Friday, 25 November 2016

Charlotte Brontë - terrible teacher, brilliant novelist I to spend all the best part of my life in this wretched bondage, forcibly suppressing my rage at the idleness, the apathy and the hyperbolical & most asinine stupidity of those fat-headed oafs, and on compulsion assuming an air of kindness, patience and assiduity? 

These were the thoughts of the young Charlotte Brontë, as written into her journal when she was a teacher at Roe Head School in Mirfield.

The short-sighted author had a habit of making entries in it while the class was in progress: there are reports of her writing in tiny script, her nose nearly touching the paper, then sitting with her eyes closed. The girls in front of her might have thought she was receiving spirit messages.

She did not make much of a success of being a governess either - to just two of the small children of Skipton mill owner John Benson Sidgwick. When she lived with him and his family at his splendid house - Stone Gappe in Lothersdale, she was barely able to control them, and found them irritating, but she did admire his Newfoundland dog. Stone Gappe became a model for Gateshead in Jane Eyre.

Richard Wilcocks, a former Chair of the Brontë Society, will speak about a lot more of her writing and her life when he gives a Powerpoint- assisted talk in Headingley Library on Thursday 8 December at 7pm called ‘Charlotte Brontë – Terrible Teacher, Brilliant Novelist’. He will also go into role as John Benson Sidgwick, who will give his own view of the unhappy woman he employed, and of governesses in general.

The talk is a LitFest ‘Between the Lines’ event and it is free. The main part of the annual Headingley LitFest (the tenth) takes place in March next year.

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