Saturday 11 July 2009

In the voices of, in the echoes of...

I am listening to the letters of Jane Austen (left) and Charlotte Bronte (right). It is enough to be still, and listen when women writers speak. Jane Austen's voice, much as Elizabeth's in 'Pride and Prejudice', is good humoured for the most part; only loneliness and financial dependence make her acerbic or tart. For example, "I was pleasantly surprised to find L.B. still here. She looks remarkably well - legacies are a very wholesome diet..." But in her last letter to her brother she writes poignantly of her sister Cassandra's love and devotion to her, "If ever you are ill, may you be as tenderly nursed as I have been. And may you possess the greatest blessing of all - the consciousness of not being unworthy of their love..."(1817).

I feel and echo this sentiment, as I do much of the odd and awkward business of being a young, unmarried woman, living in the family home, creating an inner and written world within the confines of a long and tiresome illness and a very solitary existence. Inspite of these, happiness is my lot, and laughter, neither of which seem to have played much part in Charlotte Bronte's life - sadness pervades her writing. Death of her siblings, one by one, indifferent health herself, poor eyesight and the knowledge that had she been a man, the success of 'Jane Eyre' would have been unmitigated, free of all suspicion and disparagement. It is in defense of her writing that I find myself echoed again: "The loss of what we possess nearest and dearest to us in this world produces an effect upon the character. We search out what we have left that can support and when found we cling to it with a hold of new strung tenacity. The faculty of imagination lifted me when I was sinking three months ago; its active exercise has kept my head above water since. Its results cheer me now for I feel they have enabled me to give pleasure to others..." (1849).

It is a gift, always a gift , to write, and be read. To be heard and echoed over the waters of two hundred years, must make the artists smile. It was worth the living, to tell the tale, if only for a while.
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