Monday, March 28, 2005

Plain speaking about Ms Bronte

The Book Standard provided a link to an amusing Guardian article entitled 'Reader, I shagged him.' Here Tanya Gold gives us the truth -- as she sees it -- about Charlotte Bronte.

Once upon a time, many moons go, I was required to read Mrs Gaskell's biography of Charlotte Bronte as part of my school studies. I found it passing tedious, but I do remember that even our careful teacher was obliged to admit that there was more to Charlotte than Mrs Gaskell revealed. In case we hadn't noticed, he pointed out that Charlotte's feelings for a married man, Monsieur Heger of Brussels, were not entirely chaste.

Tanya Gold goes further. Charlotte, she alleges, definitely had the hots for Heger, referring to him in correspondence as her master, and generally showing a masochistic inclination to grovel at his feet. She had a lot more passionate feelings for others as well, and, according to Tanya, had an orgasm while taking her father his spectacles.

I do have to say that I consider that last bit unlikely, if only for reasons of practicality. For one thing, the glasses would have been handed to the old man in a steamed-up condition, and he would have suspected the worst.

On balance, however, I reckon Tanya is far closer to the truth than Mrs G ever was. Mrs G was, after all, writing in the nineteenth century, and doubtless all those Bronte girls had very passionate natures indeed.

It is many years since I went to the Bronte museum at Haworth, and I have largely forgotten what was on show at the time. What I do remember is that, quite out of keeping with the general tenor of the place, loud popular music was being played somewhere in an adjoining room, causing a few raised eyebrows among the visitors.

I also remember finding evidence of the large number of Americans who then (and now, no doubt) visited the place: Haworth, a small Yorkshire village, featured a chemist's shop (pharmacy) which in those days must have been the only one in England to describe itself as a 'drug store'.

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