'The first requirement for myth status is a story that is so compelling in its original form that it is endlessly reinterpreted according to the tastes and concerns of each contemporary society and the literary genre which captures them.'
Wise words from Patricia Ingham in her book The Brontes for the Oxford World's Classics - Authors in Context series and I've read most of it recently and browsed a pile of other Bronte books, all to help me cope with that bereft feeling as I turned the final page of Jude Morgan's forthcoming book The Taste of Sorrow. My thoughts on that very soon when I've recovered and can speak slightly less hysterically of its manifold virtues.
While I'm on the subject of Jude Morgan I've just made a start on his previous novel, Passion. What a truly astonishing writer he is and who knows what reading trails that book will open up, but meanwhile I've now got a really bad bout of Brontemania to contend with. I know for a fact that I can buy into the Bronte myth with great ease, can't we all and if you can't you might just want to skip this.
The whole Haworth - Parsonage - windswept moorland - lonely sisters - drunken brother scenario never ceases to draw me in, though I've stopped short of joining The Bronte Society, but it's been a close run thing during previous exacerbations.
We've been on the pilgrimage too, 2005 to be exact.
there's me outside patiently waiting my turn.
This was a hot July day almost everywhere else in the country except Haworth, where the wind whistled and we froze but so easy to feel the myth every which way you turned.
But thankfully there is so much more to explore than the homage to Haworth and the myth and whenever it happens I don't want to waste an ounce of the energy that Brontemania creates, so with a fair chunk of Sally Shuttleworth's excellent Charlotte Bronte and Victorian Psychology under my belt and Lisa Appignanesi's Mad, Bad and Sad to hand as well, I'm reading The Professor and will hopefully calm down a bit.
Talking of epidemics which the world seems to be right now, it's been fascinating to explore the issues of mental illness and cultural pressures that prevailed back in the nineteenth century when, though it might not have been Swinfluenza, a fear of insanity was equally at epidemic proportions, as Sally Shuttleworth comments,
"...where no physical symptoms might arise to give lie to professional judgement, and fear of the disease might itself be the source of infection.'
and with it the underlying message that self-control was the only available preventative measure. Beyond that the only people who could monitor the progress of insanity were the physicians with their apparent ability to somehow 'gaze into the recesses of the soul' and diagnose, and alongside that came their powers of forcible commital to an insane asylum if required.
I've barely scratched the surface of all this with some embryonic thinking, and my coverage here is simplistic at best, but thanks to Sally Shuttleworth I'm interested now to see how Charlotte Bronte writes this power of the penetrating gaze into her fiction. How the secrets of one lie in the hands of another,
'To enter into the hidden secrets of another is to rob them of control : knowledge becomes absolute power.'
and in Sally Shuttleworth's words how those secrets then display
'...the glittering eye of insanity'.
Of course when you've been on the Haworth pilgrimage trail there's only one place to go next, just a few miles down one hill and up another.
But that's another reading trail entirely and this one's enough for now.