Secondary school №38
“english lady-writers. features of life, works and continuity
in the literature”
Fullfilled by Kalashnikova Dasha, Form 11A
Supervisor of studies Islamova M.T.
There is such a feeling that in the history everything is really predetermined: one event is always clearly and logically replaced by another, great leaders and commanders appear on the world stage according to the same law of priority — they follow each other neither earlier nor later than the appointed time, but always just on time. The history of English women’s literature was no exception to the rule — I will say more: it just struck me for its stunning regularity, sensual connection with the time and delicate correspondence of it.
I always thought that a woman works outside of politics and history. I picked up a book by Charlotte Bronte or Jane Austen with absolute certainty that there is nothing particularly important. (Having said «particularly important» I mean urgent social problems and issues). Of course, the books were replete with morality of purely feminine nature: not to lose self-control, self-esteem, always guided by reason and not feeling — but I did not see in them anything that should be borne in mind not only by women but also by a common person. Now I as am older and in the process have become more familiar with the biographies and works of the English lady writers I see their point. I took a period of time — XVIII-XX century. I carefully studied the three greatest women’s significance in the history of English literature — Austen, Bronte and Woolf — acquainted with the works of the five brightest writers of the time and described all of my main thoughts about their work, life and continuity in the literature.
What made me take up this subject? First and foremost, of course, interest. But I understood that fascination with the topic may not be the only help to make a decent scientific research work — a theme should captivate and be what is called a «topic of the day.»
Nowadays, it seems, only the laziest person has not watched at least one screening of «Pride and Prejudice» or «Sense and Sensibility.» Five years ago the high-profile Hollywood film «The Hours» was released, which depicts the story of the great English writer — Virginia Woolf, as well as a television series about Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte. One of the highest-grossing historic films of the last year was a melodrama based on the life of another talented British woman — Jane Austen. Recently I saw an amusing, but absolutely authentic musical «Who’s Afraid of V. V.?» (Yes, again, Madame Woolf). All these facts show the greatest popularity of both literary masterpieces and creators themselves, which goes up to these days. Well, we are very glad for these lovely ladies’ sake, because they really deserve such attention — but the question is: whether the heroes of the occasion would be pleased with such attention to them if in every second film aristocratic Englishwomen speak with appalling American accent and wear dresses that were released from fashion before the birth of their grandmothers?
Well, let us consider that one person cannot follow everything — because, virtually, no matter, what shade table lamp the main character had, and whether had been or not invented at least some light by the beginning of the XIX century … Or does it matter? However, it does.
We are talking about the annoying distortion of the manners and the inner world of a person at that time. God forbid, one could not give at least one ambiguous smirk after dancing lady! A noble lady could not be chucked outside the door — it was not just unseemly, it was prohibited. The young girl’s fleeing out of the house – it was a great shame for the whole family, which also extended to their neighbours as accomplices to the crime. About such things they tried to hush up and not to gossip with each little or with the less familiar passers-by on the main street! Jane Austen never dreamed of a luxurious London life, and the Bronte sisters were not frightened lambs!
And for what I can vouch for my own head, that Virginia Woolf was the least like a woman with a bass laugh, though vaguely reminiscent of hysterics…
Thus the goal of my work is as follows: to identify the truth, to show the true face of these extraordinary women and demonstrate their spirit, the content of their novels in one a general mood. Two strokes — and their rough portrait will be ready, but I console myself that it will be honest.
Being a prim and affected creature Jane is always mincing.
Her little cousin called Philadelphia Austin said so about a reserved twelve- year- old girl. However, another relative of hers claims that she has never met anyone more risible than this «charming, silly and flirty dragonfly and a hunter for the suitors.» So who is right? Most likely, both because more than anything else young Miss Austen loved to act wit and inconsistent to amuse others and play jokes on them at every opportunity. The same thing happened to her characters as well. Virginia Woolf once said: “Sometimes it seems that Jane Austen’s characters are born so that she could get the greatest pleasure cutting off their heads. While the fools are shown in better rays than they really are. Jane Austen is a source of endless conflict. She’s the best lady writer of all”.
