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1243_largePrecious relics of the life of Charlotte Brontë are taking center stage this year in a pair of special exhibitions celebrating the author’s bicentenary.

At the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, Charlotte Great and Small, curated by acclaimed novelist and Brontë enthusiast Tracy Chevalier, explores the contrast between Charlotte Brontë’s constricted life and her huge ambition. Growing up in the Haworth parsonage, Charlotte and her sisters lived in confined spaces, shared beds and worked together in one room. Despite being so contained, she had big ideas and longed to become “forever known”.

1183_largeExhibition highlights include Charlotte’s child-size clothes, several of the tiny books the Brontës wrote as children, and a scrap from a dress Charlotte wore to an important London dinner party. Another intriguing item on display is a moving love letter Charlotte wrote to her Belgian teacher, Constantin Heger, loaned by the British Library.

Additional objects from the Parsonage feature in the National Portrait Gallery’s Celebrating Charlotte Brontë, which transfers to New York’s Morgan Library this fall. The exhibition explores the story behind the only surviving portrait of Charlotte, Emily and Anne, painted by their brother Branwell. The painted was discovered folded on top of a wardrobe and subsequent acquired and restored by the Gallery in 1914.

 

 

If seeing the film adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Gothic novel Jane Eyre, which opened in theaters last Friday, has inspired wanderlust, head for Haddon Hall (below left) in the English countryside. Located in Bakewell, Derbyshire, the stand-in for Mr. Rochester’s atmospheric Thornfield Hall is a fortified medieval manor house and one of the oldest dwellings in England.

Some scenes were also shot in the gardens at Chatsworth House (below right)—home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire—which has appeared on film before. It was used for the exterior shots of Mr. Darcy’s house, Pemberley, in the 2005 movie Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. 

Combine a visit to Haddon Hall and Chatsworth House with a trip to the village of Haworth in Yorkshire, the longtime home of Charlotte and her famous sisters, Emily and Anne. Visit the Brontë Parsonage Museum, housed in the siblings’ former abode; take a literary-themed walking tour of the town; and have a pint or two at the Black Bull, a pub their wayward brother Branwell frequented.

One of the most memorable things Joni and I did on our trip to Haworth was amble along the moors to the Brontë sisters’ favorite destination. The picturesque spot has a waterfall and what has been dubbed the “Brontë chair,” which is a stone slab in the shape of a (surprisingly comfortable) chair. It’s a great place to take a breather after the two-and-a-half mile hike to get there.

The Focus Features website has a ton of fascinating information about the making of the film. Also of note: Austenprose.com has a review of the movie by Syrie James, whose novels include The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë and The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. –Shannon McKenna Schmidt

[Photos: Haddon Hall, ©flickr/roger 4336; all others, ©NovelDestinations.com]

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