The Artist Date: Visiting the Bronte Parsonage
So recently I have been inspired to take myself off on solo dates, or an 'artist date'. An artist date 'is the idea of making time for yourself, once a week, on your own, to do something that nourishes you', and I was first inspired by Aileen's video over on Lavendaire. Spending time treating yourself is something I don't think any of us do enough of, and given I was driving past, it seemed a perfect opportunity for me to treat myself to a leisurely lunch stop over in Haworth, home of the Brontës.
The Brontës have been one of my great literary loves ever since I was a teenager. I'd discovered Pride and Prejudice and fallen in love with Austen, and then during sixth form I picked up a copy of Wuthering Heights and became obsessed. I then followed this with Jane Eyre, and chose a module at uni where I studied those old favourites as well as discovering Agnes Grey and the massively underappreciated Tenant of Wildfell Hall. To go from Austen's comic volumes, satirising Regency society, to the brutality of life on the moors with characters such as Heathcliff, was the exact switch moody teenage me needed. The Brontë books are about so much more than characters and plots - they are about mood, atmosphere, and most of all emotion. Who can't feel emotional at Jane's protestions of "Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! - I have as much soul as you, and full as much heart!", or at Cathy's cry of "Nelly, I am Heathcliff!". And it was those feelings I wanted to revist on my visit to Haworth.
Luckily, the Brontë Parsonage are currently celebrating Emily Brontë's 200th anniversary, so there was plenty of Wuthering Heights content for me to get my teeth in to. But, more importantly, I wanted to visit the place, the people, behind these great novels.
Everyone at the Parsonage was so helpful and full of information for anything you might have to ask. The rooms were all clearly labelled, making touring the Parsonage a breeze. I loved seeing each of the rooms set up just as they would have been; seeing that famous portrait of Charlotte over the fireplace; visiting the notorious Branwell's studio; looking at the sisters' childhood bedroom upstairs. The museum portion at the end of the tour was equally fascinating, with items belonging to the Brontës on display, as well as others' accounts of their lives. Most impressive was the famous portrait of the Brontës, minus Branwell, on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. To see the real thing, not a replica, was incredible. And you can really start to see the detail of Branwell's outline, despite his best efforts to erase himself from the picture! And finally, at the end of the tour, was a small room containing items related to Emily, as well as famous actors and writers explaining how important Emily's poetry, or Wuthering Heights, was to them. As my 'gateway book' to the Brontës, this was such a wonderful end to my tour of the Parsonage.
After I went to the Parsonage I looked around the old school house that the sisters would have studied in, and I wanted to look in the church as well but there was a wedding on! So instead I wandered down the picturesque - and incredibly steep! - Haworth high street, stopping at Cobbles and Clay for a delicious lunch (thank you Lucy for the recommendation!). Then I found a second hand bookshop! I swear, they just jump out at me. So I picked up a few Shakespeare books to add to my ever-growing collection, and wandered back up the hill for one final look around the Parsonage, church, and schoolhouse before I had to leave. Apparently there was a wonderful walk to be had, but I didn't have time to do it on this visit. So I have a ready excuse to come back!
I had such a lovely afternoon in Haworth. Thank you to the fabulous Brontë Parsonage staff for making the visit so wonderful - I can't wait to come back!
Have you visited Haworth, or are a fan of the Brontës?
What's your favourite Brontë novel, and why?
Let me know in the comments!