11 February 2023: Talks by Roel Jacobs and Dawn Robey.
Brussels historian Roel Jacobs spoke about Brussels in the mid-nineteenth century, at the time of Charlotte and Emily Brontë’s stay in Belgium, and of the city’s political and economic dynamism in the period, not always reflected in Charlotte’s ‘Belgian’ novels. Dawn Robey talked about the ways in which descriptions of rooms in these novels provide insights into the characters.
15 October 2022: Talks by Edwin Marr and Leen Huet
Edwin Marr gave a talk on ‘The New Lazarus: Shirley and Villette as two very different tales of grief’ which explored the key differences between Charlotte Brontë’s late novels in their handling of death, grief, and mourning. Leen Huet, art historian, essayist and novelist, gave a wide-ranging talk entitled ‘A Belgian writer reads foreign writers on Belgium’ which looked at visitors to Belgium over the centuries.
30 April 2022: Talks by Monica Kendall and Derek Blyth
Monica Kendall, author of Lies and the Brontës: The Quest for the Jenkins Family, spoke about her ancestors, the Rev. Evan and Eliza Jenkins. The Rev. Evan was the British chaplain in Brussels and his wife recommended the Pensionnat Heger to the Brontës. Derek Blyth, guide book writer (Hidden Secrets of Brussels) and Brontëphile, took us on a ‘Brussels Brontë Ramble’ which also touched on other famous writers connected with Brussels.
16 March 2022: Talk by Simon Marsden
Simon Marsden of Liverpool University spoke about the Gothic aspects of Villette and its relationship to early-nineteenth-century Gothic literature more generally in a talk entitled ‘In the dead of night I suddenly awoke’: The Gothic Mode of Charlotte Bronte’s Villette‘.
9 February 2022: Member Presentation – Talk by Robynn Colwell
Robynn Colwell talked about how secondary characters can be used in novels as literary devices, helping to convey and develop essential themes. As well as looking at examples in Brontë novels, she spoke about E.M. Forster’s Room with a View and Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady.
18 October 2021: Talk by Dinah Birch
Dinah Birch, Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool, spoke on Education and the Brontë family: Principles and Practice.
6 May 2021: Talk by Isabel Greenberg
The award-winning graphic designer and illustrator Isabel Greenberg presented her graphic novel Glass Town (2020, an exploration of the young Brontës’ fantasy world that blends fiction and biography.
20 April 2021: Talk by Samantha Ellis
Samantha Ellis, author of Take Courage: Anne Bronte and the Art of Life, gave a talk on ‘Why Anne Brontë didn’t go to Brussels and why it matters’.
23 March 2021 – Member Presentation: Talk by Paulina Carlin
Paulina Carlin gave a talk about the Swedish novelist Frederika Bremer entitled ‘The Novel that made Charlotte Bronte Fear Plagiarism Charges – Meet The Neighbours by Fredrika Bremer’.
18 February 2021 – Member Presentation: Talk by Brian Holland
Brian Holland gave a talk entitled ‘Angel in the House…or Angel in Heaven? How the patriarchy operated in Victorian England – with illustrations from the visual and verbal culture of the period’.
7 October 2020 – Talk by Karen Hewitt
In a talk on Zoom, Karen Hewitt of the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education gave a talk called ‘Charlotte Bronte’s quarrel with the English Gentleman in Villette’ in which she looked at how Charlotte Brontë and her heroine Lucy Snowe address issues of social class and cultural identity.
15 February 2020 – Member presentations
Ana Gauthier spoke about the phenomenon of fan fiction, with special reference to fiction inspired by the Brontës; Mark Cropper gave an interactive presentation on mind mapping and how he applies it to note-taking during our talks; Emelie Sannen had a look at Anne Brontë’s poetry.
12 October 2019 – Talks by Patsy Stoneman and Nathalie Stalmans
Patsy Stoneman, Vice-President of the Brontë Society, in a talk called ‘“A little romance”? Taking liberties with Brontë biography’, looked at biography and biographical fiction about the Brontës. We also interviewed Belgian historical novelist Nathalie Stalmans about ‘Si j’avais des ailes’, her new novel about Charlotte Brontë’s time at the Pensionnat Heger.
