Even 200 years after their births (and longer in Patrick and Maria’s case), the Brontë family continue to inspire, entertain, and educate us. Through a perusal of their work and correspondence I’ve become acquainted with what I call the Brontë philosophy. This isn’t a set of hard and fast rules regarding how to live your life, but rather a general set of ideologies and ethics belonging to the family despite their differences in personality and writing style. For me 2018 has been a year of real highs and unbelievable lows, and my adoption of the Brontë philosophy has seen me through and helped me to come out fighting at the end of the year. Here’s a list of how the various family members and their words have inspired me in 2018.
Never Give Up
“I’m just going to write because I cannot help it” – Charlotte Brontë, Roe Head Journal, 1836
After receiving my MA in 2017, I became frustrated by my failed efforts to secure PhD funding and quite frankly, all of the suddenly useless Brontë knowledge I had floating around in my head. I poured a lot of this, particularly my juvenilia knowledge, into my dissertation on Charlotte’s Glass Town and Angrian writings, however, I felt once my degree had been completed and awarded, there was nothing for me to do with this information. After becoming disillusioned with searching for funding and attempting to put together PhD proposals without any academic assistance, I decided to start up Brontë Babe Blog in order to promote the Brontë juvenilia. I penned my first piece in July of that year, and then, well, absolutely nothing happened. Nobody read my post and I became disillusioned with the idea of blogging very quickly.
But I still had so much knowledge, and a keen desire to make my voice heard in order to bring the fascinating early works of the Brontë siblings to light. I decided I wasn’t going to give up despite several PhD funding rejections and adopted Charlotte’s philosophy; advised not to continue with her writing by Poet Laureate, Robert Southey, suffering the blow of only selling two copies of Poems, her joint publication with her sisters Emily and Anne, having her novel The Professor rejected by publishers whilst Anne’s Agnes Grey and Emily’s Wuthering Heights were accepted. Charlotte didn’t give up. A writer since childhood, and a child author determined to become a successful adult writer, Charlotte ignored Southey, rose above the rejections, and did what she did best; she wrote, and she wrote, because, like me, I believe she had things she wanted to communicate through her writing. Charlotte was so determined that after The Professor was rejected, she penned her masterpiece, Jane Eyre, which actually saw publication before her sisters’ previously accepted novels.
At the start of 2018, I began my paid internship at Liverpool Hope University in the Special Collections department of the library, and being back in a university setting, and being surrounded by so many gloriously old books brought my passion for literature, writing, reviewing back to the the surface. Although it still needled me that I couldn’t get funding for further study, I had my own words to write, and I was determined that people would read them. So I got back on the blogging bandwagon, penned some more posts, and advertised them on various social media platforms. It paid off and almost 12,000 readers have visited Brontë Babe Blog this year from all over the world, including some countries I’ve had to Google to see where they are. So my advice to anyone with the urge to write and information and/or stories to communicate: do it, you’ll never look back. Thank you Charlotte for continuing to inspire me.
People Can Be Cruel
“this bustling, vain, selfish world” – from Patrick Brontë’s funeral service for Reverend William Weightman, 2nd October 1842
I’ve had an overwhelming amount of support for my blog this year, and although some have disagreed with the opinions I have expressed in certain pieces (usually Branwell pieces 🙂 ), only one reader has taken the time to attack me personally. I blogged about my first experience with trolling in October in my post What Would Charlotte Brontë Do? (here’s a hint: keep writing because I can’t help it!), but I’m still shocked at the abuse I received. What made it worse was that this troll clearly hadn’t even bothered to read the posts in question before making their absurd and hurtful comments. Well, rest assured, I bit my tongue (keyboard? No, too weird), the comments were deleted, and I’ve never been bothered by them again. Perhaps they read my post about them.
Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, and everyone is more than welcome to leave comments on my posts, but I won’t tolerate personal attacks or abuse of any kind. Difference makes the world go around, however, there are more appropriate ways to address our differences in thinking than personal attacks. Although we’d like to be treated in the manner we treat others, this doesn’t always happen, and for me, my run in with a troll was a stark reminder that we live in what Patrick referred to as “this bustling, vain, selfish world”. I hope I haven’t become a troll myself in my discussion of this experience, but I will continue to point out that this person hadn’t bothered to read my posts properly so there was absolutely no chance of a healthy or productive discussion of our differing ideas. Let’s keep it respectful in 2019, folks.
