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Dear Friends,

In my old blog I used to like to dwell on women's poems which resurrected (brought alive) previous woman authors or previously living women whose lives or situation or characters the author knew just enough about to commemorate and make her foremother, predecessor.  This is form or subgenre of foremother poem as such.

Today I put here (and put on WWTTA) the following two fine poems by Andrea Potos in the person and out of the perspective of Charlotte, Anne and Emily Bronte:

A French girls' school, later 19th, early 20th century by Helen Allingham (1848-1926), the Brontes all had formative experiences in such places

Both poems appear in The Women's Review of Books, 26/4 (2009), p. 22

Here are two by Andrea Potos which bring alive Charlotte and Anne and Emily Bronte. 

               Charlotte Bronte at the Meeting of the Waters
                               by Andrea Potos

Far over moorland,
beyond the daily ramble
is the place that belongs
to Emily and Anne. They call it
the Meeting of the Waters.
They lead me there one morning,
to turf the hue
and sheen of emeralds.
Delicate springs surprise me,
play such light music over stones.

Larger stones offer us rest
for the hours we dwell where
only the sky knows us,
and clear waters rise
from their source.

It is here Emily proclaims:
_I'll walk where my own nature
would beleading,
It vexes me to choose
another guide_, her voice
swept and lost
over miles of windtossed heather.

Another by Allingham:  Blackdown, Sussex, 1902

                        Charlotte Bronte as Governess
                                  by Andrea Potos

It is true I've said
_a private governess has no
existence_ beyond the weary, unending lessons;
unruly children; commands
from those who fail to see
her true face. They thrust upon her
oceans of needlework and mending.
Yet, on certain days, I know
my heart beats in my breast.
My mind roams unblighted
out of the nursery,
travels to places strange­ --
the attic room we found
on our visit to the Ripon manor house.
             Beyond a tall tapestry was stashed
a secret room where not one window
hinted toward another life.

Scorched beams, cracked walls,
an iron cot rusted
and hunched in the corner
caused me to shiver, rumors
of a mad woman once tucked under those eaves,
behind battlements
like admonitions to the world.

Elin Danielson (1861-1919) , Reading Time 1890, the outward appearance of the governess idealized


The first makes specific allusion to Emily and Anne and is spoken by Charlotte. I love its assertion of I upon myself can live here in this spot of nature.

The second focuses on the concerns of Charlotte's novels: Charlotte is much more concerned that she hasn't a separate existence, a love life specifically in her job; and shows us how Charlotte escaped this kind of life-in-death imprissonment: her imagination.  Anne's books are rather about the horrors of human nature when someone is put under the control of others the way a governess is; nevertheless, one could apply to the mood and feel of Anne Bronte's fictions, especially the hard work and unruly coarse children -- and this depiction of human nature is found in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, an equally truthful book, this time also about love relationships, and much less romantic or sentimentalized and optimistic the way Jane Eyre finally is.  You might say the two Bronte women invented the figure of the governess and how it may be used today too.

The second poem hovers over today; it could be the author today going back and reliving.

Under the sign of Austen who may be said to have brought to a high poetic and living level the tradition of women's novels which had begun to evolve as burningly there conversations between authors and readers from the time of Marie de Lafayette' La Princesse de Cleves.

Marie Bashkirtseff (1858-84), Autumn, a short life for a great painter and memoirist



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 14th, 2009 09:12 pm (UTC)
The poems and the book, Jane Eyre
From Judy on WWTTA:

"I liked both the poems about Charlotte Bronte very much, especially the second one, and would like to thank Ellen for posting them. I've been thinking about Charlotte Bronte quite a bit in the last few days - first of all because Ellen asked what is the best book you've ever read by a woman.

I find it very difficult to make lists of the best, but there's no doubt that, for whatever reasons, this is the book (by man or woman) which has meant most to me over the years and which I've gone back to and reread the most times - and also the one I've wanted to watch the most times in different adaptations, showing the story from different aspects or angles. There have been many versions, as the imdb page Ellen pointed us to showed.

I remember liking the adaptation Ellen has just watched, with Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke as the leads, because it includes so much of Bronte's language - the slow pace at which it goes allows the time and space for this. However, I did feel there was too much Lowood at the start - I know this is an important part of the book and it is indeed the part which hooked me first, when I read it as a child, but this part of the story is hard to do well on film because of the demands on child actors.