6 April 2019 – Fathers and Soldiers: (Re)writing Male Heroes in the Brontë Juvenilia
Emma Butcher of the University of Leicester gave a talk on the young Brontës and their juvenilia, their heroes and their interest in the Napoleonic wars.
13 October 2018 – Talk by John Bowen; readings of Emily Brontë’s poetry
John Bowen, Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of York, gave a talk on Wuthering Heights entitled ‘Dividing the Desolation’. This was followed by readings by members of the Brussels Brontë Group of some of Emily Brontë’s best-loved poems.
21 April 2018 – Talks by Lucasta Miller and John Sutherland
Lucasta Miller gave a talk on ‘the Brontë Myth’, the subject of her 2001 book of that name exploring the Brontës’ legacy. John Sutherland gave a wide-ranging talk on various aspects of Brontë studies and Brontë curiosities including his recently published miscellany The Brontesaurus: An A–Z of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë (and Branwell).
24 February 2018 – Presentations by members of the Brussels Brontë Group
Jones Hayden spoke on The influence of Charlotte Brontë’s Brussels experience on ‘Jane Eyre’, taking as his starting point Juliet Barker’s opinion that ‘Possibly the greatest single influence on Charlotte, both as a person and as a writer, was the time she spent in Brussels’. Ola Podstawka gave a presentation on Branwell Brontë entitled We need to talk about Branwell, looking at his life, work and personality, his achievements and the reasons for his failures.
14 October 2017 – Helen MacEwan
Replacing the scheduled speaker Prof. John Sutherland, who was unable to speak because of illness, Helen MacEwan gave a talk on ‘Villette’ as vignettes of Belgian life: further glimpses of 1840s Brussels in Charlotte Brontë’s last novel. Following on from her talk on 1 April, she looked at ways in which 1840s Brussels life is reflected in Villette, contrasting Charlotte’s views with those of other observers both foreign and Belgian. The subject is explored further in her new book Through Belgian Eyes: Charlotte Brontë’s Troubled Brussels Legacyto be published this November. The talk was accompanied by readings from a variety of writers, read by Paul Gretton and Ola Podstawska.
1 April 2017 – Helen MacEwan and Sam Jordison
Helen MacEwan, founder of the Brussels Brontë Group and author of The Brontés in Brussels, spoke on Belgian views of Charlotte Brontë and Brontë’s legacy in Brussels. Sam Jordison, writer and Guardian critic, gave a talk called Unknown power: The Brontës in the public eye, about critical views of the Brontës over the past two centuries, looking at the ways writers and journalists have viewed the family in reviews and reports.
11 February 2017 – Presentations by members of the Brussels Brontë Group
Judith Collins spoke on Disguise, deception and concealment in Jane Eyre. Paul Gretton spoke on Some literary themes and sources of Wuthering Heights: The Disruptive Intruder, The Fascinating Baddie, The Star-crossed Lovers, Digging up your Girlfriend … (as one does)
22 October 2016 – Yorkshire and Irish Roots Explored
The Yorkshire-born writer writer Blake Morrison talked about his lifelong interest in the Brontës and his play ‘We Are Three Sisters’, an adaptation of Chekhov’s ‘Three Sisters’ to tell the story of the Brontës. Monica Wallace, who hails from Dublin, gave a lavishly-illustrated presentation on ‘Charlotte Brontë’s Irish Honeymoon’, tracing the route taken by Charlotte and her Irish husband Arthur Bell Nicholls on their honeymoon in 1854.
16-17 April 2016 – Annual Brontë Weekend
In this Charlotte Brontë bicentenary year, Juliet Barker, historian and author of the definitive Brontë biography ‘The Brontës’, came to Brussels to give us a talk about the family and their background – and the things Mrs Gaskell left out of her ‘Life of Charlotte Brontë’
Saturday 20 February 2016 : Member presentations
Jolien Janzing, author of ‘Charlotte Brontë’s Secret Love’ (originally published in Dutch as ‘De Meester’) gave a talk on ‘Love and Literature: Charlotte Brontë in Brussels’. Ola Podstawka gave a talk on: ‘Conjuring up Monsieur Heger: a collective portrait of male protagonists in the works of Charlotte Brontë’.