More People are Kind and Supportive
“Increase of love brings increase of happiness, when it is mutual, and pure as that will be” – Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, 1848
I’ve already stated that I’ve had an overwhelming amount of support for my blog this year and I can’t thank my readers enough for this. I’ve had Brontëites of all ages, all nationalities, all professions, and all walks of life visit Brontë Babe Blog and be kind enough to give some positive feedback. I really appreciate this and I do my best to promote awareness of the blogs I enjoy reading, both Brontë and non-Brontë related. I also try to do my best to raise awareness of the Brontë inspired literature I have read and enjoyed in order to support the authors who have worked so hard to bring us so much pleasure. If we support and respect one another then the trolls of this world will never win and despite the fact that there will always be some forms of negativity, we can take comfort in the fact that, as Anne stated in her novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, “Increase of love brings increase of happiness, when it is mutual, and pure as that will be”.
Let’s continue to support one another’s work in 2019, and to come together in our love of the Brontës. And thank you for all of your support in 2018.
How to Deal with Death
“Death has only made me neglectful of your kindness, and I have lately had so much experience with him” – Branwell Brontë to Francis Grundy, 29th October 1842
Death touches everyone, and even when it’s expected after a long period of illness, it’s not any easier to deal with by those left behind than when it’s sudden. We lost two family members this year and my mum has been to an awful lot of funerals of old family friends and neighbours in 2018. Although experiencing the death of a loved one is a terrible experience, don’t forget the living and the here and now. The loss of my grandad in February has been the hardest thing to bear this year, but he’d never want us to forget how to live and enjoy our lives. I feel like we’ve had a lot of experience with death this year and like Branwell, we have tried not to be neglectful of people’s kindness during our grief, and if we have been guilty of this, it has not been intentional.
So, in short, live life to the full, and even if tragedy strikes, don’t forget the pleasures that life still has to offer. However, it was Patrick Brontë that suffered the most, losing his wife and six children, and yet he found the strength to carry on and to remember those living who needed him. Branwell felt the losses of his friend, William Weightman, and his Aunt, Elizabeth Branwell, more than history cares to acknowledge. He tried his best to carry on and perhaps was guilty of enjoying life’s pleasures a little too much, however, his acknowledgement that the kindness of the living should be remembered shows to me that he is his father’s son.
Keep Calm and Carry On
“As for me I am very well and wag on as usual” – Charlotte Brontë to Branwell Brontë, 1st May 1843
I love this quote from Charlotte as it shows not only her determined spirit but also her less stuffy and serious side. Despite the difficulties she faced, her financial uncertainties, her poor job prospects, and her unrequited love for Constantin Héger, she didn’t complain, and somehow found the strength to carry on as best she could. And in the end, she succeeded with her writing, her career, and her love life. I’ve felt that way myself this year; when everyone and everything has been going crazy around me, when I had a very long wait between my internship ending and my first full time job beginning, financial uncertainties due to said wait, and fretting about job prospects if it all fell through. No problems with the love life though 😉 .
I kept calm, I carried on, I tried new things, some succeeded, others didn’t. I experienced new things, I discovered new jobs, and created new opportunities for myself. So in 2019, like Charlotte, I’m going to continue to “wag on as usual”, after all, it worked for me this year (eventually).
“I’ll walk where my own nature would be leading: It vexes me to choose another guide” – Emily Brontë, “Often Rebuked”/”Stanzas”
In the year of the Emily 200 celebrations, it seems fitting to end with a quote from the most mysterious Brontë. However, as little as we know about Emily, it’s evident that she did her own thing in life and was guided by her own nature. Although this quote has sometimes been attributed to Charlotte in the past, it is almost certainly by Emily. Victor Neufeldt points out in The Poems of Charlotte Brontë that there is no known surviving manuscript of the poem the line is taken from (usually titled “Stanzas”), but the style and characteristics are undoubtedly Emily’s although Charlotte may well have had a hand in editing it.
There has been much debate over Emily’s true nature this year, and a now infamous article appeared in the Guardian which stated that Emily was a difficult woman. You can click here to read my response to this piece. I don’t know whether Emily was difficult or merely headstrong with a clear sense of who she was, and who she wasn’t, but why should we care when her true self was a fantastic, inimitable author. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want be yourself and follow your own nature, well, unless you’re a troll. Everyone is different and unique and I’ve only achieved what I have this year by staying true to myself and my nature. To be honest, I’d find it much too difficult pretending to be someone other than myself, and I think this was also Emily’s philosophy.
One thing is for certain, we all love the Brontës. I can’t wait to return to Haworth for the Patrick celebrations in the new year. I’m hoping for something good after the rather disappointing Emily 200 exhibition and celebrations. Who knows what 2019 will bring though? Whatever happens though, you could do worse than adopt a bit of Brontë philosophy. Reader, I wish you a prosperous 2019.
By Nicola F. a.k.a. The Brontë Babe.
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