Thank you, Ambleside!

Yesterday, we found ourselves in the territory of the prestigious “Lake Poets”.

The connection between the Brontës and Ambleside may not be immediately apparent; indeed, I only really knew the half of it until I did some further research prior to travelling up for the reading. Our November production, The Dissolution of Percy, focuses largely on the final few years in the life of Branwell, the Brontë brother, and therefore it was Branwell’s connection with the town that originally drew me there. In 1837, shortly prior to his 20th birthday, Branwell wrote to the poet William Wordsworth – a resident of the area and only a few years away from becoming Poet Laureate – asking for his advice and suggesting that the celebrated older man might offer him some constructive criticism of a couple of his poems. The letter was fairly well put-together, until Branwell’s burning ambitions got the better of him. The younger man royally shot himself in the proverbial foot by writing:

In this day, when there is not a writing poet worth sixpence, the field must be open, if a better man can step forward.

~ Branwell Brontë to William Wordsworth, 1837

According to contemporary accounts, Wordsworth was less than impressed by Branwell’s writing-off of every one of his contemporaries – the majority of whom he respected highly – whilst seemingly naming himself as his addressee’s successor in one sentence. The letter remained unanswered.

At almost exactly the same time, Branwell’s oldest sister, Charlotte, wrote to Robert Southey, another resident of the Lakes and the contemporary Poet Laureate. It seemed the siblings were undertaking something of a networking project. Charlotte’s letter DID receive a response. Unfortunately, that response was not particularly positive and eventually proved to be very poorly calculated. When mentioned to Brontë fans today, it often garners rather a wry chuckle if not an all-out exasperated sigh. Southey famously wrote:

Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life, and it ought not to be. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure will she have for it even as an accomplishment and a recreation.

~ Robert Southey to Charlotte Brontë, 1837

Ugh.

Three years later, Branwell found himself relatively nearby in Broughton-in-Furness as the tutor to two young boys who were part of the Postlethwaite family. On days off, he often took excursions around that area of the Lake District and, in Ambleside, found himself in the company of Hartley Coleridge, son of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Small in stature and highly strung just like Branwell himself, Coleridge was an opium addict and prone to poor health. His conditions seem now to be an eerie forewarning of the later decline of his young friend. The two got on extremely well, to the point where Branwell decided to show Coleridge translations from the Odes of Horace that he had been working on. As far as biographers have been able to discern, Coleridge was extremely impressed, and the pair seem to have started hatching a plan for the publication of the works. A draft of a hugely enthusiastic letter from Branwell to Coleridge is still in existence, in which he promises to complete the remaining translations and that, if Coleridge was able to assist in the publication of the work, he would happily split the profits with him. The letter was almost certainly sent, but seems to have remained unanswered. Coleridge’s health, both physical and mental, was poor, and he may have been struck with a bout of depression that wiped all thoughts of his young friend from his mind. The 23-year-old Branwell’s correspondence with Hartley Coleridge was the closest he ever came to literary success.

So much for the Brontës’ relationship with the “Lake Poets”.

A further link with Ambleside arose ten years later, when the local papers announced that “Miss Brontë”, authoress of Jane Eyre, would be visiting “Miss Martineau” in the town. The pair mentioned, of course, were Charlotte Brontë (now the only remaining sibling after the death of her youngest sister Anne the previous year) and Harriet Martineau, the social theorist and political writer. During her time in Ambleside, Charlotte was cursed with the presence of one Sir James Shuttleworth, who enjoyed lecturing her and another visitor – who happened to be the novellist Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell – about the finer points of writing. The two women escaped into each others’ company and a friendship was formed that would last for the remainder of Brontë’s life. Gaskell was even approached by Charlotte’s father and husband, Patrick Brontë and Arthur Bell Nicholls, to write her biography after her death in 1855.

When we arrived, the town was alive with summer tourists and washed in bright sunshine. Arriving at the library with a good amount of time to spare, we were greeted with enthusiasm and an expertly-made cuppa. The library provided a cozy backdrop for an intimate session of readings, and the atmosphere was friendly and lively throughout. We were a good-humoured crowd, and I was buoyed a great deal by the apparent interest of the members of library staff who also listened in. After the readings, I admitted to the library manager, Jane, that my study of the Brontës was really my first excursion into classic literature. She responded: “well, you have the journey of a lifetime ahead of you.”

The positive, warm and friendly responses the readings have generated have been extremely encouraging, and suggest very positive things for our production in November. Upon getting back to Manchester, we received this lovely piece of feedback from the library staff:

“A really charismatic performance… Love and deep understanding of the Brontës shines through and engages the audience completely.”

So, if you were in any doubt about attending one of our readings – there’s a reason why you should!

In case you missed us last time in Scarborough, we’ll be back on 5th September for a matinee reading at Wardle and Jones book shop at 2pm! This one’s slightly different. We’ll be exploring the life and work of the most underrated of the Brontë sisters, the accomplished social commentator Anne.

Come along: the more the merrier! No need to book.

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Thank you, Ambleside!