Jane Austen is really Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov of lady’s literature of the old nice England. Some of her devoted admirers included Sir Walter Scott and W. Somerset Maugham, I think that means a lot.
Jane was born into the rector’s family, but was completely devoid of religious humility (and as for the books — even of mercy). In the house there was a very free atmosphere for that time — free for the moral and creative opportunities. As a result of excellent upbringing without typical for the «gold» England deprivations and punishments — the main torturers of children and women of all ages at that time — Austin grew up a girl with a very bright mind and light-hearted disposition, and the natural powers of observation and an innate sense of humor helped her not to become a dasher, but a great writer.
Each of the six Miss Austin’s novels is the property of the world literature. She is the only writer in the history of England who was privileged to introduce all her books into the Golden Fund of English Literature and Art. Meanwhile her name never appeared on the cover of magazines — yes, even of her own books! She also did not use a pseudonym and just put a mark in the right corner of the first page «The lady’s writing «. Jane was really modest and sarcastic. Gilbert Keith Chesteron once said about her: «She is as simple and natural as nature itself.»
For a person who has never read her novels but merely watched numerous screen versions of books, such success may be somewhat puzzling — because the screen does not convey tremendous restraint and at the same time the vivacity of her writings, all the nuances of her witty language, completeness and classical construction of the sentences, shape of the works as a whole. For clearness, here are presented some examples from her novels:
«She was just a complacent, educated and polite girl, so there was nothing one cannot love her for, we only despised her» — this phrase is taken from another story of little Jane for her family. The story is called «Love and friendship”. Miss Austen wrote it at the age of fifteen.
-You flatter me, dear. Once upon a time I really was not devoid of appeal. But now, alas, I do not pretend to pass for a beauty. A woman who has five grown-up daughters should not think too much about their own beauty.
-In these circumstances, a woman does not often have so much beauty to think about it so much — dialogue excerpt of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, from may be the most popular work of Jane Austen — «Pride and Prejudice.»
As a teenager she was forced to be sensible and only after many years she learned to be carried away – “natural consequence of an unnatural beginning” – Jane Austen wrote in «Persuasion» — in her last finished novel.
By the way in the Bronte sisters’ works the succession of features of the Austen’s language is clearly felt. These ladies had definitely a tendency to follow their great predecessor.
The second half of XVIII century and the beginning of XIX: Jane Austen lived in peaceful and nice time of industrial and exciting farm achievements of her country. She wrote about ordinary provincial life full of peace and tranquility. Maybe that’s why her novels do not have heart-rending scenes like in «Wuthering Heights» by Emily Bronte, who lived in the mid-nineteenth century, during the Opium wars and active strikes of the factory workers. One also can’t come across the bleak descriptions of landscapes and monotony of everyday life which the novel «Jane Eyre» by Charlotte Bronte abounds in. During the whole life of the sisters England led active combat operations to capture new colonies, while forcibly keeping power in the old ones. All these facts could not but affect the domestic welfare of the country and its citizens. In the air there was far not elevated mood, which is fully reflected in the works of the other great writers — Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte.
«Loneliness threesome» of Bronte sisters
Jane Austen died in 1817. A year before her death, the first of the famous Three Sisters — the legendary Charlotte appeared in public. She was the first and according to many writers, the best. Five years later Emily published her immortal work the «Wuthering Heights, and a year later – Anne the author of undeservedly forgotten novels under the name «Agnes Grey» and «The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”.
Frankly speaking, the story of their lives from the very beginning did not start very well. Their father — just like Mr. Austen — was a local priest. The parish was in a rather gloomy town in the north Yorkshire. The ancient house was surrounded by endless moors and bogs from all sides — a landscape worthy of «Hound of the Baskervilles» by Conan Doyle. (In the future, it appeared in all its bleak beauty in «Wuthering Heights» by Emily Bronte). In addition the house was located near the local cemetery, which also did not introduce any fun into the home atmosphere. The sister’s mother left for the better world very early and after her death their father had been actively applying to the bottle what noticeably worsened his unsteady position. Because of all those joyless reasons bleak village residents have tried to pass the pastor’s house round about, and the Bronte sisters very rarely met anyone from strangers on their landed property. They lived very lonely and this way of life made them an incredibly close-knit and friendly team.
