Wednesday, 30 March 2005

Charlotte Bronte, woman of passion

Tanya Gold inveighs in the Guardian against the way Charlotte Bronte's image has been overly sanitised:
As the 150th anniversary of her death on March 31 1855 approaches, it is time to rescue Charlotte Brontë. She has been chained, weeping, to a radiator in the Haworth Parsonage, Yorkshire, for too long. Enough of [Elizabeth] Gaskell's fake miserabilia. Enough of the Brontë industry's veneration of coffins, bonnets and tuberculosis. It is time to exhume the real Charlotte - filthy bitch, grandmother of chick-lit, and friend.
Which made me think: one thing I despise is the need to clean up the lives of great people. Clearly Jane Eyre is rife with sexual undertones. I also hate the reduction of the work of great female novelists. The novels of Jane Austen, for one, seem to have settled into many people's minds as being twee little fantasies of English countryside life, filled with tea parties. Or worse, they are seen as some proto-Oprah confessional form, when really anytime any character talks about his or her feelings it's meant to be ironic.



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