The Brontes in Brussels; Helen MacEwan
A fascinating and thorough account of Charlotte and Emily Bronte's formative stay in Brussels during 1842-43. The Brontes' time in Belgium, five years before they became best-selling authors, is the least-known episode of their lives, but is a fascinating and important one. The book follows in the tracks of the sisters in Brussels, describing their life in the city: though the school where they came to study French has now disappeared, there is still a lot to be seen of the city the sisters knew; two of Charlotte's four novels (Villette and The Professor) are also based on her spell abroad, which was pivotal to her both as a writer and personally, since she fell in love with her teacher Constantin Heger. Charlotte's moving and harrowing letters to Heger--a respectable married man--are reproduced in full here and belie the common image of her as the motherly and strait-laced Bronte. Also including maps of the period, extracts from Villette reflecting real-life experiences in Brussels and translations of the sisters' little-known "Belgian essays," what emerges is a complete portrait of a slice of literary history--as well as a haunting evocation of a time and a place that came to haunt the Brontes themselves.
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