Saturday 5th September 2015
We had a quiet beginning in Harrogate this morning wandering around the interesting shops including the famous “Betty’s” restaurant and tidying up Richard’s haircut. We also fell foul of the local Burrough for failing to correctly display our parking ticket..we have written an appeal letter and hope to beat this rap!
We then set out through the gorgeous valleys, lakes, drystone walls and pink heath of the Yorkshire dales. This is a most beautiful part of England and we have been delighted to be back here after our visit to Castle Howard some years ago. Our goal this time was the village of Haworth, the home of the Bronte family.
Haworth is set on a high hill and is a picturesque village attached to the large town of Keighley. Bronte mania is everywhere naming pubs, coffee shops, and numbers of book and antique shops.
The old school hall built by Patrick to educate his children after the disaster of the death of his young daughters is still in the village and holds some wonderful photographs including the old charabang and buses ( I love old buses) that used to run in the village as well as a photograph of the original church that Patrick Bronte ministered to.
The Parsonage is a small house placed alongside the rebuilt Church of St Michael and All Angels and the graveyard. After the mansions we have visited with their huge reception and State rooms it was bizarre to be in this “normal” village family home comfortably furnished but with precious little room to move.
Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights made a huge impact on me when I first read it at University. The rich contrast between the earthy vigorous Earnshaws and the rather effete Lintons, the brooding sombre Yorkshire moors with their gales and wildness, the complex and smouldering character of Heathcliff, the deep and spiritual love relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine with its overtones of spirituality have stayed with me ever since. I read Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre much later and whilst I found it engrossing it was not life-changing in the way that Wutthering Heights gripped me. I have not read Anne Bronte’s The Tennant of Wildfell Hall so cannot comment on that novel.
The Bronte sisters were happy in the parsonage supporting their father after the early death of their mother. They worked hard domestically and in the village, but also sewed, painted, wrote poetry, taught as governesses and shared many years of imaginative dreaming of semi historical worlds they had created. Yet there was also much suffering. Their brother Branwell could not find success in life and died an alcoholic.In addition two of their sisters died very young from TB after ill treatment at a village school (afterward portrayed in a very poor light as Lowood in Charlotte’s Jane Eyre. The level of disease in the village was high and funerals were a major part of Patrick Bronte’s ministry. Neither Emily nor Anne married and Charlotte died tragically only a year after her marriage at age 39. Neither Emily nor Anne reached 30.
Although they published their novels under the name Bell it was not long before their true genius became evident and the impact of their writing continues to be felt today. There are deep and true strata running through these novels and they do not avoid the moral incongruities of life. It was a moving experience to be in this quiet house and feel some of their joy and pain. Their lives were short but they were happy and productive and their industry has given deep joy and thought to millions.