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The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects (2015)

av Deborah Lutz

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1214168,960 (3.83)7
In this unique and lovingly detailed biography of a literary family that has enthralled readers for nearly two centuries, Victorian literature scholar Deborah Lutz illuminates the complex and fascinating lives of the Brontës through the things they wore, stitched, wrote on, and inscribed. By unfolding the histories of the meaningful objects in their family home in Haworth, Lutz immerses readers in a nuanced re-creation of the sisters' daily lives while moving us chronologically forward through the major biographical events: the death of their mother and two sisters, the imaginary kingdoms of their childhood writing, their time as governesses, and their determined efforts to make a mark on the literary world.From the miniature books they made as children to the blackthorn walking sticks they carried on solitary hikes on the moors, each personal possession opens a window onto the sisters' world, their beloved fiction, and the Victorian era. A description of the brass collar worn by Emily's bull mastiff, Keeper, leads to a series of entertaining anecdotes about the influence of the family's dogs on their writing and about the relationship of Victorians to their pets in general. The sisters' portable writing desks prove to have played a crucial role in their writing lives: it was Charlotte's snooping in Emily's desk that led to the sisters' first publication in print, followed later by the publication of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.Charlotte's letters provide insight into her relationships, both innocent and illicit, including her relationship with the older professor to whom she wrote passionately. And the bracelet Charlotte had made of Anne and Emily's intertwined hair bears witness to her profound grief after their deaths.Lutz captivatingly shows the Brontës anew by bringing us deep inside the physical world in which they lived and from which their writings took inspiration.… (mer)

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Lutz shapes her biography of the Bronte sister (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne) around nine common objects that they owned, including a walking stick, tiny books they created as children, a silver dog collar, a lap desk, a collection of pressed ferns, and more. With some insight, some research, and a considerable amount of speculation, she connects the objects both to known events in their lives and to their novels and characters. The dog collar, for example, may have belonged to Emily's fierce companion, Keeper, but Lutz also connects it to the various dogs in Wuthering Heights: Cathy's favorite dog, Isabel's spaniel, and Heathcliffe's vicious guard dogs, among others. She also spends time discussing the role of dogs in Victorian society: which breeds were most popular, what kinds of dogs were owned by various famous persons, a notorious dognapping ring, etc. One might say that, like Emily wandering familiar territory (the moors), so Lutz wanders through each chapter, keeping her eye on the central object but often straying far afield. It's an interesting approach but might be frustrating to readers who were hoping for a well-researched and detailed biography or those already familiar with the Victorian era and its milieu. ( )
  Cariola | Feb 21, 2020 |
By and large, a well written and absorbing account of the Brontë family told through various objects owned by family members. There were some odd moments (that Lutz was able to get a "fleshy" smell from volumes in the Brontë library seems to me rather unlikely indeed, and likewise that Brontë manuscripts bound in sugar papers "still smell sweet"), but generally I thought she did a very decent job. ( )
  JBD1 | Sep 6, 2018 |
A readable and intriguing exploration of Victorian material culture, from letters to "scrapbooks" to hair jewelry through the lives and possessions of the Bronte family. ( )
  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
I have been fascinated with the three Brontë sisters – Charlotte, Emily, and Anne – ever since I first read Jane Eyre in my high school days. Even then, my voracious appetite led me to read all of their novels. When I started an English degree in order to do graduate work, the first class was in the summer before the full semester started. The second class I took was on British Women Writers. The class was intense. We read everything by the Brontës, along with all of Jane Austen, George Elliot, and Elizabeth Gaskill. This reading regimen exactly fulfilled all I had hoped for in my new adventure. When I saw a review of a Brontë biography by Deborah Lutz, The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects, I put everything else I was reading aside. Deborah is a Professor of English at Long Island University, and she lives in Brooklyn, New York. She has written several books on the Victorian period.

Each of the nine chapters delves into the personal lives of the three sisters by way of examining a variety of objects they used every day. The chapters include “Tiny Books” – my favorite – “Keeper, Grasper, and Other Family Animals,” and “The Alchemy of Desks.” Along with detailed descriptions in the nine chapters, is an array of photographs of the objects.

