Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Virginia Woolf in Haworth

I've just been re-reading Virginia Woolf's account of her visit to Haworth in 1904 (to get me even more in the mood for my expedition there on Friday). She's got a nicely wry streak in her account:
"I understand that the sun very seldom shone on the Bronte family, and if we chose a really fine day we should have to make allowance for the fact that fifty years ago there were few fine days at Haworth, and that we were, therefore, for the sake of comfort, rubbing out half the shadows in the picture."
I'm hoping for a fine day on Friday, before the evening event I'm doing at the Parsonage, and then some brilliant early morning sunshine on Saturday morning, so that I can walk up to Top Withins and imagine myself into Wuthering Heights, before catching a minicab from Bronte Taxis back to Keighley train station.
It's true. They are called Bronte Taxis. No sign of Branwell at the wheel, though... He's too busy swigging gin and telling tall tales to the tourists at the Black Bull.

9 comments:

Table Talk said...

The thing that really catches my attention in that passage is that Woolf was only fifty years away from the Brontes. I read passages from her journals most nights before I go to sleep and tend to think of her as almost a contemporary. These are the sort of links that make books so real. The gap between me and the Brontes suddenly seems so much smaller.

Justine Picardie said...

Yes -- that's exactly what struck me, too. She was almost as close to the Brontes as we are to Daphne du Maurier or Evelyn Waugh. Speaking of the latter, did you read that wonderful account of the interview that is now available in audio form at the BL? He was being tormented by three rather censorious interviewers (and in return, he behaved like an angry bull being needled by matadors). And then the experience reappears in The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, in 1957 -- the same year that Daphne was researching Branwell Bronte. So it turns out that both Waugh and du Maurier were having breakdowns at the same time. The pitfalls of being a writer?

brooksideelaine said...

I am planning a visit to Haworth in September this year. I used to visit regularly but have lapsed recently. Last time I went it was 'a dark and stormy night' the Parsonage was deserted and it simply reeked of atmosphere.

Oh and there used to be a Bronte Balti House at the bottom of the hill. Is it still there perchance?

dovegreyreader said...

Hope you've not cast your clouts yet Justine and have packed your thermals. Last visit to Howarth on a gloriously hot sunny July day and it was freezing up there.Hope the event goes well.

BrontëBlog Adm. said...

I too use the 'time comparisons' and recently thought about Daphne and how close to us in time she really was yet how seemingly distant as well. It's odd.

Hope the evnt goes great tomoroow, Justine. Look forward to hearing all about it!

Cristina.

Sally said...

It's difficult to find anywhere in Haworth that isn't 'Bronte' something or other. And yes, take your thermals. There's probably snow up at Top Withens.

Rob Hardy said...

We didn't make it to Haworth during our English year, but we did visit Hathersage and looked at all the Eyre brasses, then walked past the house that may have been the model for Thornfield on our way up to pose dramatically on Stanage Edge. It always stuck me, in England, how thin the line between fact and fiction often seemed to be. Eyre brasses!

Maylin said...

I wonder if anyone has ever compiled a book about writers' visits to Haworth. There's a part in L.M. Montgomery's (Anne of Green Gables) journals where she talks about her visit too.
Years ago when I walked to Top Withins, I had a gloriously cloudy, rather bleak day which fit in perfectly. Then I had the oddest experience. I got to the ruins and was walking around it, and saw three sheep sitting in almost EXACTLY the same position as that famous painting of the sisters done by Branwell. With two sisters (sheep) together off the left, and one to the right. Whipped out my camera and got the shot before they moved and I have it blown up, hanging up on my wall just above a poster of the painting. People think I'm nuts, but I still believe it was the spirits of those sisters hanging out at Top Withins. (Now being an urban chick, I can't tell if they are boy sheep or girl sheep, but they looked very contented, regardless).
Stevie Davies' novel Four Dreamers and Emily contains a very funny scene when a bunch of Bronte enthusiasts at a conference take a walk up to Top Withins.

Justine Picardie said...

What a joy, to come in from a frazzled day and read all of these comments! I'm going to check out if there is a Bronte Balti, and will report back. If possible, I'll also go and look for Maylin's sheep -- or rather, the reincarnated spirits on Top Withins. I shall also pack my thermals, along with some ham sandwiches for the journey. I'm going with Daphne du Maurier's daughter, Lady Tessa Montgomery, and I offered to make the sandwiches...
Actually, I'm going to do another post, with a link to a piece I wrote for the Sunday Telegraph about a seance at the Parsonage that I attended the summer before last. It has a du Maurier connection, as you will discover.