Saturday, August 02, 2008

Brontë Humor, Gaskell Bio, and Plath's poem

I read the chapter on The Life of Charlotte Brontë in the Uglow bio after I read Gaskell's bio of Charlotte, and I'm glad I did because it enabled me to experience the bio on my own, without commentary from Uglow. However, Uglow shed some light on interesting aspects of the bio that I think worth sharing.

I was struck my Gaskell's use of her older daughters, Meta and Marianne, to copy out the parts of Charlotte's letters that she wanted to use in the bio. Editing letters for inclusion in a bio enables the biographer to use the subject's words to her own purposes. In this case, Uglow notes that this "editing, of course, also edited Charlotte's character--we miss some of her humour, and much of her tartness." I suppose I'll have to go and read the letters in a less edited form as I couldn't find any humor in the letters in Gaskell's bio of Charlotte.

I really loved the chapter where Gaskell and her daughters visit Italy. When I recently rewatched Wives and Daughters, the DVD had a bio on Gaskell that strongly suggested that Gaskell fell in love with and even had an affair with Charles Norton, which isn't true unless Uglow is suppressing this in the same way Gaskell suppressed Charlotte's love for M. Heger. Of course, an affair might have come later...that's the danger about blogging on a book that I haven't yet finished reading.

In The Brontë Influence, I found Sylvia Plath's Wuthering Heights, and a poem by the same name by Ted Hughes. On first reading both, I liked Plath's so much more than Hughes's. And then I read the essay in the book by Luke Spencer which made me admire Plath's all the more and almost despise Hughes version. Now, after reading them both again, I still like Plath's version but Hughes's is growing on me. It is impossible to read either poem out of the context of their lives, deaths, and the life/death/works of Emily Brontë.

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