They were young and motherless, but highly imaginative and educated. They stood out in Yorkshire even as they kept to themselves, creating a world of poetry and prose that began for their own entertainment and ended up shocking some of Victorian England's more precious sensibilities. They all died young, with the eldest reaching only 38 years. Their legacy lives on in the works they left behind and in the dozens of movies, biographies and novelizations based in their lives.
And if you think you haven't felt their impact, you're wrong.
They were the Brontes: Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Bramwell, and they were the timely topic that Carole Stone discussed in front of a standing-room only crowd at BookHampton's Winter Lecture Series in East Hampton on Saturday.
Stone painted a portrait of the poor and isolated family that held listeners rapt. Most of the audience were familiar with Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester and Cathy and Heathcliffe, but Stone wanted to recommend Charlote Bronte's Villette as the most autobiographical of the novels. Based in the sisters' time in Brussels, Villette tells the story of Charlotte's love for her tutor.
Stone also pointed out how anti-religion the Brontes works read. Children of a curate and educated in church-run schools, Stone posited that their overall experience at the hands of the church were so negative, that their true feelings leeched into their writings. "Their schools were certainly Dickensian," Stone noted. "One thing I'll always remember is the cold they must have experienced."
Come in from the cold next week — Saturday March 26 at 5:00pm in East Hampton — when The BookHampton Winter Lecture Series welcomes Joseph Salvatore, who asks "Is Jonathan Franzen Our Henry James?"