Charlotte Bronte and the uses of creative writing : a study in function and form

Bemelmans, Josephus Wilhelmus Maria

English; Literature; Mass media; Performing arts
September 1988

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© 1988 Josephus Wilhelmus Maria Bemelmans. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

This study examines the functions of Bronte's "scribblemania" at each stage of her intellectual and emotional development, as well as the narrative forms, many originating in the exceptional visual qualities of her imagination, which she employed to shape her thoughts into fictional correlatives.

Young Bronte, while indifferent to contemporary fiction, aspired to become a painter, and looked upon her prose writings as a diary. Between 1829 and 1833, she recorded her visions of the realm of artists and poets in which she hoped one day to participate. In 1834 and early 1835, while the career in painting was becoming progressively elusive, she was baffled in her attempts to share in her imaginary Athens, but drew comfort from watching it through her narrator's eyes. During the Roe Head crisis, while at home for the holidays, she withdrew to the margin of Angria in order to allow her exhausted imagination to recover. Having failed in the later novelettes to devise a means of overcoming the burdensome reserve which shielded her imagination against an indifferent outer world, she resolved to leave Angria, but only for a while. Her half-hearted attempt to write a novel at the age of twenty-four was inspired by the hope of earning some money. In The Professor, another financial venture, she charted the struggles of an imaginative person who, like herself, was determined to win a stake in life. She returned to this theme in Jane Eyre. While writing Volume One of Shirley, she perceived a role for herself as a social reformer. The project collapsed after Emily's death. In Villette, she affirmed her faith in her memory and imagination.

Three appendices discuss It is all up!, the dating of But it is not in Society (April 1839), and the dating of Bronte's letter to Hartley Coleridge (December 1841).

Department of English, The University of Hull
Knowles, Owen
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