Wednesday, December 14, 2016

"To Walk Invisible"

A scene from the television film "To Walk Invisible"
Photo via here

If you are a fan of the Bronte sisters (Charlotte, Emily and Anne), the authors of some of the most iconic novels in the English language, you will be very happy to hear that a dramatization of their lives will soon be airing on PBS.  Sally Wainwright, the creator of television shows such as "Happy Valley" and "Last Tango in Halifax," has just completed a new film for the BBC, "To Walk Invisible." It has been shot in Haworth, Yorkshire, where the Bronte family lived, and from the photos I have seen it looks breathtaking. I have always been enthralled by the story of the Brontes -- their humble beginnings, remote setting in Yorkshire, tragically short lives, and the literary masterpieces they produced  --  a personal story as riveting as any of their books. Now it will be told in what looks to be a brilliant television production. The lucky viewers in Britain will get to see it this month. We will have to wait until March when it will be broadcast on Masterpiece Theatre.

Here are a few things I have learned about this upcoming television production:

Sally Wainwright was approached by the BBC to do something for the 200th anniversary of Charlotte's birth in 2016. Rather than do a series about their entire lives, she decided to focus on the four surviving Bronte siblings (Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell) as mature adults. Siblings Maria and Elizabeth had died of tuberculosis as young children.

The film will be 90 minutes long and covers the years 1845-1848. These are the last years of their brother Branwell's life. He was a troubled young man and during this time he sank into alcoholism, drug addiction and disturbing behavior. He died from alcoholism in 1848 at age 31.

The film depicts the domestic situation of these three women living with a disturbed brother and how they dealt with his problems. This is also the time that they tried to publish their books. It was an uncomfortable situation at home and yet they continued to write and create their literary masterpieces. I can't wait to see this!


Another wonderful event in honor of the 200th celebration of Charlotte Bronte's birth is the Charlotte Bronte exhibition in New York at the Morgan Library which I just visited for the second time. It's up until January and if you are in New York be sure to see this.

The original manuscript of "Jane Eyre" on loan to the Morgan Library
Photo via here

Here are the highlights:

A portion of the original 1847 manuscript of "Jane Eyre" ( photo above) on loan from the British Library and shown in the U.S. for the first time. It is open to the page on which Jane tells Mr. Rochester: "I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you." Seeing this treasure was very special and I have to admit to getting a little emotional.

The only surviving portrait of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte painted by their brother Branwell which has never been seen in this country before. It resides in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

A blue floral dress worn by Charlotte in the 1950's 

Drawings and watercolors by Charlotte that demonstrate her artistic talent

The tiny books written by the Bronte children in a nearly microscopic handwriting. Magnifying glasses are nearby to help viewers read them. The children wrote fantasy fiction set in Glass Town, Angria and Gondall, imaginary lands populated by aristocrats, poets and swashbuckling heroes. 

I walked out of this exhibition touched by the poignancy of Charlotte Bronte's short life. She died three weeks before her 39th birthday while pregnant with her first child. Just nine months earlier she had married the curate at Haworth, Arthur Bell Nicholls.  She had watched all of her siblings die, including Emily at age 30 and Anne at age 29. It is awe-inspiring to think of all that she wrote and the celebrity she achieved considering her personal life. After her death her father Patrick Bronte and her husband Arthur Nicholls worked hard to protect her literary legacy. Fans of her books began making the pilgrimage to the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth, England just a few years after her death. The flow of visitors continues to this day. Nothing has changed except the sheer volume of admirers and each year the streets of Haworth teem with devoted fans of the Brontes. I am planning a trip for 2017. I am so happy that I got a chance to see this exhibition twice!    

 I would love to know:
Do you have a favorite Bronte sister? What is your favorite Bronte book?
Have you visited the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth?


  1. I loved To Walk Invisible - but I do wonder if you'll need subtitles to decipher the Yorkshire accents!
    And don't leave Haworth without trying fruit cake with Wensleydale cheese the way they eat it in Yorkshire.

  2. I am so looking forward to this film...I like everything that Sally Wainright has written and although her series can be very dark and edgy I think this will be an opportunity for her to really showcase her exceptional talents.

  3. Thank you for posting this, Sunday. It is my first gift of the season as I will eagerly await "To Walk Invisible" come March.
    Charlotte is truly my favorite Bronte. I read Jane Eyre as a young girl, having discovered a remarkable treasure of books, my father's, inside my mother's hope chest. Daddy gave me permission to read the books inside, as long as I handled them carefully with clean hands. "Jane Eyre" was my first pick and I quickly became lost in the pages.
    I so wish I could see the exhibition at the Morgan Library. Since I cannot, I will enjoy the link all-the-more.
    Happy Christmas and New Year, Sunday.

  4. Wow sounds great! I so enjoyed The Crown on your recommendation. Wish I could purchase it. I am also looking forward to Victoria, on Masterpiece Theater beginning January 15th.

  5. Wonderful news! I've been wondering if "To Walk Invisible" would make it across the pond and I'm thrilled to find out that it will be here in March. I've never been to Haworth, but it is on my "someday" list.I love Jane Eyre (how could you not?) but earlier this year I read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and really admired it too.

  6. ALL SOUNDS WONDERFUL..............I need to make a trip across the POND!

  7. I have been meaning to visit Haworth for years and I have no good reason not to as my sister lives not too far from it. I hope you enjoy your trip.

  8. I'm looking forward to seeing it. I've actually only read Jane Eyre, which I loved, of course.