Saturday 17 October 2015 – Tessa Hadley
The novelist Tessa Hadley gave a talk called A contemporary novelist reads Jane Eyre
Saturday 20 June 2015 – Waterloo Bicentenary
Brussels Group members joined a group of UK Brontë Society members visiting Brussels for the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo. They attended a battle re-enactment and heard a talk by Emma Butcher from Hull University, on Wellington and Napoleon as Early Brontë Heroes.
Saturday 25 April 2015 – Brussels Brontë Weekend
We had two speakers at this year’s annual Brontë Weekend. Claire Harman spoke about her new biography of Charlotte Brontë, to be published in October 2015, and Bonnie Greer, President of the Brontë Society, spoke to members about plans for the Charlotte Brontë Bicentenary (2016)
Saturday 28 February 2015 – Member presentation
Jones Hayden: Profanity and Scripture in The Professor: Charlotte Brontë’s `Disagreeable’ Use of Bible Quotations in Her First Novel
Jones Hayden explored The Professor with one hand on the Bible to see how justified Mrs. Gaskell was in calling the novel ‘disfigured by more coarseness, – & profanity in quoting texts of Scripture disagreeably than in any of her other works’.
Saturday 18 October 2014 – Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Shoes of Silence and a Face of Stone: Surveillance and Secrets in Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Villette’. A talk by award-winning biographer Lucy Hughes-Hallett, author of The Pike: Gabriele d’Annunzio. Madame Beck’s school in Villette is full of spies, of unobserved observers. Lucy Hughes-Hallett looked at examples of surveillance and secrets in the novel and the uses to which they are put.
Saturday 29 March 2014 – Shirley in context. A talk by Dr Nicholas Shrimpton, Emeritus Fellow, Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford.
Faced with the difficult task of following up the success of her first novel Jane Eyre, in her next novel, Shirley, Charlotte Brontë decided to attempt something completely different. Set in Yorkshire in 1811–12, against a backdrop of unrest in the Yorkshire textile industry during the industrial depression resulting from the Napoleonic Wars, it is atypical among her novels in that one of its themes is social history, the ‘condition of England’. Nicholas Shrimpton considered the book in its social and literary context.
Saturday 15 February 2014 – A Virtual walk through the Isabelle Quarter. Slide show presented by Eric Ruijssenaars
Eric Ruijssenaars, author of Charlotte Brontë’s Promised Land: The Pensionnat Heger and other Brontë places in Brussels (2000) and The Pensionnat Revisited; More light shed on the Brussels of the Brontës (2003), guided us on a virtual walk of the area round the Pensionnat and Rue d’Isabelle.
Saturday 12 October 2013 – “The passions are perfectly unknown to her”: Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and romantic fiction.
A talk by Dr Sandie Byrne of the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre are both perceived as romantic novels. Yet Charlotte Brontë complained that Jane Austen’s books lacked passion. Taking Brontë’s dislike of Austen as a starting point, Sandie Byrne compared the portrayal of passion and romance in the works of the two authors.
Tuesday 7 May 2013 – Presentation of the novel ‘De Meester (The Master) by Jolien Janzing
Given in the Gothic Room in the Town Hall in Brussels.
Saturday 20 April to Sunday 21 April 2013 – Annual Brontë Weekend
Elizabeth Merry, who had been in Brussels recently to give a lecture on The Young Brontës and Artfor BRIDFAS (the Brussels arm of NADFAS, the National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies) returned to give this attractive illustrated presentation to our group at our 7th consecutive Brussels Brontë Weekend. She spoke both about the Brontës’ own art work and the artists who influenced them. Our second speaker was David Grylls, who recently retired as Director of the literature programme at the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. He entertained us with a lively talk on Sex in Victorian Fiction (which is also the title of his forthcoming book), examining the constraints on expression in Victorian publishing and the ways in which novelists got round them, with special reference to the Brontës’ novels.
