Monday, July 14, 2008

If you are cast in a different mould to the majority,
it is no merit of yours:
Nature did it.
Charlotte Bronte

I was a Bronte girl. In the bookworm years of my youth, one was either a Bronte girl or an Austen girl, and I was enough of a dreamer to fall solidly into the first camp. The wild, romantic visions of Emily and Charlotte caught my fancy early on and held me firmly in their grasp. My more pragmatic friends continually extolled the virtues and sagacity of Jane, but I preferred to wander on the windswept moors of the Bronte’s gothic imagination. As I grew older, bit by bit, the quite remarkable wisdom of Miss Austen began to gradually reveal itself to me. The more people I encountered, the more experiences I garnered, the wiser she seemed to become. How did a two hundred year old spinster author know so much about humankind today? As I considered her characters I began to realize that they actually appeared to be prototypes of every sort of individual walking around. That person? “Oh, he’s certainly a Mr. Knightley”. And that one? “Exactly the same characteristics of a Colonel Brandon, don’t you agree?” And who among us hasn’t known an Elizabeth or a Marianne or, God help us, a Mrs. Bennet or Mr. Collins, maybe even a Willoughby? By contrast, while they certainly are enduring characters, it is perhaps less possible we have encountered a Heathcliff, a Cathy, a Grace Poole, or a Bertha Mason in our time, nor, I would guess, would we wish to. Indeed, upon a re-reading of Wuthering Heights this past Spring, the once achingly romantic Heathcliff now seemed just a trifle, dare I say, unhinged?

This past weekend, I was fortunate to attend the inaugural meeting of a brand new Jane Austen book club. As I listened to the thoughts of those present on the personalities and idiosyncrasies of the inhabitants of the land of Austen, I was impressed once again by the singular insight and prescient wisdom she possessed in her understanding of humankind. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. After all , we were told in Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun. The way we were is the way we are, and Jane makes this clear. The plan for this new club is to read the entire canon of Austen, and I look forward to revisiting these books at this time in my life. I know I will gain new insight, both on myself and on those around me. It should be a fascinating journey.

But still, no doubt, on some upcoming blustery autumn night, you may find me once more up on the moors above Thornfield Hall, with my hood up, my cape billowing behind me in the wind and Pilot by my side.
Once a Bronte girl, always a Bronte girl.


  1. Oh I love that phrase, "Bronte girl". It sort of reminds me of "The Brodie Set" (from the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie)".

    I think its utterly amazing that so much of what Jane Austen wrote still applies plus meme change, la plus meme chose, or something like that (French is not really my forte!).

    I too, was by turns, a Bronte girl, a Du Maurier girl, an Austen girl, and, of course, a Nancy Drew sleuth....

    One's early influences never really and totally loosen their grip on us....

    Wonderful post.

  2. I prefer Bronte, too. Your brand new book club sounds like an enjoyable venture! You will have to keep us updated on your bits of Austen wisdom.

  3. "The way we were is the way we are, and Jane makes this clear."
    A wonderful review, I must say! Culminating in a great line like that, you're sure to inspire some new Austen fans.
    Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books of all time, so I have to say I would have been a Bronte girl too. I have to agree with you on first influences. What you read stays with you forever if it was read at the precise right time.
    Have you read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell? I love that book so very much.
    But I know that had I not read it exactly when I did, I might never have been inclined to pick it up. It was chance, that was all, and I'm so glad I got to read it.

