon. They are beautiful declarations of love for her husband Arthur.

    On the day of our wedding we went to Wales. The weather was not very favorable there. Yet by making the most of opportunity we contrived to see some splendid Scenery. One drive indeed from Llanberis to Beddgelert surpassed anything I remember of the English Lakes. 

    We afterwards took the packet from Holyhead to Dublin. From Dublin we went to Banagher where Mr. Nicholls relations live and spent a week amongst them.
    Arthur Bell Nicholls family home in Banagher, Ireland
    Mentioned above

    I had heard a great deal of Irish negligence &c. I own that till I came to Kilkee I saw little of it.  Here at our Inn splendidly designated  "the West End Hotel" there is a good deal to carp at if one were in a carping humour but we laugh instead of grumbling for out of doors there is much indeed to compensate for any indoor short-comings; so magnificent an ocean so bold and grand a coast I never yet saw. My husband calls me. (CB Nicholls to Catherine Wooler, 18 July 1845, Kilkee. Co. Clare, Ireland)
    The West End Hotel,1912

    Catherine Winkworth (Katie)

    Dear Katie,
    I'm at a little wild spot on the south west coast of Ireland that your letter reached me. Yes! I am married. A month ago this very day (July 27th) I changed my name.

    Such a wild rock-bound coast: with such an ocean view as I had not yet seen and such battling of waves with rocks as I had never imagined!

    My husband is not a poet or poetical man. The first morning we went out on to the cliffs and saw the Atlantic coming in, all white foam, I did not know whether I should get leave or time to take the matter in my own way. I did not want to talk,but I did want to look and be silent. Having hinted a petition license was not refused; covered with a rug to keep off the spray, I was allowed to sit where I chose, and he only interrupted me when he thought I crept too near the edge of the cliff. So far, he is always good in this way,and this protection which does not interfere or pretend, is, I believe, a thousand times better than any half sort of pseudo sympathy. I will try with God's help to be as indulgent to him whenever indulgence is needed.  (CB Nicholls to Catherine Winkworth, Cork, July 30th 1854)

     They were only married for nine months when tragically Charlotte would pass away from what's believed to have been hyperemesis gravidurum or detrimental vomiting due to pregnancy. She passed away with her husband by her bedside on 31 March 1855.

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