23 February 2013 – Member Presentations
Marina Saegerman presented her calligraphy versions of Emily Brontë poems and told us about the craft of calligraphy, and Maureen Peeck read and commented on the poems. Paul Gretton gave a talk on Rev. William Carus Wilson, who inspired the character of Mr Brocklehurst in Jane Eyre.
28 November 2012 – Down the Belliard Steps book launch
On this evening Waterstones bookstore in Brussels held a launch for Helen Mac Ewan’s recently published book about the experience of setting up the Brussels Brontë Group, Down the Belliard Steps: Discovering the Brontës in Brussels.
13 October 2012 – The Hidden Face of Charlotte Bronte.
A talk by Lyndall Gordon, senior research fellow at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. The distinguished biographer Lyndall Gordon shared the insights into the real Charlotte Brontë she developed in her biography Charlotte Bronte: A Passionate Life, which reveals a fiery woman who shaped her own life and transformed it into art. She examined questions such as what Charlotte gained from her feminist friend, Mary Taylor, her mentor M. Heger and her publisher George Smith. Lyndall Gordon, , has written also written biographies of Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf and Emily Dickinson.
Saturday 21 April to Sunday 22 April 2012 Annual Brontë Weekend
Both our speakers this year came from Yorkshire. Patsy Stoneman, who has taught much of her life at the University of Hull, spoke about Jane Eyre from then till now, focusing on feminist readings of Jane Eyre, and Andrew McCarthy, Director of the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, gave us a presentation on the Museum. On Sunday, members of BRIDFAS (Decorative and Fine Arts Society of Brussels) joined our guided walks around Brontë places.
11 February 2012 – Presentations by Brussels Brontë Group members
Monica Wallace: The life and work of writer Maria Edgeworth
Alex Reis: Literary blogs and activities of the blogging community
Myriam Campinaire: Gothic elements in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights
Jones Hayden:The influence of Charlotte Brontë’s stay in Brussels on Jane Eyre
15 October 2011 – Putting Jane Eyre in Context
A talk by Dr Sandie Byrne of the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. Sandie Byrne gave an overview of the context in which Jane Eyre was written, covering the historical background and the literary context – the popular writers of the period and those read by the Brontës, with an analysis of the literary influences on Jane Eyre.
Friday 1 April to Sunday 3 April 2011 Annual Brontë Weekend
This was the fifth consecutive Brontë weekend organised by our Group. Two academic lectures formed the centrepiece of the weekend’s events. In the morning Professor Valerie Sanders looked at Fatherhood and the Brontës. Her presentation was followed in the afternoon by Professor Philip Riley’s talk Not just a pretty face: physiognomy, phrenology and the novels of the Brontë sisters. The day ended with a get-together of members in one of the taverns on Grand’Place. On Sunday two guided walks were offered to cater for ever-growing interest in our special historical tours. This was followed by lunch and our informal AGM, which concluded this splendid weekend.
Saturday 23 October 2010 – The Brontës in Brussels and Ireland
On this day the Brussels Brontë Group organised two talks on the theme of the Brontës in Brussels and Ireland . Charlotte and Emily Brontë both studied in Brussels and their father, Patrick Brontë, was originally from Ireland. These talks explore their link with both places. In the mornng Sue Lonoff talked about Charlotte and Emily Brontë: Two Contrasting Brussels Experiences. Sue Lonoff translated and edited the sisters’ “Belgian essays”, the “devoirs” written in French for their teacher M. Heger during their years studying in Brussels. In the afternoon we listened to : Patrick Brontë in Ireland before Cambridge: the Influence of Circumstances by Brian Wilks, author of The Brontës of Haworth. The father of the Brontës, Patrick, was born in Co. Down, Ireland, where he spent the first 25 years of his life before moving to England to study at Cambridge.
It would prove to be quite a special day which many of those who attended will remember, as not only did the British ambassador honour us with a visit, but also a Heger descendant, François Fierens, arrived at the event bearing a Brontë manuscript owned by the Heger family. Many thanks to Emily Waterfield for writing an excellent report as usual. Thanks to the people who took photos, particularly Liviu who took many of the ones we’ve posted.
