This week saw Charlotte Bronte’s 201st birthday. Since moving to Yorkshire 18 months ago, I’ve been highly aware of the Bronte’s sisters’ impact and their historical presence. You can hardly move for sites with a connection to the Brontes here!
In honour of the occasion, on Friday I picked up my copy of Jane Eyre, the first Bronte novel I read. I found this conversation between Jane and Rochester.
‘I was tormented by the contrast between my idea and my handiwork: in each case I had imagined something which I was quite powerless to realize.”
They are talking about Jane’s paintings, but I wonder if Charlotte herself ever felt this way about her writing. I’m revising a novel draft currently and these words ring true for me.
There’s a concept in my head, a picture, an atmosphere and a sense of something I am trying to articulate. It’s about hope and deep disappointment, the wind and the fog that come in off the North Sea to the grass-topped cliffs, and the question of whether it’s possible to be a hero in the real world where there are no dragons to slay. Like Jane and Charlotte, I find myself comparing what I’ve created against these ideas so make sure I don’t stray too far off course.
Not for the first time, I find I’m surprised and impressed by how insightful these sisters could be, especially when they wrote much of their work at such a young age.
Do you find this too? Do you ever feel like you’re presenting ‘the shadow of your thought‘?
As an aside, I read Agnes Grey last weekend, by Anne Bronte, who is generally the least admired of the sisters. I’d been told that she was criticised for writing less sensationalist books than Charlotte or Emily and even accused of being boring. But ever since I accidentally found her grave on a trip to Scarborough I’ve felt quite protective of Anne. She died at the age of 29, and still somehow achieved enough to be remembered today. And I really enjoyed Agnes Grey, finishing it in under 24 hours. You’re not boring, Anne!
Anyway, soap box moment over, let’s get back to the topic where we started. Happy birthday Charlotte!