In the “Preface,” Lutz writes, “The Brontës scribbled, doodled, and inscribed in their books – stuck plants, drawings, visiting cards in them – making their presence manifest. Some of these well-used volumes transmitted even more than evidence of reading; they had a certain secret to them, which seemed to my nose, a fleshy smell. I was lucky to be able to touch (often without gloves), turn over, bring close, and even sniff the things I handled in libraries and museums” (Preface xxii). Few things give me more pleasure than opening a new book and drinking in the wonderful aroma of paper and ink. In the “Tiny Books” chapter, Lutz adds, “The Brontës felt an intimacy with these closely handled books, made by their own limbs and clothed with materials familiar from the kitchen or the parlor. This closeness of the body and the book was an ordinary feature of daily life in the nineteenth century, a relationship no longer obvious today” (23). I blame e-readers for the loss of the tactile sensations when holding a finely made new book.

In the chapter on “Family Animals,” Lutz explains, ‘For Emily, animals weren’t pets so much as they were family” (105). I can visualize Emily talking to her beloved Keeper as he cocks his head to one side, as our beloved Lab often does. The chapter has a drawing which “Emily immortalized [Keeper] in an expressive pencil portrait she did in January 1834” (115). This pencil drawing is included, along with the color pictures of his collar and a watercolor, also by Emily, of Keeper without his collar.

Deborah Lutz has written a warm, lovely, and informative look into the secret lives of Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Brontë. The Brontës Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects is a delicious and wonderful trip to Haworth Parsonage in the middle of the 19th century. Take a walk on the Yorkshire moors and feel their presence.

--Chiron, 6/5/16 ( )
  rmckeown | Jun 24, 2016 |
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For Tony and Pamela
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The strange bed in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights has always haunted me.
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Every spirit passing through the world fingers the tangible and mars the mutable, and finally has come to look and not to buy. As shoes are worn and hassocks are sat upon...finally everything is left where it was and the spirit passes on.
- Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping
The world is so full of a number of things
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.
- Robert Louis Stevenson, "Happy Thought"
I took my dingy volume by the scroop, and hurled it into the dog-kennel, vowing I hated a good book. Heathcliff kicked his to the same place.
- Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
Reading is my favourite occupation, when I have leisure for it and books to read.
- Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey
She by no means thought it waste of time to devote unnumbered hours to fine embroidery, sight-destroying lace-work, marvelous netting and knitting, and, above all, to most elaborate stocking-mending. She would give a day to the mending of two holes in a stocking any time, and think her "mission" nobly fulfilled when she had accomplished it.
- Charlotte Brontë, Shirley
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In this unique and lovingly detailed biography of a literary family that has enthralled readers for nearly two centuries, Victorian literature scholar Deborah Lutz illuminates the complex and fascinating lives of the Brontës through the things they wore, stitched, wrote on, and inscribed. By unfolding the histories of the meaningful objects in their family home in Haworth, Lutz immerses readers in a nuanced re-creation of the sisters' daily lives while moving us chronologically forward through the major biographical events: the death of their mother and two sisters, the imaginary kingdoms of their childhood writing, their time as governesses, and their determined efforts to make a mark on the literary world.From the miniature books they made as children to the blackthorn walking sticks they carried on solitary hikes on the moors, each personal possession opens a window onto the sisters' world, their beloved fiction, and the Victorian era. A description of the brass collar worn by Emily's bull mastiff, Keeper, leads to a series of entertaining anecdotes about the influence of the family's dogs on their writing and about the relationship of Victorians to their pets in general. The sisters' portable writing desks prove to have played a crucial role in their writing lives: it was Charlotte's snooping in Emily's desk that led to the sisters' first publication in print, followed later by the publication of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.Charlotte's letters provide insight into her relationships, both innocent and illicit, including her relationship with the older professor to whom she wrote passionately. And the bracelet Charlotte had made of Anne and Emily's intertwined hair bears witness to her profound grief after their deaths.Lutz captivatingly shows the Brontës anew by bringing us deep inside the physical world in which they lived and from which their writings took inspiration.

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