K’lee and Dale’s Cosmic Photo Challenge #CosPhoChal ‘Portraits’

This Monday’s theme is ‘Portraits’.

I remembered that I have some lovely pictures of portraits I took at the National Portrait Gallery in London, a lesser known gem, right next to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, and others I took at Charles Dicken’s Museum at Doughty Street, London.

Here I am as close as I’ll ever be to my favourite writers. Top left Robert Browning and his wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Mr. Greenwood, who marries Adele in All Hallows at Eyre Hall is based on the widower, Robert Browning.

Elizabeth B.B. wrote the most romantic sonnet in the English language, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

 Top right with Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote the unforgettable Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, one of my favourite novels, whose influence features strongly in Midsummer at Eyre Hall. We all have to balance the capacity for good and evil we possess.

The bottom left are the Bronte sisters, Anne, Charlotte and Emily (from left to right) in the famous painting by their brother, Patrick Branwell Bronte. The portrait on the right is of Charlotte Bronte.

The bottom right, Mr. Charles Dickens, who features prominently in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, where he narrates a chapter, and Midsummer at Eyre Hall, where his generosity and friendship will be of invaluable help to Jane Eyre.  

Isn’t it wonderful that the Bronte’s and Charles Dickens are so close, in the Gallery and in my literary heart and mind.

Here I am with Dickens’ portrait in the reproduction of his dining room at his home in Doughty Street.

A caricature of the older Dickens, on his way to the continent, which means anywhere which is not UK!

This isn’t a portrait, but I thought I’d include his chair, where he sat and probably read, chatted, and perhaps plotted and made notes, before sitting at his writing desk. 

Finally, here I am beside a portrait of my favourite sports person, Rafael Nadal, the greatest Spanish tennis player of all time, and one of the best in the world, not only because he’s a world tennis champion, but because he’s such a good sport.

I hope you liked my portraits!

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Women Writers Who Used Male Pen Names #InternationalWomensDay #WWWBlogs

Nineteenth-century Britain was a time of great progress and reform, in British society due to industrialization and social upheaval. One of the most controversial debates were about the position of women in society. Aspects such as a wife’s right to own property, a mother’s right to custody of her children and ownership of her body, or right to vote, saw the birth of the movement for women’s rights, and the first suffragettes at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. This was also the era of the professional woman writer, a time in which more women were writing professionally and demanded a place alongside men in the literary world.

The Bronte Sisters

One of the strategies these early women writers turned to was the use of male pseudonyms.

These have been referred to by 20th century feminist literary scholars such as Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar as ‘metaphorical trousers’ or male pseudonyms in the 19th century, in order to be taken seriously as authors.

I wrote a post called Madwoman in the Attic in two parts with more information on the topic.

Here are a few of the most famous women who used male pseudonyms. The most well-known are probably the three Bronte sisters.

Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre, is one of the most celebrated female novelists in all literary history. Charlotte Bronte originally published Jane Eyre and all her works under the name Currer Bell. This name represented the male identity necessary to succeed during the time in which Bronte was actively writing. Jane Eyre is regarded as one of the most influential works of literature in history and is now published under Charlotte Bronte’s true name.

Anne Bronte (1820 – 1849) wrote Agnes Grey, in 1847. Her second novel was The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, the story of a woman leaving her abusive spouse, was published the following year. She published her novels with the pseudonym Acton Bell.

Charlotte’s sister, Emily Bronte, published her only known novel, Wuthering Heights, under the male pen name Ellis Bell. The three sisters chose to write under masculine pseudonyms to deter any bias on the basis of their gender. Emily Bronte’s health was poor throughout most of her life, and she died at 30 in the year 1848. In 1950, Charlotte Bronte edited Emily’s novel and re-published it under Emily’s true name. Today, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre are considered two of the most important English novels in history.

            Mary Anne Evans, pen name George Eliot

Mary Ann Evans: More widely known by her male pen name George Eliot, Evans was a prominent author and journalist during the Victorian Era. Evans is said to have published under a male pseudonym in order to distance herself from the female romance novelists of the time and to ensure that her works were taken seriously. After her first novel, Adam Bede, was published in 1859 and reviewed positively by critics, Evans revealed her female identity to the world.

On other occasions, women wrote under their married names, to endow them with greater respectability. Here are some examples.