Sisters started writing rather early. A difficult childhood caused them to grow up quickly, and the girls realized that more than anything else they want to be writers. Charlotte played the role of a governess and mother — she always protected the younger sisters, doing household chores, teaching them reading and writing and other sciences as the girls refused to receive education in the schools for girls. In their biography it was only for a short time when they were in school, but they really hated being there. Accustomed to solitude and loneliness threesome, they could not endure harsh rules at the schools. In addition to the habits, living in cheap boarding-schools was a health hazard: there was deplorable meal, schools were almost not heated, and there was a certain probability to be ill with an incurable disease — tuberculosis, disease due to which their beloved mother died. Terrible conditions in the schools are described in Charlotte Bronte’s novel «Jane Eyre» with high reliability and integrity:
«Wretched clothing could not protect us from the cold, we did not have suitable boots, snow stuffed in our shoes and melted. I remember how unbearably itched at night my swollen feet, and the tortures that I experienced that morning, pushing them scarred and numb into my shoes. Extreme scarcity of food drove us to despair, we had a healthy appetite of growing children, and we got hardly enough to support the patient’s life breathing in the incense. Big girls were so hungry that they enjoyed every opportunity by caress or threat to entice the younger portion of them. Giving them at least half of my coffee, I swallowed the remainder with secret tears, caused by excruciating hunger. »
The very first literary experience of the girls took place in 1846 when, under the pseudonym of the brothers Bell, they published a collection of their own poems. It had a considerable success, which became even greater when the public became acquainted with the authors and learned that all these wonderful poems were written just by three young girls without a decent education from a distant provincial town of Thornton. Immediately — in a year — their first and best novels: «Jane Eyre», «Wuthering Heights» and «Agnes Grey» were published – and that provided the sisters with exclusive attention of the public for ever.
Many laudatory words were spoken to the two elder sisters. I must say that the younger Ann always a little underrated. In discussing their work in a magazine or at the event, she was always left at the end. And not because she was younger — it sounded like “well, and Anne Bronte”. I do not agree with this position and was happy to join in with the Soviet literary critic, Natalie Mikhalskaya, who perfectly expressed the main advantages of all three sisters:
«The authenticity of experience, passed Anne Bronte in her works, gives them a special lyricism, sound penetration. The connection between the art world, writer, and her own destiny is inseparable, is obvious. If Emily Bronte attracts the reader by her amazing strength and courage of the creative imagination, and Charlotte — romanticism and emotional intensity, the fad Anne Bronte — this, indisputably, the mapping humdrum of everyday life, colored haze of grief from the consciousness of the gravity of human destiny».
The girls’ fate was very hard, as well as their remarkable stories. «Wuthering Heights» sounds like a constant strain, the note of grim determination aims to endure the pain until the last breath — but a cry of terror unwittingly pulls out from the heart of the author. «Jane Eyre» is full of humility and submission to her shareholdings, but in the soul of the protagonist the fire and the pride of the fallen hero is felt, especially when she goes away from her master and huddles on forests and swamps. Anne Bronte is not so pessimistic in viewing the world and the essence of things, but she, in the image of her heroine, Agnes Grey, is also incredibly sad and afraid to be happy. All three sisters can be understood if we take into account the life lived by them, which was full of only «Loneliness threesome.»
I’m in the crypt. Life light extinguished.
Revenge, rage, anger — no more than you do.
And no love, no hope,
Not for me and the world of vanities.
I dream world, but day after day
Only demons I see in him.
The hope torch is not lit,
And the eerie darkness of a reign
In such a world, that when the dawn
Scatters terrible delusion,
Enjoy my dungeon
I even smile at it.
(Anne Bronte. «The voice of the prison»)
All three writers have died from the disease, which during all their lives assiduously avoided and feared — from tuberculosis. On this occasion I cannot but quote the last lines of «Wuthering Heights»:
«I wandered around the graves under this kind sky, looking at the butterflies rushing about in the heather and bells — and wondered how people imagine, that there may be non-peaceful sleep in those who sleep in this peaceful land».
