After a month with no readings, it seemed only right to get the ball rolling again with a trip to gloriously sunny Scarborough, a standout gem of Yorkshire where they do tea the proper way!
Of course, my joy at the appearance of actual real sunshine and the partaking of good strong tea was tempered by certain sober facts. Scarborough was the favourite holiday destination of the Robinson family, who employed first Anne Brontë, then Branwell too, as tutors for their children between 1840 and 1845, and took the two siblings with them on their trips, probably exposing them to more affluence than they had seen in their entire lives! It is very likely that the Robinsons made use of the highly fashionable Spa complex whilst visiting Scarborough, especially because of its strong connections to the world of music hall.
(Lydia Robinson Jr later eloped with a comedian. Music hall became slightly less popular with the family after that!)
Branwell allegedly conducted an extra-marital affair with Lydia Robinson Sr, which was discovered just before he was due to join the family on a holiday, and his contract was terminated. Anne left the Robisons’ employment at around the same time – something that has never been fully explained but that many suggest was down to a powerful sense of shame. However, the seaside at Scarborough was always a very special place for her.
Four years later, after the death of her brother and older sister Emily, Anne became consumptive and was accompanied back to her favourite town by her oldest sister Charlotte and Charlotte’s friend, Ellen, for rest and recuperation. However, Anne’s health had suffered a critical blow and she died at the age of 29 in a house which once stood where the Grand Hotel is now located on St Nicholas’ Cliffs. Her final words to her sister were supposedly “Take courage, Charlotte. Take courage.”
Before her passing, Anne expressed a wish to be buried in Scarborough. As a result, she is the only member of the family not interred in the Brontë crypt in the church of St Michael and All Angels at Haworth. Her beautiful grave stands on the hillside to this day, alongside a new plaque provided by the Brontë Society:
After a lovely walk along the beach and becoming slightly overexcited by an original Victorian tram:
I arrived at Taylor’s Cafe and Books, a gorgeous independent venue on the beautiful hide-away Bar Street.
The readings went down brilliantly, but even more exciting were the lovely people I got the chance to meet. Among my friendly and receptive audience members was Julie Noble, an author of young adult fiction who wrote the astonishing Talli’s Secret – the story of a young girl suffering from dyslexia and dyspraxia with an inspired link to the Brontës. I am already two-thirds of the way through it and I cannot put it down! Please do read it if you get the chance, especially any parents with children that might be affected by these particular issues.
Also with us were the brilliant Melissa (8) and Leon (7). Melissa volunteered to read one of the poems herself, and presented Charlotte Brontë’s Life with panache and great skill despite some very tough vocabulary. She also gave me this beautiful drawing of a ballerina, complete with ringlets and voluminous tutu for you to admire:
Meanwhile, skilled photographer Leon captured these images of me hard at work! Leon did a superb job, and I’m extremely pleased with the pictures. Here they are!
Leon also provided me with two fine examples of pen-drawing:
The first is a dramatic and very relevant image of a factory, smoke billowing from its chimney – just how the industrial buildings of Yorkshire might have looked in Victorian times. The second is a more domestic scene – a lovely house.
Well done, Melissa and Leon! You should be very proud of your work today 🙂
It was wonderful to meet my lovely Scarborough group this evening, and the staff of Taylor’s Cafe and Books were helpful, enthusiastic and generally really lovely to be around. I’d strongly recommend a visit. Also, huge thanks to Wardle & Jones Books and Scarborough Library for their help in promoting the event! I’ll be at the Library on 1st October in anticipation of National Poetry Day, so get that in your diaries! Also, keep you eyes peeled for more news about Dangerous To Know in Scarborough!