Sunday, July 22, 2018

Charlotte Bronte diary entry, "a day's weary wandering"


It is the still small voice alone that comes to me at eventide, that which like a breeze with a voice in it [comes] over the deeply blue hills & out of the now leafless forests & from the cities on distant river banks of a far & bright continent. It is that which wakes my spirit & engrosses all my living feelings, all my energies which are not merely mechanical, & like Haworth & home, wakes sensations which lie dormant elsewhere.

This is my favorite of Charlotte's diary entries. Written on 4, February, 1836, from Roe Head school, in Mirfield, at the age of nineteen just two months shy of her twentieth birthday and eleven years before the publication of Jane Eyre.

I find it to be one of her most telling and evocative pieces shedding some light onto her inspiration towards her writing process. She writes upon reflection to begin with then towards the end switches to voyeur as she narrates a very erotic imaginative juvenalia writing scene.

Formerly Roe Head School, Mirfield

Well, here I am at Roe-Head. It is seven o’clock at night, the young ladies are all at their lessons, the school-room is quiet, the fire is low, a stormy day is at this moment passing off in a murmuring and bleak night. I now assume my own thoughts; my mind relaxes from the stretch on which it has been for the last twelve hours & falls back onto the rest which no-body in this house knows of but myself.
I now, after a day’s weary wandering, return to the ark which for me floats alone on the face of this world’s desolate & boundless deluge. It is strange. I cannot get used to the ongoings that surround me. I fulfil my duties strictly & well, yet, so to speak, if the illustration be not profane, as God was not in the wind, nor the fire, nor the earth-quake, so neither is my heart in the task, the theme or the exercise. It is the still small voice alone that comes to me at eventide, that which like a breeze with a voice in it [comes] over the deeply blue hills & out of the now leafless forests & from the cities on distant river banks of a far & bright continent. It is that which wakes my spirit & engrosses all my living feelings, all my energies which are not merely mechanical, & like Haworth & home, wakes sensations which lie dormant elsewhere.
Last night I did indeed lean upon the thunder-wakening wings of such a stormy blast as I have seldom heard blow, & it whirled me away like heath in the wilderness for five seconds of ecstasy, and as I sat by myself in the dining-room while all the rest were at tea the trance seemed to descend on a sudden, & verily this foot trod the war-shaken shores of the Calabar & these eyes saw the defiled & violated Adrianopolis shedding its lights on the river from lattices whence the invader looked out & was not darkened.
I went through a trodden garden whose groves were crushed down. I ascended a great terrace, the marble surface of which shone wet with rain where it was not darkened by the mounds of dead leaves which were now showered on & now swept off by the vast & broken boughs which swung in the wind above them.
Up I went to the wall of the palace to the line of latticed arches which shimmered in light, passing along quick as thought, I glanced at what the internal glare revealed through the crystal. There was a room lined with mirrors & with lamps on tripods, & very darkened, & splendid couches & carpets & large half lucid vases white as snow, thickly embossed with whiter mouldings, & one large picture in a frame of massive beauty representing a young man whose gorgeous & shining locks seemed as if they would wave on the breath & whose eyes were half hid by the hand carved in ivory that shaded them & supported the awful looking coron[al?] head—a solitary picture, too great to admit of a companion—a likeness to be remembered full of beauty, not displayed, for it seemed as if the form had been copied so often in all imposing attitudes, that at length the painter, satiated with its luxuriant perfection, had resolved to conceal half & make the imperial Giant bend & hide under his cloudlike tresses, the radiance he was grown tired of gazing on.
Often had I seen this room before and felt, as I looked at it, the simple and exceeding magnificence of its single picture, its five colossal cups of sculptured marble, its soft carpets of most deep and brilliant hues, & its mirrors, broad, lofty, & liquidly clear. I had seen it in the stillness of evening when the lamps so quietly & steadily burnt in the tranquil air, & when their rays fell upon but one living figure, a young lady who generally at that time appeared sitting on a low sofa, a book in her hand, her head bent over it as she read, her light brown hair dropping in loose & unwaving curls, her dress falling to the floor as she sat in sweeping folds of silk. All stirless about her except her heart, softly beating under her satin bodice & all silent except her regular and very gentle respiration.
The haughty sadness of grandeur beamed out of her intent fixed hazel eye, & though so young, I always felt as if I dared not have spoken to her for my life, how lovely were the lines of her small & rosy mouth, but how very proud her white brow, spacious & wreathed with ringlets, & her neck, which, though so slender, had the superb curve of a queen’s about the snowy throat. I knew why she chose to be alone at that hour, & why she kept that shadow in the golden frame to gaze on her, & why she turned sometimes to her mirrors & looked to see if her loveliness & her adornments were quite perfect.
However this night she was not visible—no—but neither was her bower void. The red ray of the fire flashed upon a table covered with wine flasks, some drained and some brimming with the crimson juice. The cushions of a voluptuous ottoman which had often supported her slight, fine form were crushed by a dark bulk flung upon them in drunken prostration. Aye, where she had lain imperially robed and decked with pearls, every waft of her garments as she moved diffusing perfume, her beauty slumbering & still glowing as dreams of him for whom she kept herself in such hallowed & shrine-like separation wandered over her soul, on her own silken couch, a swarth & sinewy moor intoxicated to ferocious insensibility had stretched his athletic limbs, weary with wassail and stupefied with drunken sleep.
I knew it to be Quashia himself, and well could I guess why he had chosen the queen of Angria’s sanctuary for the scene of his solitary revelling. While he was full before my eyes, lying in his black dress on the disordered couch, his sable hair dishevelled on his forehead, his tusk-like teeth glancing vindictively through his parted lips, his brown complexion flushed with wine, & his broad chest heaving wildly as the breath issued in spurts from his distended nostrils, while I watched the fluttering of his white shirt ruffles starting through the more than half-unbuttoned waistcoat, & beheld the expression of his Arabian countenance savagely exulting even in sleep, Quashia triumphant Lord in the halls of Zamorna! in the bower of Zamorna’s lady! while this apparition was before me, the dining-room door opened and Miss W[ooler] came in with a plate of butter in her hand. “A very stormy night my dear!” said she. “It is ma’am,” said I.




