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This chapter analyses how writers and literary tourists imagined Charlotte Bronte during the fifty years after her death. It is framed by the accounts of two writers, Elizabeth Gaskell and Virginia Woolf, both of whom travelled to Yorkshire to find evidence of Charlotte Bronte's life and to assess her legacy as an author. Woolf 's career began with a journey to Charlotte Bronte's home, a literary pilgrimage described in an ironic register, a distinct break with the emotional and reverential accounts of her predecessors. While Bronte's literary legacy ostensibly provided the rationale for the 'Charlotte' cult, her texts did not actually seem to be sufficient for many of her devotees. Many Victorian pilgrims, like Harland, recorded feeling a thrill of presence and friendly connection to Charlotte Bronte in Haworth.
This book charts the vast cultural impact of Charlotte Bronte since the appearance of her first published work, Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. It highlights the richness and diversity of the author's legacy, her afterlife and the continuation of her plots and characters in new forms. The most well known and well regarded of the three sisters during the Victorian period, Charlotte Bronte bequeathed a legacy which is more extensive and more complex than the legacies of Emily Bronte and Anne Bronte. The book shows how Bronte's cultural afterlife has also been marked by a broad geographical range in her consideration of Bronte-related literary tourism in Brussels. It is framed by the accounts of two writers, Elizabeth Gaskell and Virginia Woolf, both of whom travelled to Yorkshire to find evidence of Charlotte Bronte's life and to assess her legacy as an author. The book focuses upon Bronte's topical fascination with labour migration for single, middle-class women in the light of the friendship and correspondence with Mary Taylor. Recent works of fiction have connected the Brontes with the supernatural. The book explores Bronte biodrama as a critically reflexive art: a notable example of popular culture in dialogue with scholarship, heritage and tourism. The Professor and Jane Eyre house the ghost of an original verse composition, whose inclusion allows both novels to participate together in a conversation about the novel's capacity to embody and sustain a lyric afterlife. A survey of the critical fortunes of Villette is also included.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book focuses on the myths associated with Charlotte Bronte's life. It examines the origins of the impulse to seek 'Charlotte' in Haworth. The book examines commemorative poetry and fictional biographies to trace how the idea of the ghostly frames understandings of Charlotte Bronte's afterlife. It identifies Elizabeth Gaskell's biography, with its repeated references to folk tales and superstitions, and the uncanny qualities of the Bronte home, as stimulating the idea of Charlotte Bronte as haunted and haunting. The book explores the important cultural influence of Villette, a novel not widely read by general readers, unlike Jane Eyre. It highlights how women publishing fiction and political writing between 1910 and 1940 valued Bronte's model of a working woman offered by Lucy Snowe as they reinterpreted and reworked the oblique feminist message of Villette.