Sunday, May 20, 2007

Emily, Anne and Charlotte do the Eight Things meme

Meli at The Little Book Room has tagged the Sistahs for the Eight Things meme.

CHARLOTTE: I shall speak for all of us here, for Anne is much too modest to reveal intimate aspects of her life and Emily much too psychotic withdrawn shy.

ANNE (aside to EMILY): Typical.

EMILY (aside to ANNE): You are interrupting my mystical communion with Nature. Again.

THE GHOST OF BROTHER BRANWELL: I shay, shishtersh … I am the geniush in thish family, not to menshun the man, and it ish I who shall shpeak for youse all.

SISTERS (chorus): Oh b*gger off, Branwell, you w*nker.

CHARLOTTE: No, no, those little asterisk thingies aren’t right for the period at all. This is early Victorian -- they used dashes for disemvowelment, not asterisks.

ANNE: Did not.


ANNE: Did not.


EMILY: I really do wish that you would both be quiet and go away. I care only for Nature. Hello trees, hello sky, hello treacherous horse-swallowing bog, hello ravenous ravens pecking at the entrails of dead puppies …

ANNE: Oh, Emily, have you gone off your meds again?

PC: Yes, well. Ahem. Here are eight things about the Sisters.

1) Charlotte was so tiny that she wore children’s chemises all her life.

2) Emily, on being bitten by one of her dogs, rushed inside to the fire and cauterised the wound herself with a red-hot poker.

3) Anne’s dying words were ‘Take courage, Charlotte.’ (I often think that Anne has been badly underrated.)

4) Born Patrick Brunty in Ireland in 1777, the sisters’ father changed the family name to Brontë as a young man. This may have been because one of his political heroes, Lord Nelson, had been made the Duke of Bronti in Italy (among many other honours), or because ‘bronte’ is the Greek word for ‘thunder’, as in ‘brontosaurus’ or ‘thunder-lizard.' (Or both.)

5) Although Charlotte’s death certificate gives ‘pthisis’ or tuberculosis as the cause of death, more recent observers have pointed out that tuberculosis doesn’t make you vomit yourself to death. Technically Charlotte probably died of exhaustion and dehydration after being unable for several weeks to keep even a sip of water down, in an era when they could not yet merely sedate you and put you on a drip.

Some speculate that this was a really terrible case of morning sickness (it’s generally agreed that Charlotte was pregnant), others that she had caught typhoid or something like it from the housekeeper Tabby, who had died of an undiagnosed but severe gastro-intestinal infection only weeks earlier. Some have even suggested Charlotte had Addison’s disease.

Quite possibly all of the above apply, though Addison’s disease is a long shot. ‘Over-determined’ is the expression we’re groping for here.

6) Anne refused Charlotte’s earnest request that she soften and bowdlerise her very realistic portrayal in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall of alcoholism and the way it destroys character, households and families.

7) During the last year of Branwell’s life, Emily used to sit up at night and wait for him to stagger home stinking drunk from the Black Bull in Haworth, so that she could help him up the stairs to bed. (History does not record who, if anyone, helped him up that very steep hill.)

8) The Reverend Patrick Brontë carried a loaded pistol in his pocket every day. But he was seldom glad to see you.


  1. Phew, that puts a few things in perspective.

    Great meme response.

  2. I'm a fairly new reader and have decided to come out of lurkdom to thank you for a wonderful blog. I had managed to go nearly 50 years without reading any Bronte, but your blog has compelled me to order Charlotte & Emily Bronte, the Complete Novels, as well as the Oxford Companion, and Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

    Thank you...I think.

  3. Thank you sisters (and PC too, for intervening)! I knew you'd have great stories.

  4. Dear Sistahs, (and She Who is Channelling Youse),

    We all get very purse-lipped about the misused apostrophe, and sometimes chew the edges of our laminex desks in a fury.

    But, actually,is there any need for the rotten beasts?

    Since some of us have learnt to do that funy riting wiv fonez, surely we can adapt to the loss of the apostrophe without the calamitous collapse of meaning?

    And would you also tell She Who Channels Youse that she is making me laugh a lot?

    - D. Tiley, esq.

  5. If I write something and read it soon after, I often think it's OK. After a very short while, reading over it makes me horribly embarrassed and sad. So how do you ever tell if something's finished?