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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

peripatetics - Bronte Parsonage and Museum

Having dispensed of the sports topic (for now, at least), I thought I would do some posts of some of my "literary-themed" travels.  My visit to Haworth, England still stands as one of my most cherished.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere my “pilgrimage” some years ago to Haworth, England (on my painting blog, smallgreycat.blogspot.com - 9 June 2010, 15 February 2011, and 19 March 2011), to see the Bronte Parsonage Museum, and wander the moors.

Like many others, I read Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre in high school and became… let’s say, rather obsessed, re-reading it a number of times and devouring her other books (though – if anyone’s even still reading this, it will be other devotees who may have had a similar experience – I didn’t find her other books nearly as revelatory.  The Professor I found to be a pale precursor, Villette, which I liked, something of a re-write of Jane Eyre, and Shirley well-intended but not very compelling).  I went on to read Anne Bronte’s two novels, which I liked moderately well, and then, finally, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, which I enjoyed slightly less than Jane Eyre but appreciated much more.  Emily Bronte, I thought, was ultimately the superior writer of the three.  I also enjoyed Elisabeth Gaskell’s biography of Charlotte Bronte and Juliet Barker’s excellent biography of the Brontes, as well as the accompanying Letters.  That’s a brief encapsulation of the material of my obsession, though not the meat of it.

Despite Charlotte Bronte’s admirable stated agenda of asserting a feminist credo, I, much less nobly, was responding in a visceral sense to the melodrama – the passion, the atmosphere.  No doubt the Brontes would be rolling over in their graves if they knew that they were one of the progenitors to a slew of bodice-ripping romances, but I think it’s safe to say it happened.  That wasn’t their only legacy, of course.  They’ve inspired feminist literature, as well (Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea being a prime example).  But, still, Charlotte Bronte will forever be known as the author who brought us Edward Rochester, and Emily Bronte, Heathcliff (despite the fact that Heathcliff was a sadistic brute).  The romance between Jane Eyre and Rochester, in particular, was forever branded on my impressionable late adolescent psyche, and to this day continues to fuel my need to see every latest film version of the book that comes out.

It also compelled me to make my little pilgrimage.

I’m so glad I went.  I guess I’m easily amused, but I still get giddy thinking about it.

As I mentioned on my painting blog, I did not run into any Rochesters or non-sadistic brute Heathcliffs.  Alas.  Nothing that exciting.

Aside from meandering through the museum (which was very cool), I set out to roam the moors.  It was a rather blustery, chilly day, overcast and threatening rain.  The moors were largely devoid of any other trekking tourists, so it was just me and the sheep (of which there was quite a number).  I made my way up to Top Withens,thought to be the inspiration for the Earnshaw house in Wuthering Heights.  I remember being struck with how harsh and isolated the landscape was, the endless rolling, barren hills, and could see, feel how it infused the all the Brontes’ novels.

I’m including some pictures I took while I was there to add visual interest to this posting.  I’m also including a sketch of me on the moors and painting I did based on one of the photographs, which I already posted on my painting blog last year.

walking up Main Street
looking back
the church
heading out to the moors
meandering through the misty moors
more meandering
Top Withens
Top Withens and the view beyond
painted version of the same

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