Fundraising Walk: Day Two

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INFO / TRAILER / DONATE

If I look tired, it’s because I am!

Day one in Broughton-in-Furness was a fantastic start to the readings, with a lovely audience who asked really interesting and pertinent questions. It was a pleasure to chat to them, and, despite the ominous drizzle that had accompanied our journey to Broughton, on setting out from the Black Cock Inn and heading off on our way, the clouds dissipated and we enjoyed gentle sunlight for the rest of our 24.4 mile journey!

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Despite an 11pm finish in Kendal, I was feeling fresh and ready to go this morning, when I whizzed over to Lakeland Radio to chat to Simon Yaxley about the adventure so far. We cut it fine, but made it to Kendal Library with time to spare.

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After a fantastic 12 o’clock reading with a very warm welcome and another friendly, hugely receptive audience, we struck out once again towards Cowan Bridge, and we made it in astonishingly good time, having enjoyed a little impromptu parade through Kirkby Lonsdale as we stumbled across a local brass band contest!

VIDEO: PLAYED THROUGH KIRKBY LONSDALE

VIDEO: COWAN BRIDGE APPEARS

VIDEO: THE COWAN BRIDGE SCHOOL PLAQUE 

The Cowan Bridge readings also went down a treat, thanks to a very enthusiastic audience and despite our having walked around forty miles over the past two days. The reception we’ve had each time has been wonderful!

And now I look like this:

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This is a face that has worked hard. This is a face that has travelled many miles and said many words multiple times to many nice audience members. This face alone deserves support. Whether you donate or simply spread the word, it would be hugely appreciated.

We’re on a two-day push to Halifax starting tomorrow. We’ll be in the library from 5:30pm on Tuesday. Please support the company by sharing the below link, or clicking it, watching our trailer and making a donation. See you on the other side!

TRAILER, INFO AND DONATIONS

Fundraising Walk: Day Two

Setting Off

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It’s almost time to go!

We’ll be heading out to get into Broughton-in-Furness, the site of the first reading, at 2pm this afternoon. We’ll set out by car, but from Broughton it’ll be on foot for 130 miles! We’ll be wearing these bright and beautiful t-shirts designed by Sue Richardson, so keep an eye out and you may just spot us!

The weather’s not great, but what would Cumbria be without a little drizzle?

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Things get even more exciting tomorrow morning, as from 11am, Caroline will be chatting about our project with Simon Yaxley of Lakeland Radio, before heading to the reading in Kendal Library. You can listen in HERE!

Wish us luck!

For more information on our venture and to donate or watch a trailer for THE DISSOLUTION OF PERCY, please click the following link:

CAMPAIGN DETAILS

Take a look below for details and venues of Caroline’s tour.

Current Venue List for Caroline’s Readings Tour:

The Black Cock Inn, Broughton-in-Furness – Saturday 20th June – 14:00pm

Kendal Library, Kendal – Sunday 21st June – 12:00pm

Cowan Bridge Village Hall, Cowan Bridge – Sunday 21st June – 19:00pm

Halifax Central Library, Halifax – Tuesday 23rd June – 17:30pm

The Cardigan Centre, Leeds – Wednesday 24th June – 20:00pm

The New Inn, Thornton – Thursday 25th June – 20:00pm

Cobbles and Clay, Haworth – Friday 26th June – 18:00pm

Sowerby Bridge Library, Sowerby Bridge – Saturday 27th June – 14:00pm

The Kings Arms Theatre, Salford – Wednesday 8th July – 7:30pm

Follow the company on Twitter (@DTKManc) and use the hashtag #nocowardsoulismine to tweet about this adventure!

Setting Off

Brontë Readings Tour: June 2015 Fundraiser

General

Caroline, The Dissolution of Percy‘s Emily Brontë, will be walking over 130 miles in one week to raise money for the company’s November production. Along the way, she’ll be stopping off at major sites related to the story to deliver performed readings of work by the Brontës as well as pieces inspired by the famous family and donated by friends, colleagues and audience members!

There is no need to book in advance for the readings – all you need to do is come along on the night.

To donate a piece of writing inspired by The Brontës, please email dtkmanchester@gmail.com with your work attached or in the body of the email. Please include your name and the venue you will be attending!

Current Venue List

The Black Cock Inn, Broughton-in-Furness – Saturday 20th June – 14:00pm

Kendal Library, Kendal – Sunday 21st June – 12:00pm

Cowan Bridge Village Hall, Cowan Bridge – Sunday 21st June – 19:00pm

Halifax Central Library, Halifax – Tuesday 23rd June – 17:30pm

The Cardigan Centre, Leeds – Wednesday 24th June – 20:00pm

The New Inn, Thornton – Thursday 25th June – 20:00pm

Cobbles and Clay, Haworth – Friday 26th June – 18:00pm

Sowerby Bridge Library, Sowerby Bridge – Saturday 27th June – 14:00pm

Follow the company on Twitter (@DTKManc) and use the hashtag #nocowardsoulismine to tweet about this adventure!

Brontë Readings Tour: June 2015 Fundraiser