There are certain things in life especially comforting to me. These things change over time, cycle out and some return like chickadees bobbing in flight to the bird feeder. Peanut butter, the staple of many an American kid’s lunch pail, has been such a thing. I’ve discovered peanut butter filled pretzels and have not returned from the land of joy and rapture yet. Here and there I frolic, stepping in time with my Labrador, plucking away at my Nintendo DS and say hello to Charlotte, Emily and Anne in their land of Gondal. Heathcliff glowers nearby, Jane gives little Adèle her next English lesson and Mr. Rochester quietly pets Pilot, smiling. These are the elements refueling me lately, giving organic fertilizer and rest to my mind. That and the 18th century horses milling about don’t hurt either.
As you may gather, I am on a Brontë kick. I have read Villette, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights over the past year or two. I recently finished Jane Eyre over an audio book and am onto Wuthering Heights. I watched “To Walk Invisible”, a PBS film about the gifted trio attempting to become published, paid authors alongside their ongoing plight of caring for their alcoholic, forlorn brother. I am attracted to these women, so varied and tightly knitted on the hauntingly beautiful English moor with their father and brother. I find myself wanting to visit them at their house, exchange ideas, poke fun at extroverts and pet Emily’s dog. I want to refer their brother to a hospital and see what can be done about his growing debts. But then I remember–these people are dead, their bones and burial clothes ash and dust. Charlotte will have been gone 163 years this March 31st, the last of her sisters to die and the only one to marry.
Jane Eyre is my favorite novel I’ve read thus far by the Brontës. Wuthering Heights tends to alarm me and I never quite know how to feel about Catherine and Heathcliff. Villette was endearing in an odd way, and the ending blindsided me in turn. It was a warm, snug tale overall and scenes still flicker in my mind of Lucy Snowe. I attempted to read Agnes Grey but became burnt out by governesses at that point. I will pick it up again and the few remaining books left. Too soon the sisters died. Just imagine what more they would have wrote or what disturbances they could have created in English society.
I turn to the classics to refuel. It’s on my bucket list to read them all (if such a definite list exists). I find the older language and syntax exalting, even as I trip over Jane Austen’s sentences and paragraphs, smacking head first into Mary’s pianoforte and causing the Bennets to erupt into their third uproar of the week. Eventually, after much practice, I balance on Austen’s 18th century writing and feel smugly satisfied. Huzzah, I think, and have at thee; I bite my thumb at whosoever invented the corset. A pox on thee. And into the pig pen I tumble, Shakespeare shaking his head at me from two hundred years prior the Bennets. Pray tell, pride doth goeth before the fall.
Visit the Brontës, but bring a hostess gift. Good writing paper would do. They will improve your writing, undoubtedly, and help keep your spirit afire. While you’re in the neighborhood, visit Austen, Hawthorne and the others milling about. Swim across to America and pick up some Hemmingway for a dash of spice. Try out the buffet of classics; peruse. A balanced diet will do you well.
Song: “Not About Angels”, Birdy