By coincidence, I've just watched another version which has just been repeated on a satellite TV station in the UK, the 1997 TV movie starring Samantha Morton and Ciaran Hinds - I'm hoping to write something about it for my costume dramas blog before it slips out of my mind again. I have mixed feelings about this film because it is really much too short, as with so many ITV dramas, paring away huge chunks of the story - almost no Lowood or St John Rivers - but for me Morton is perfect as Jane, just exactly how I'd always imagined the character, quiet but so expressive in her eyes and her body language, and I also love the fact that this production features especially heavy use of voiceover. I've very recently re-watched the BBC 'Ivanhoe' starring Hinds as tortured hero de Bois-Guilbert, and he brings something of the same quality to Rochester. This is a sardonic, bitter version of Rochester, worlds away from the more recent gentler Sandy Welch version with Toby Stephens, which I loved, but still an interesting and compelling take on the character.

This version has a particularly big age gap between the actors - Morton was only 20, Hinds 44. It strikes me this is the same sort of gap as between Cheri and Lea in 'Cheri', which Ellen just posted about (I seem to be touching on a lot of your postings in this one, Ellen:) but we more often see it and it seems to be more accepted between an older man and a younger woman. (The older woman/younger man relationship is at the centre of 'La Dame Aux Camellias', which has been adapted at least a couple of times on TV in the UK.)


Edited at 2009-07-15 11:04 am (UTC)
Jul. 15th, 2009 11:55 am (UTC)
Jane Eyre, an important book
Dear all,

I unhesitatingly made a separate album for stills, pictures, illustrations for Jane Eyre yesterday at WWTTA, to which (in response to Judy's comments), I've now added more images:


If you look, you can see the one which represents Samanthan Morton and Ciarhan Hinds is in blurred focus; it is in fact hard to find close ups of them presented naturally. The directors knew she was so much younger than he, and they did what they could to obscure this. I also included one from the George C. Scott and Susannah York Jane Eyre; she looks like a cat who just swallowed some champagne and cream, but he looks right. I found this movie the most moving one I've seen because of his performance. I've two stills from the 1939 film too: it's important because it came first and did the originating images (so to speak).

On our groupsite page, I put another of Dalton (who at least twice played James Bond by the bye) and Clarke as Jane and Rochester.
I think they really captured the chemistry of the two figures as women (and men too perhaps) like to imagine them romantically and emotionally. He looks dependent and protective, she desperate for him and loving.

I'd like to say I'm interested to know for Judy _Jane Eyre_ was an important book. I daresay this is not unusual; according to Gubar and Gilbert it's common. I read the book when I was 15, about the time I read _Mansfield Park_, and while I did love both (and the first time I taught it, breaking a foolish idea I had that I should not teach books that meant a great deal to me and I was passionate about, and found how well I could put over such a book precisely because of this), somehow the one that stayed with me as more central to my identity, was _MP_. They have the young victim heroine, sensitive at the center, but Jane rebels, hates, is radical. You'd think I'd have preferred Jane to Fanny who succumbs, and moves up to her attic, and for most girls I think lines like

"I can live alone, if self-respect and circumstances require
me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have
an inward treasure, born with me, which can keep me alive
if all extraneous delights should be withheld; or offered only
at a price I cannot afford to pay"
-----Charlotte Bronte, _Jane Eyre_

just send them. Well, me too. This is one of my favorite "signatures" (I stopped adding them to my name on the Net a while back).

I agree with Judy that an irreducible core of taste and personal reaction goes into whether we like a movie or not. As I said on my blog, another book that meant a great deal to me is an old English translation of Julie de Lespinasse's half-mad letters of erotic enthrallment to M. Gilbert (I believe his name was). I really believed in them; they answered to some core in my heart. I like conversation too, and have put Stevie Smith's great short poem about how conversation is central to real love, but I think I don't need it to reassure me that what counts is there. She is probably right that this is a shallowing element in the modern Cheri -- perhaps the result of the increasingly short scenes of modern films. We are to think Cheri and Lea congenial, but it's not dramatized for us. What's dramatized is the carnal element and a sense of how they find one another irresistible on some unreasoning level.

The voice-over of Cheri was a male narrator who was distant from the action (in the way of Woodie Allen's) and was often ironic, not a subjective voice from one of the characters. Maybe that makes the difference. Hinds has a resonant voice (like Clive Francis or Ronald Colman), it's part of an actor's essential (sina qua non) equipment.

I've discovered that the 1983 movie is a favorite: it's second at Amazon (after the most recent), it has more stills on line than any other (from afficionados). People overlook the "tame" technologies of this 1980s film for its deep offering of the pair done just right. Not that this is the book -- for there is much more, as much space to the Rivers and the time of Jane's childhood, and death of Helen (all there in the 83 film but slid by).


Edited at 2009-07-15 11:56 am (UTC)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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