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Wednesday, 27 February 2008

The earth moved!

The biggest earthquake in over 20 years - and I missed it! My husband was woken up by it, but I slept through the lot, thanks to my bedtime cup of Green & Black's organic cocoa. I'm really upset I missed it as it would have been an interesting experience, even if rather scary.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Strange Bedfellows

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to visit the British Library and see the literary treasures on show. Amongst the Lindisfarne Gospels and other goodies, I was thrilled to discover Jane Austen's writing desk, along with a letter from Jane to her sister Cassandra, and a volume of Austen's juvenilia. Just inches away was the manuscript of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, open on the page where Jane Eyre famously says: 'Reader, I married him.'
What would these two authors would have thought about being displayed together?
Sadly, Jane Austen died three decades before the publication of Jane Eyre, so we will never know what she thought of Charlotte's work. But we do know that Charlotte was dismissive about Austen's writing: '...the Passions are perfectly unknown to her.' (The Brontës, Juliet Barker, Phoenix Giants, 1995.) The two authors' literary styles could not be more different. Austen's playful, ironic style is the antithesis of Brontë's shrill egoism.
There's also a display devoted to the Beatles and their lyrics. Strange bedfellows indeed. I wonder if Austen and Brontë would have enjoyed listening to the Fab Four.
Image: Engraving of Charlotte Brontë, History of England, Charles Knight, c.1868

Thursday, 14 February 2008

An inspiring story

Last weekend, I paid a visit to the village of Eyam in the Peak District. Eyam's story is a sad but inspiring one. When the Black Death ravaged our land in 1665, it reached this tiny village during the killer month of August. Eyam's inhabitants took the courageous decision to isolate themselves from the outside world to prevent the disease spreading further. It was an unseasonably warm, sunny day when I explored this peaceful hamlet; it made the story of those terrible days somehow feel unreal. The gravestones, however, are grim reminders of the families' suffering. Elizabeth Hancock lost six children as well as her husband.
The sundial (left) on the wall of Eyam Church dates from the 1770s. The Plague Year was a long distant memory when it was erected. But the story of Eyam's heroism will never be forgotten.
Text and image © Sue Wilkes.