  4. What a wonderful bookclub! This spot really spoke to me as I could relate to so much of what you shared. My favorite book(and movie) as a girl was Wuthering Heights. I didn't read Jane Austen until I was an adult and it wasn't until then that I discovered her wisdom...For years I had been wrapped up in the euphoric dream of meeting Heathcliff on the Moors. I envisioned myself as Merle Oberon in the tree with Olivier by my side watching the party at the Earnshaw's...For years I lived with the misconception that Heathcliff was indeed something all together different. It wasn't until TNT released their movie adaptation with Ralph Fiennes and Juilette Binoche that I decided to re-read the novel and came to the conclusion that I must have been in a state of complete denial about Heathcliff and his cruelty...Still...a part of me can't help but feel compassion for him and his loss...So, I guess a part of me will always remain a Bronte girl and the other an Austen woman...Oh..and don't get me started on Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester! ;)

  5. If you go walking on the moor with Pilot... Edward WILL NOT be happy!

  6. Oh my...what a fun've got me wanting to hide away in a quiet corner of my garden and while away the day reading ....I'm fond of both Bronte and Austen and find reading them over again now and then, no effort whatsoever :)

  7. Utterly delightful post!! I totally relish reading Jane Austen - she is one of my very favorites. I also adore Jane Eyre...have you seen the version with William Hurt?? I love how he portrays Mr. Rochester. I must've read Jane Eyre and Jane Austen's books ten times and they just get better and better. I tried Wuthering Heights about 20 years ago, and just couldn't get into it. I thought Heathcliff was a jerk...but I only vaguely remember the book now. I think my all time favorite book is Middlemarch by George Elliott....have you read her?

    I was looking at your side bars. Enchanted April's author is Elizabeth von Arnim, isn't it? And I've read the Perelandra series which is where your dog quote comes from, me thinks. But forgive my ignorance, who is Gertrude Jekyll...perhaps I know and I've just forgotten?? BTW...Enchanted April is the most restful film I've ever seen. My blood pressure literally drops when I'm immersed in that movie!!

    Tell Edward hi from Chauncey!!

  8. What a wonderful thing to find your comment on mine this morning - and to be led here! It would be worth it for the pictures alone, which are just delicious, the kind of thing that seems so familiar and just right, yet that I don't see very often, how clever to find them! And your writing's just lovely too, and to cap it all there's Edward! I'll certainly be coming back here regularly.

    I think many teenagers prefer all the turmoil and passion of the Brontes, though I always found Wuthering Heights a bit too overwrought and mad, and Jane takes a bit more maturity perhaps. But thien I see someone's beaten me to it, I'm really a Middlemarch girl!

  9. A Bronte girl who's learned to appreciate Austen is pretty well-rounded, in my opinion! As for myself, I very much enjoyed the Bronte sisters' poetry more than I did Emily's "Wuthering Heights." I suppose I would have to classify myself as an Austen girl, though, because no book, other than my bible, is more worn than my P&P!

    One day, I hope to join an Austen book club as well. What fun! I look forward to your insights!! I just love how eloquently you express your thoughts.... So glad you stopped by my blog. Otherwise, I would have been missing out on some great writing!

  10. Ah love 'em both, but yes--growing up, Bronte (and Frances Hodgson Burnett) girl, and now living, breathing Austen :-)

    I went to Bath for the first time last year and celebrated my birthday with lunch in the Pump Room. I was GIDDY! My poor husband wasn't sure what to do with me.

  11. I, too, was a Bronte girl. Jane Eyre being one of my favorite books. Perhaps reading something as powerful as an impressionable youth had something to do with that?

    I actually saw a movie recently, called, "The Jane Austin Book Club," which was about "six Californians who start a club to discuss the works of Jane Austen, only to find their relationships -- both old and new -- begin to resemble 21st century versions of her novels." You can look up the movie trailer on Google. It is based on the novel by Karen Joy Fowler. It was very enjoyable!

    Best of luck with your wonderful book group!

  12. Hi Pamela, Yes that sweet girl Miss Winnie Dixon is a pretty one and the most absolute best girlfriend ... she and I would love to see a photo of dear Apple. Perhaps a photo of Edward & Apple together. Best regards from Nova Scotia, S & Winn

    ps. I'm afraid I'm neither a Bronte girl or a Jane Austen girl. I think I'm more of a Candace Bushnell girl. Wink.