«Lilac branch» of Virginia Woolf
So we reached the last of the «Famous Five» of British lady writers — to Virginia Woolf. Studying her biography and work, I could not help noticing some progress: if Jane Austen signed her novels «The lady’s writing», and the Bronte sisters only after a successful debut dared to abandon the alias «the brothers Bell,» Mrs. Woolf from the first literary work — an essay for The Times — proudly pointed out her real name in authorship: it was signed as Virginia Stephens, whom she was then, not married yet, and I think that she was absolutely certain that wouldn’t.
Why did I suppose so?
On the one hand, Miss Stephens was lucky enough. She was born in London into the family of the old English aristocracy: her father, Leslie Stephen, was a successful writer and a literary critic; her mother owned one of the most famous literary salons in the city. On Fridays and Saturdays, the whole world of artistic London society was going in the house: endless conversations about contemporary art, large amount of champagne and small Virginia soaked conversations of adults, like a sponge. Meanwhile, the clock struck deep into the night. At her full disposal she was granted a huge library, there were no restrictions to any of the books: the little girl enthusiastically read the forbidden works of German socialists, «adult» novels, the freshest literature novelties of the time — in general everything she came across on the shelves and found interesting. So Virginia spent the first thirteen years of her life.
Then the tragedy struck, which a century ago blighted identity of young Bronte sisters — her mother, suddenly died of pneumonia. Then Virginia for the first time in her life attempted suicide, which was repeated in the future more than once. Those years were very lonely in her life – there were neither her beloved brothers with her, they entered Cambridge University, nor her father, who had gone to the front of the First World War. All possible support was provided only by her older sister whom Virginia considered to be her closest friend at all times.
Not children’s events broke Miss Stephens, forever undermined her mental and physical health. Not for nothing one of the most popular films about the writer is called «Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?» At the moment everyone around were reasonably afraid of her. Unexpected hysteria, obsession with voices, always shaking hands and stiffness became her characteristic feature of a lifetime. Manner of her behavior was very likely expressed by modern Hollywood actress Nicole Kidman in the movie film «The Hours» — for her role as Virginia Woolf, incidentally, received a golden Oscar.
There is a feeling that since her mother’s death Miss Stephens wrote her novels in a non-stop race for herself — just with unprecedented speed. Together with brothers, she founded her own publishing house — «Hogarth Press — which published “Journey”, “Night and Day», «Jacob’s Room» and “Mrs. Dalloway”. (The last main character is written off with her beloved sister). Meanwhile, Virginia Stephen married Leonard Woolf, a successful journalist and writer who was eager to help her overcome the psychological trauma with the help of endless love and patience, but as it turned out later of no avail.
Marriage did not influence well-established routine of Mrs. Woolf’s life — she continued to write as seven people could do finding in the work the long-awaited peace and tranquility. During these years she wrote many essays and short stories and was engaged in parallel translations of Russian classics: Aksakov, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy … Throughout her life Virginia Woolf often confused past and present in her head, but nothing of the planned was mixed in her novels: everything was logical, simple, symbolic and completed. If the hero during the action was relatively happy — he finally got married, or simply continued to live on, if the only thing the poor man did was — feeling unhappy, struggled and suffered from insomnia, then at the end of the novel, he also received well-deserved reward — death. And it often would come in the form of a suicide.
The contribution of Virginia Woolf in the development of feminist ideas is invaluable. Her innovative writings are a contemporary way of protest against patriarchal attitudes. The famous stories of Virginia’s «Private room» and «Three guineas» up to these days are considered to be the fundamental works of feminist literature. She asked a question: “What could so to say be, if Shakespeare had a sister who would be no less gifted than he was?» Then Woolf came up with “Private room «- a story about what would happen if Shakespeare was a woman. How this woman would live and tragically end her life — not being able to be assessed, left insulted and oppressed by men. From the pages of the novel she calls:
«Do not settle for your corner in the common room! Settle in your own rooms, developing the habit to express your own thoughts freely and willingly, admitting, finally, the fact that there is no support — we’re going alone … »
Actually Virginia Woolf never went alone. Next to her there was always a caring husband, a strong shoulder that she could confidently rely on. She was quite sure that Leonard Woolf would always be by her side.