Margaret Oliphant Wilson Oliphant (née Margaret Oliphant Wilson) (4 April 1828 – 25 June 1897), was a Scottish novelist and historical writer, who usually wrote as Mrs. Oliphant. Her fictional works encompass “domestic realism, the historical novel and tales of the supernatural

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, née Stevenson (29 September 1810 — 12 November 1865), often referred to simply as Mrs Gaskell, was an English novelist and short story writer during the Victorian era. Her novels offer a detailed portrait of the lives of many strata of society, including the very poor, and are of interest to social historians as well as lovers of literature. Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Bronte, published in 1857, was the first biography of that author.

               Mrs. Henry Wood

Ellen Wood (17 January 1814 – 10 February 1887), was an English novelist, better known as Mrs. Henry Wood. She is perhaps remembered most for her 1861 novel East Lynne, but many of her books became international best-sellers, being widely received in the United States and surpassing Charles Dickens’ fame in Australia.

Mary Augusta Ward née Arnold; (11 June 1851 – 24 March 1920), was a British novelist who wrote under her married name as Mrs Humphry Ward.

There is plenty of proof as to why women had to use male pseudonyms or their husbands or brother’s names. I suggest those who are interested in the topic read my post Madwoman in the Attic Part II, for a more detailed account and bibliography.

I’m just going to include one eloquent example in this post. A letter the Poet Laureate, Robert Southey (1774-1843) wrote to Charlotte Bronte in 1836 in reply to her petition for advice on being a writer.

“Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life and it ought not to be.  The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure she will have for it, even as an accomplishment and a recreation. To those duties you have not yet been called, and when you are you will be less eager for celebrity”.

Robert Southey was an English poet of the Romantic school, and one of the so-called “Lake Poets”. He was Poet Laureate for 30 years from 1813 to his death in 1843. Although his fame has long been eclipsed by that of his contemporaries and friends William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Nevertheless, women authors achieved remarkable literary success in a profession clearly dominated by men. Many of them were able to successfully pursue their literary ambitions in spite of the patriarchal oppression they were subject to, and they passed the test of time with flying colours!

Fortunately, society, including men and women have come a long way since the 19th century, and nowadays, at least in the English-speaking/writing/reading literary market, as I perceive the situation, women and men write and publish with equal opportunities.

Nevertheless, as all social progress, it’s an ongoing struggle and unfortunately, there are many places in the world where women are still struggling to be heard.

Do men and women writer have equal opportunities as readers and writers where you live?

Letter A April #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s #Author Charlotte Bronte

This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. Today it’s Jane Eyre’s Author, Charlotte Bronte

A

My name is Charlotte Bronte and I was born on 21st April, 1816, in Thornton, Yorkshire.

Charlotte Bronte

My father was Rev. Patrick Bronte, originally from County Down, Ireland, where his father was a labourer. His name was spelled Brunty at the time. I don’t know exactly when it was changed to Bronte, but it was probably when he came to England in 1802, after working as a blacksmith, weaver and teacher, in Ireland. He saved enough money to study theology at St. John’s College, Cambridge and was ordained in 1806.

I hardly remember my mother, Maria Branwell, who died when I was five. She was born in Penzance, Cornwall, where her father was a successful merchant. She met my father while visiting her aunt in Yorkshire.

brontetree

My two elder sisters Maria and Elizabeth died when I was 9, and they were 10 and 11 yeas old. They had been attending a Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire, which had notoriously poor conditions. Much like Lowood, the school I described in my most successful novel, Jane Eyre.

I was the oldest of my surviving siblings, and the last to die. My poor, talented brother Patrick Branwell was a year younger than me, and would have been a great painter and poet if he had not succumbed to the ecstasy and torture of laudanum, alcohol, and the unrequited love of a married woman.

In 1820, the year my youngest sister Anne was born, we to Haworth, where my father had been appointed perpetual curate of St Michael and All Angels Church, and sadly, my mother died of cancer the following year.

We were fortunate enough to have been looked after by out maternal aunt, Elizabeth Branwell. While our father taught us to read the wisdom and moralizing stories of the Bible, our aunt showed us the pleasure of reading fiction in literary magazines. My aunt, who was so devoted to us that she never married, was able to use her generous annual income to fund many of the ventures in which our father had little interest, such as a girls boarding school, which unfortunately was unsuccessful, and our trips to Brussels to study French.

bronte-parsonage

While we were in Brussels, in return for board and tuition, I taught English and Emily taught music. We were in Brussels when we were informed of our aunt’s death in 1842, due to a bowel obstruction. We were all devastated, but especially my brother, Branwell, who was her favourite. He died six years later. Although his death certificate says he died of chronic bronchitis, he had been suffering greatly due to his addictions, brought on by his sensitive character and acute sense of failure. 