  13. Great post!
    My almost 16 year old son is reading Pride and Prejudice this summer (required reading for school--not his choice) and I have to giggle as he tries to get used to the writing style. (Mom, why doesn't she just get too the point?) I'm hoping that if he hangs in there, he'll fall in love as I did with the book. The characters will be ones he can recognize from his own experience with people.
    Very interesting!

  14. Indeed, indeed. Reading J Eyre at 13 yrs old, imprinted a certain mien on my personality! But like you I came to recognise the wisdom of Austin. however, as it is so cold and stormy where I live right now, I think I will have to get my old and tattered copy of Jane Eyre off the shelf!

  15. How very true. Waht a delightful read. My wife can so relate!

  16. I'm glad you and Edward paid a visit. While you are always the lady, I know Edward will appeal to the rougher side of me. Dogs have that instinctive way about them. They won't even tell on you if you hear them scratching in the middle of the night and get up to pick fleas off them. Ahh, the creature comforts and kinship that develop from really caring. Dogs don't much care for literature, I've learned, only the heart. That's all they're looking for - a girl with heart. Sounds like Edward found his girl. Actually, dogs are quite jealous of reading, I've found. So I always reserve a little time after reading, before the lights are out for scratching and punky play. It does wonders for my 14 year old puppy and a wonder or two for me. nice to meet you. keep up the good posts because i've added you to my links.

  17. Hi thank you for your lovely comments.
    I used to live not too far from Bath and now live not too far from Haworth. The places to me sum up the styles of writing and their characters. You have the upright almost regimental architecture of Bath where everything is in place and the facades hide what is different behind them. Then you have Haworth in the wild moors where the hills go on and on for miles with hardly any people. Here things are less controlled where humans are still trying to combat wild nature.

    I'm a Bronte girl- Austin left me cold when I was ill as a child and got given her complete works to read. They felt formulaic and I'm still waiting to be more mature before re-reading them. Having said that, my hair does do a Mrs Rochester if I'm not careful. :-) Lovely blog!

  18. Wonderful blog, Pamela. Alas, I don't think I was ever a Bronte girl - I never 'got' all that wild passion, much to my disappointment. Jane Austen's controlled style with it's beautifully drawn characters with their subtle flaws was much more my thing. Not sure who I'd be, though - I always loved Emma best, but not sure I would be quite clever enough.

  19. Well, I too am a Bronte girl! I have written in this blog entry as the most recent about it:
    There is something very special about these three sisters and their wonderful books. But it goes deeper for me as I have a special place in my heart for Haworth too. I enjoy Jane any day of the year but the Brontes incite a passion in me. Good to hear there are so many others who feel this way too.

    Hugs ~

  20. Thank you for leaving a message, so that I can enjoy your lovely blog. How funny that you love books so much, when fate recently has kicked me up the behind to get me writing mine again. I must confess to being a Bronte girl and have come late to Ms Austen, but have decided that I must read her work. I love some of the TV adaptations of her books, so it's time I read the real thing and form my own opinions. Gosh, I'm waffling!

    Kim x

  21. Dear Mdm. of the House of Edward,
    Wonderful post. I'm a fan. Didn't learn how to read books till I was 25 yrs. These were some of my first. Your book club sounds like a good one!


  22. I really need to do more reading from both of these authors.

  23. I am betwixt the Austen and Bronte camps. Enjoy your book club, sounds wonderful.

  24. I was a Bronte Girl too! I fair breathed, Wuthering Heights and when Kate Bush came along, well, I couldn't get enough of it!
    I have also enjoyed the other Brontes - particularly the novel, Shirley. I studied (read)19th Century English Lit at university and the Brontes and Dickens were my favourites.

    I do enjoy a good Austen, but I am decidedly a "Bronte Girl".

    Thanks for your visit. I hope you enjoy the chili.


  25. I shall meet you on the moors for it was the least known Anne's The Tenant At Wildfell Hall that set my heart afire. Alas with her youthful death came the silence and termination of a sister probably as gifted as her siblings.


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