The 200th birthday of Charlotte Brontë is coming up on April 21st (the birthday of one of the Gerts, though she isn’t 200 yet). Here’s a repost of our April 2014 homage to the Brontës as well as to S.J. Perelman’s very funny story about the Hollywood producer Sol Hogwasch making a film about “the Bronts”.
“What we need now is penguins,” says Stanley. “We’ve got your tooberculosis, the chick yearning for love, and the nutty daddy, what we need now’s some kinda animal. Say Emily goes walking on the moors and she finds this liddle penguin. Cute, uh?”
“But Stan,” I say, “there aren’t any penguins on the moors.”
“Okay, we shift it somewhere with a lotta snow. Hey, we make them Eskimos.”
“The Brontes, Eskimos?”
I quit, I thought, this time I really do.
Still, Emily an Eskimo…she staggers through a blizzard, Heathcliff drags a bloodied seal across the snow, knife between his teeth…
Stanley flips the pages.
“Kind of a downer, all that snow. Hey, she works in a zoo, nice little bikini, feeding the penguins and stuff.”
“But the Brontës, ” I say, “have got to be cold. That’s the whole point of them, Stan.”
“Free up, Luke. People gotta relate. This stuff here, it’s kinda hard to believe.”
Did you see the film with Emily in a bikini? I didn’t write it. I’m still working on my version. Emily and Heathcliff get to the North Pole. We track in on their last embrace just as an avalanche breaks, filling the screen with snow.
For more Charlotte reading, we came across this interesting article on Jane Eyre in The Guardian: Reading Jane Eyre: can we truly understand Charlotte Brontë or her heroine today?
And having recently read Claire Harman’s biography of Charlotte (Viking 2015) we were very struck by this insight into the character of Emily, author of Wuthering Heights:
Emily’s violently suppressed feelings and her strong personality were a source of awe to Charlotte, who later described her character as ‘standing apart’ from all others. Keeper, with his intimidating bulk and strength, was her devoted familiar.…
But the incident that Charlotte witnessed…of Emily disciplining Keeper is the one that reflects her character most strangely.. The dog had incurred her wrath by going upstairs once too often and dirtying the beds’ clean counterpanes with his gigantic muddy footprints. When Tabby came into report the crime, Emily’s face whitened and her mouth set. The story was told later by Mrs Gaskell in her biography of Charlotte: ‘[Charlotte] dared not speak to interfere; no one dared when Emily’s face glowed in that manner out of the paleness of her face, and when her lips were so compressed into stone.’ She dragged the dog downstairs, he ‘growling low and savagely all the time’ and , having no stick to hand, set about him with her fists, punching him in the eyes before he could spring st her, until he was ‘half-blind, stupefied’ – at which point she took him off to his bed in the kitchen and bathed the injuries she had so brutally inflicted . Mrs Gaskell tells the story – as it had been told to her– as an example of Emily’s noble strength of character. Its dreadful sadism is all the modern reader sees – that, and the terror that Emily must have sometimes engendered in all members of the household. (123-4).