I fell in love with my professor of Rhetoric, while I was in Brussels. He was short, dark, and moody. I was terrified of him at first and anxious to gain his approval as his pupil. Later, my fear and admiration turned to love. When I returned to Haworth, we remained in touch. I wrote him many letters, but unfortunately, M. Heger was married and had six children, so he remained in my literary imagination and became my inspiration for Mr. Rochester.

bronte-charlotte-letters-K90081-43

I will always remember our childhood literary ventures. The four of us would use Branwell’s wooden toy soldiers to play with and invent an imaginary world, which we called Angria. We should have developed those stories into a series of fantasy novels. Branwell once said he would do so, but sadly, it never happened.

We were educated at home and my sisters and I also worked as teachers and governesses in several local schools and households, but none of us considered it a fulfilling job, so we turned to writing, which had always been our passion.

Painting_of_Brontë_sisters

The three of us had written many poems, and in 1846, encouraged and impressed by Anne’s poems I decided to publish a selection of all our poems, which were written under the pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. We thought best not to disclose our real names and gender because we wanted to preserve our privacy and because we thought our condition as women writers would be looked upon with prejudice.

I had already written The Professor, which had been rejected for publication, but our luck changed the following year, my Jane Eyre, Emily’s Wuthering Heights, and Ann’s Agnes Grey were all published, still under the Bell pseudonyms. It was not until 1848, that we told our London publishers who we really were.

Jane

Although Jane Eyre soon became a best seller, some literary critics thought it was provocative, antichristian and coarse, but you’ll read more about my novel, Jane Eyre in tomorrow’s post. Some critics even thought it had been written by a man! But how could a man have written three volumes uncovering the complexity of a woman’s heart and soul? 

Two of the saddest moments of my life were the deaths of my sisters Emily and Anne in 1848 and 1849. They were both taken in their prime. I heard their failing breaths and watched the colour fade from their faces, as the eternal stillness took over. Every time I tremble from the hard frost and keen wind, I am reminded that they can no longer feel them. It was God’s will. My only consolation is that and the place where they have gone is better than the one they have left. This is part of a poem I wrote when Anne died: ‘There ‘s little joy in life for me, And little terror in the grave; I ‘ve lived the parting hour to see, Of one I would have died to save.

I did not think much of London life, but I visited on a few occasions and made the acquaintance of other notable writers, such as Mr. Thackeray and Mrs. Gaskell. I was especially impressed by the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in London, which I visited in 1851.

I had known Rev. Nicholls, curate of Haworth, since 1845. The first time he proposed marriage was in 1852, but my father objected and I was indifferent. Mr. Nicholls was insistent, and he was indeed a kind man, so the second time he proposed, two years later, my father did not oppose the marriage and I accepted. I did not marry for love. I had loved once and I was resigned to live without the hope of such passion again, but I would have liked to have children. I was my father’s only child still living, so I was his last chance of seeing any type of continuation in his line, but sadly, it was not to be. I died during a difficult pregnancy in 1855.

220px-Patrickbronte

I often think of my father, who survived his wife and six children, sitting in his favourite armchair by the window rereading his worn Bible, trying to understand why he had not yet been called. Perhaps I wrote these lines thinking of him:

He that lives must mourn.

God help us through our misery

And give us rest and joy with thee

When we reach our bourne!

It pleases me greatly that our novels are still read and loved, and have inspired other authors and artists over the centuries.

When authors write best, or at least, when they write most fluently, an influence seems to waken in them which becomes their master, which will have its own way, putting out of view all behests but its own, dictating certain words, and insisting on their being used, whether vehement or measured in their nature; new moulding characters, giving unthought-of turns to incidents, rejecting carefully elaborated old ideas, and suddenly creating and adopting new ones. Is it not so? And should we try to counteract this influence? Can we indeed counteract it?

from a letter to G.H. Lewes, 12 January 1848.

― Charlotte Bronte, The Letters of Charlotte Bronte: With a Selection of Letters by Family and Friends Volume III: 1852-1855

Have you read my books?

Have they inspired you to write?