Sunday, 3 January 2010

More Bronte

I don't read a great deal of non-fiction but I'm interested in all things Victorian at the moment and I need to read Elizabeth Gaskell's biography of Charlotte Bronte. Presumably this is the definitive biography as Elizabeth Gaskell was a friend and contemporary of Charlotte Bronte. I'd be interested in any other Bronte biography recommendations.

With my Christmas book token (thanks Rob!) I couldn't resist the new Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Wuthering Heights with its fabulous Ruben Toledo cover.

By the way, Jane Eyre is currently featured on girlebooks.


Teresa said...

I'd be interested in Bronte biography recommendations too. I've started accumulating a list of biographies of some of my favorite writers but don't have any Bronte suggestions.

I may read Gaskell's biography eventually, but I do hear that she puts her own spin on things that isn't necessarily accurate. That being the case, it might be just as revealing about Gaskell as it is about C. Bronte, and I happen to love them both, so that's fine with me. But I'd still want to read something that comes at the Brontes with a little more distance.

Laura McDonald said...

I liked Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bronte--it was a bit long and morbid, but interesting. I just read Emily Bronte by A. Mary F. Robinson. I really enjoyed this one--possibly because it's shorter and gives more detail on Emily and Branwell Bronte than I've gotten from other sources. It appears this one is hard to find, but I'm about to publish it in ebook.

Christina said...

I read a review of Gaskell's biography, and someone commented that Gaskell misrepresented a male (I can't remember his name) in Charlotte's life. She had based all her thoughts on this man on a single interaction with him, according to this commenter.

(I apologize for not remembering which blog this was on or even the name of the guy.)

Cath said...

God, I love that cover for Wuthering Heights!!

Anonymous said...

As a friend and a Victorian, Mrs Gaskell naturally glossed over anything unpleasant. I think the Winifred Gerin biography is probably still the definitive one.

You might be interestd in the fictional The Crimes of Charlotte Bronte by James Tully. I didn't think much of it but it certainly offers a new perspective!

Rachel (Book Snob) said...

The Elizabeth Gaskell biography is actually very unreliable, despite her close acquaintance with Charlotte. She wanted to present Charlotte and her sisters in a way that 'excused' the radical themes of their novels, and so she created the myth of the isolated, ignorant sisters trapped in a lonely windswept rectory to gain public sympathy, and a romantic, fairytale aura around the Brontes that has perpetuated ever since. She portrayed Patrick Bronte, their father, as a violent child abuser in the first edition (which your copy should reproduce) - he was still alive when it was published and Gaskell was forced to remove all references to him in the second edition as he was so upset by it. It's a great book to read to understand how the myth of the Brontes came into being, but the more modern biography by Juliet Gardiner is probably the best and most reliable if you're after the facts.

Oh and if you'd like my dissertation I'm happy to send it - just give me an email (it's on my blog) and I'll send it over.

Kat said...

I loved Gaskell's biography with Charlotte. It's such a well-written book: I read it long ago for a class. It's probably just your cup of tea.

I've got to get back to the Brontes.

LINDA from Each Little World said...

Have not read any of the bios mentioned, but must comment to say how much I enjoyed the contrast of the portraits on the two different covers!

Anonymous said...

I was going to chime in to say that the Gaskell biography is notoriously unreliable because they were friends and because of the time in which she wrote it, but it looks like Rachel's already covered that. Still, it's quite interesting in itself, and I hope you enjoy it! And Juliet Barker's biography of the Brontes is an incredible read, if you get the chance.

Vintage Reading said...

Teresa, something of the warmth of Gaskell's writing in Cranford comes through in this biog. EG seems to be at great pains to strive for accuracy and often intervenes in the text to establish facts.

Laura, I like the sound of the Robinson book. Look forward to its publication on your site.

Christina, yes, in EG's preface she does say that biography is a new genre for her.

Connie, hope you like the back cover of Heathcliff, too!

callmemadam, yes, EG seems very reluctant to name names at the Cowan Bridge school which was so memorably portrayed in Jane Eyre. I'll look out for the Gerin biog.

Rachel, I need to check which edition I have. Strange, as there is a quote from Patrick Bronte on the blurb saying 'It is in every way worthy of what one great woman should have written of another.' which would suggest he praised it.

MadHousewife, I have to say I am really enjoying it. I'll keep an open mind as to misrepresentations of facts, though.

Makedoandread, I wonder how well established the genre of biography was at the time Gaskell wrote it. I'll look out for the Barker biog, too.

Rachel (Book Snob) said...

I got the name of the biographer wrong! I meant Juliet Barker, not Gardiner..she is a different writer altogether!

That quote from Patrick is very interesting...he definitely didn't like the original version so I wonder what edition he's referring to?! A bit of detective work needed perhaps!

Elaine said...

Rachel has said what I was about to! The Gaskell book is fascinating but cannot be taken as reliable. I recommend Juliet Barker, she did a biography of all the Brontes and a separate one on Charlotte and her books are quite wonderful. Cannot imagine they will ever be superseded.

Vintage Reading said...

Elaine, thanks, I need to read the Barker biog. Acutally, reading the Gaskell biog made me want to read more Gaskell - I'm thinking of Wives and Daughters rather than the 'industrial novels.'