But then World War II began, and confidence in the invulnerability of her husband came to an end. Mrs. Wolf was very much worried about Leonardo, his nationality was Jew, also at the beginning of the war her beloved nephew, Julian was killed. On top of all the house of the spouses was destroyed by bombing and Virginia at once faced a wave of deep depression.
That nervous breakdown was the last. Retaining her main literary and purely human idea throughout her life, she still converted it into reality: Virginia disappeared, and two weeks later her body was found in a river near her house.
«…- Disgusting, disgusting! — She said, quickly covering the eyes in the street looking for a lilac or a bicycle — something to regain a sense of freedom. »
(Virginia Woolf.» Jacob’s Room «)
The ending of my story of life and work of the best English lady writers of their time is rather sad. But as you know, in any, even in the most boring story a reader is sure to come across an extract summarizing all the previous arguments — and in my work it is a kind of epilogue.
First and foremost I would like to point out my recent confusion — «a woman works outsid e of politics and history.» In the course of my work on the topic I proved quite the opposite: a lady writer feels and understands the time in which she lives, with incredible sensitivity, gently showing a surprising ability to allocate and transfer the most important — the public mood. She does not torment the reader by tedious details of the decoration of the houses and the officers’ uniforms – no, because she needs only two or three strokes to create a seamless and convincing picture of modernity. You start reading a novel of Emily, Charlotte and Anne Bronte — and in front of you there is a world of weary, dying, former great power. You take a piece of writing of Jane Austen — and the Gold England regain the power again, revives from the dusty past. But then you take a pile of two volumes of Virginia Woolf into your hands- and before your eyes all the horrors of the 20th century sweep past — the horrors are shown realistically and without pompous exaggerations. All the lies and all the truth of the English history, flooded the pages of their books, without being based on historical events and mentioning the great historical figures.
Now as for the movie, the attempt to recreate the works by Austen and Bronte with means of the camera — the idea, of course, wonderful, but it certainly requires a great deal of hard work and great expertise in the endeavors. Unfortunately, most attempts to shoot a decent movie based on the life and work of these writers, still leaves much to be desired. The touching vitality of the novels, their deliberation and measured aren’t sufficient. And maybe the whole thing is in a magical language of the creators — the film, with all its possibilities cannot reproduce it’s sounding. But one cannot confirm that there are no successful films — such as «Pride and Prejudice» in 1995. My advice to everybody is to watch this film. Although I do not think that among modern inhabitants there may be a person who at least casually has not seen this movie. After all, as I have already written before, the popularity of the British women’s literature nowadays is extremely high. I think that it is bound up with the immortality of the issues and themes that represent the foundation of their work and which I will reveal in the next two paragraphs.
During more close acquaintance with the works of Austen, Bronte and Woolf it was impossible not to notice that in the novels of the writers there are developed general ideas and similar pictures of the reality complement each other. Jane Austen worked untiringly over the disclosure of family issues. The Bronte sisters became her successors in this field. They continued observations but already from the perspective of outside observers (most of the heroines of the sisters — alien governess, at Austin — family members).
In the works of Charlotte, Emily and Anne there began to sound the notes of bitterness about the unsettled state of the world: stupid people ordered about by the wise men, decent people succumb to their seats scoundrels and fools. Jane Austen just touched upon it, Bronte openly expressed dissatisfaction with the existing system – as for Virginia Woolf, she already went on all. (This is clear and logical, because it was the 20th century already.) She openly called for the fight against evil, violence and dishonesty, to fight with everything, what somehow approached the definition of unfair. Of course, it would have been a crime not to mention in the conclusion the ideas of equality in the works of each writer. Jane Austen allowed herself only hints of sarcasm and laughter «through tears» over the position of women in the society; Bronte sisters passed on to lament and melancholy sighs, In full swing of the cutting short narrative thread, Woolf’s creations predictably turned into an open call. There is — a process of gradual formation, strengthening and recognition of women’s literature as a serious art. The process of liberation of a woman, her emancipation and transformation into a full-fledged and influential member of the society is quite obvious. Written creation of Austen, Bronte, and Woolf — is a thorny path of «Lady’s writing» to «Article on Virginia Woolf — the greatest writer of the 20th century».