Saturday, July 14, 2018

Review: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

When Cora Seaborne’s brilliant, domineering husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness: her marriage was not a happy one. Wed at nineteen, this woman of exceptional intelligence and curiosity was ill-suited for the role of society wife. Seeking refuge in fresh air and open space in the wake of the funeral, Cora leaves London for a visit to coastal Essex, accompanied by her inquisitive and obsessive eleven-year old son, Francis, and the boy’s nanny, Martha, her fiercely protective friend.
While admiring the sites, Cora learns of an intriguing rumor that has arisen further up the estuary, of a fearsome creature said to roam the marshes claiming human lives. After nearly 300 years, the mythical Essex Serpent is said to have returned, taking the life of a young man on New Year’s Eve. A keen amateur naturalist with no patience for religion or superstition, Cora is immediately enthralled, and certain that what the local people think is a magical sea beast may be a previously undiscovered species. Eager to investigate, she is introduced to local vicar William Ransome. Will, too, is suspicious of the rumors. But unlike Cora, this man of faith is convinced the rumors are caused by moral panic, a flight from true belief.
These seeming opposites who agree on nothing soon find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart—an intense relationship that will change both of their lives in ways entirely unexpected.
"In the darkness he grows afraid. There's something there, he feels it, biding its time-implacable, monstrous, born in water, always with an eye cocked in his direction. Out he looks to the black Blackwater and there it is again- something clearing the surface then subsiding - yes, all along its been there, waiting, and at last its found him out. "  (New Years Eve, The Essex Serpent)
This is a story of science and religion juxtaposed against Victorian societal norms of the day where the  presence of Gothic darkness and malicious intent prevails. What happens in a sleepy, Essex village when, Cora Seaborne, a quiet science loving spinster arrives to research the 300 year old myth of a death seeking serpent? Does such a beast really exist? 
 Who knew she would be courted by the cold and violent vicar , Will Ransome. Their marriage was volatile to say the least; they were such opposites until Cora meets Luke. He shares her curious spirit but all is not as it seems in the parish village of Aldwinter. If only she knew what she was about to unleash and its wrath would know no bounds.
Sarah Perry writes unlike anyone else. Her writing, phrasing and descriptions are so incredibly beautiful it was as if Wilkie Collins and Daphne du Maurier had a child. Sarah Perry is a wordsmith and I am her captive. Nobody rescue me I am happy living within the pages of her dark, Gothic environments. 


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

'A Parody' By Branwell Bronte


A Parody by Branwell Bronte
Manuscript/Artwork/Image
1848
@The Bronte Society
Bronte Parsonage Museum (shelfmark B28)

"Jack Shaw the guardsman and Jack painter of norfolk,"

question - "the half minute time is up, so come to the scratch; won't you?"
answer  - "Blast your eyes,  it's no use, for I cannot come!"

I find Branwell's  sketch a fascinating glimpse into his mind, humor and psyche.
Here we have a young man in bed quite sickly but just look at those muscular arms!
The death skeleton hand on nose or face mocking almost. I mean, its a parody Branwell writes so how seriously do we look at his drawing? 

Branwell drew this the year he died but what was his message? 

I just wanted to share this drawing because it casts so many thoughts of a young, talented man gone too soon.

To read my older article about Branwell Bronte


Virginia Woolf reflects on Christina Rossetti and Annie Thackeray Ritchie from Virginia Woolf's A Writer's Diary

  Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford platinum print, July, 1902 What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose knit an...