Friday 23 April to Sunday 25 April 2010 Annual Brontë Weekend
This was the fourth consecutive Brontë weekend organised by our Group. On Friday we kicked off with an informal buffet supper followed by a quiz on the Brontës’ lives, the theme of the weekend.
On Saturday we invited two speakers; in the morning Prof. Angus Easson gave a talk On the Brussels trail: Elizabeth Gaskell and The Life of Charlotte Brontë and in the afternoon we listened to Dr. Sandro Jung of Ghent University on the subject of Curiosity in Villette. What has now become a tradition, our guided walk in Brussels was organised on Sunday, followed by a meeting for members.
Saturday 27 February 2010 – Breaking the Frame: the Narrators of Wuthering Heights.
A talk by Nicholas Marsh, editor of Palgrave Macmillan’s Analysing Texts series and author of many books in the series, including the study of Wuthering Heights. Nicholas Marsh is also the author of the popular How to Begin Studying English Literature. His talk examined the ways in which the narrators in Wuthering Heights, though unreliable, biased and with only a partial view of the events related, are in fact used by Emily Brontë to make the novel more powerful.
Saturday 17 October 2009 – Are you anybody, Miss Snowe?
A talk by Dr Maureen Peeck O’Toole about Charlotte Brontë’s Brussels novel Villette, followed by readings of passages from the novel. A significant aspect of Villette is the way the enigmatic narrator, Lucy Snowe, often addresses a fictitious reader, and Maureen Peeck argued that Lucy’s character is partly realised by means of her relationship with this reader.
Friday 24 April – Sunday 26 April 2009: Annual Brontë weekend
Our third annual weekend of events focused on Emily Brontë. The weekend kicked off with a concert by Veronica Metz of the Celtic band Anois who sang Emily Brontë’s poems set to music by the band ahead of her concert in Haworth later in the year. Novelist Stevie Davies spoke on Emily Brontë and the Mother World and socio-linguist Philip Riley on the Brontës’ use of language in a talk entitled The Brontë sisters’ “strong language”. As always, we organised a guided walk around Brontë places in Brussels, while Eric Ruijssenaars led an additional excursion to Brusselscemeteries to search for the graves of the Brontës’ friends Martha Taylor and Julia Wheelwright.
Other reports on the weekend:
18 October 2008 – What Everyone Knows about Wuthering Heights: the novel and its adaptations
A talk by Dr Patsy Stoneman, Emeritus Reader in English at the University of Hull, at Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis, Bld. du Jardin Botanique/Kruidtuinlaan 43, 1000 Brussels.
Dr Patsy Stoneman examined the assumption that even people who haven’t read Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights think they know what it is “about”, mostly from films. She compared extracts from film adaptations of the novel (e.g. the 1939 film with Laurence Olivier, the 1970 film with Timothy Dalton and the 1991 one with Ralph Fiennes) with the corresponding passages from the novel, showing for example that the films give us answers to what in the novel remain questions.
18-20 April 2008 – Annual Brontë weekend
For the second year running we organised a weekend of events to mark the anniversary of Charlotte Brontë’s birthday. It opened with a meeting in Waterstone’s bookstore with writers Robert Barnard, Eric Ruijssenaars, Maureen Peeck and Derek Blyth. The Bibliothèque des Riches Claires, assisted by our Group, organised an exhibition and one-day conference on Les Soeurs Brontë à Bruxelles at which Robert Barnard and Eric Ruijssenaars spoke alongside Brussels historians and the Héger descendant Paul Héger. We also repeated our very popular guided walk around Brontë places in Brussels.
18 October 2007 – Letters to Brussels: Charlotte Brontë’s letters to Constantin Heger.
A talk by Derek Blyth at Cercle des Voyageurs, Rue des Grands Carmes 18, 1000 Brussels.
21-22 April 2007: Annual Brontë weekend
Our weekend of activities coinciding with Charlotte Brontë’s birthday included social events and guided walks around Brussels places with Brontë associations, led by Derek Blyth. Members in Belgium were joined by those from the Netherlands and also by a group of Brontë Society members from the UK.