Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Emily Bronte

I like the Bronte sisters.  All three of them.

They were brilliant and they died tragically young.  They grew up motherless and their two older sisters died as children.  They loved and protected their profligate, alcoholic, rather embarrassing brother.  They began writing as children--fairy tales written in impossibly tiny print in handmade books the size of matchboxes.  They lived in a somewhat isolated little town, with few eligible men.  They were educated but not wealthy (a tricky negotiation in the nineteenth century).  As adults, they wrote some of my favorite books ever--some of the best books ever written in English (and that's not just my opinion)--but none of them lived to see the full measure of their literary success.  Charlotte got a small taste of it, but she died at age 38, shortly after getting married.  She was pregnant when she died, and had no other children.  She'd buried both her younger sisters years before.

The Brontes understood loss and grief.  They struggled to make sense of senselessness.  They created fictional narratives that allowed them to imagine and to control intense and volatile forms of love.  Critics disapproved.

It was not easy being a Bronte.

In some ways, their lives were bleak and gray and punctuated with sadness.  But the Brontes, they dreamed in color.

And as I think about the ways that having Eliza changed me, I remind myself that everything is different now, but it won't feel like a barren wasteland forever.  There will be happiness again, and although it will never be easy and light-hearted the way it was before, it will be deeper and richer and more meaningful because I know what it is to lose the dearest thing to your heart and find a way to live without it.  

My life will always be sadder for not having her with me, but I will be better for having loved her.  She's changed me forever.  I hate some of those changes.  But some of those changes are good.

I have dreamed in my life, dreams that stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind. 
~ Emily Bronte

I had a baby.  And I miss her.  And she is a dream that will stay with me ever after. 


  1. Sending you so much love and strength as you learn to live without her - it's non easy. Remembering Eliza.

  2. Weird. I just started reading Wuthering Heights yesterday on the plane. So far I find all the characters to be pretty insufferable.

  3. I love the Bronte sisters. A couple weeks ago I saw the new film edition of Jane Eyre and remembered how much I love the book. I think it's time to reread some of the Bronte works.

  4. I visited the Bronte parsonage when I was in college and was struck by how many people died in that house, by how hard their lives were. It's about time for me to re-read Wuthering Heights, which will also help me with my 2011 goal of swearing more as both Heathcliff and Catherine bring out the profanity in me.

    Sending you love and thinking of you and Eliza.

  5. I have been trying to sort our the person he has helped me to become over the past few weeks.. it is a work in progress and reading this helped me appreciate the journey.
    Sending you much strength for your own journey...

  6. Love the Brontes too. Trying to drag dh to see Jane Eyre before it disappears from the theatres completely.

  7. I absolutely love this quote and am totally posting it as my FB status. ; ) I love to see women admitting that some of the changes have been good ones, because I feel the exact same way but have overwhelming guilt on account of it. xo