Sunday, October 1, 2017

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes

(c) Copyright (2017) by Kathleen Spaltro

All Rights Reserved

Fargo ranks up there with my very favorite movies, with Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, and Steve Buscemi all giving great performances. The key to the film is in the scene when Chief of Police Marge Gunderson, driving back with the murderer she has captured, says, "So, that was Mrs. Lundegaard on the floor in there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money? There's more to life than a little money, you know. Don'tcha know that? And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day. Well. I just don't understand it."

Everyone is capable of doing wrong, but relatively few people commit really evil actions, and the film contrasts many simple acts of kindness by good, if fallible, people with the self-absorbed's indifference to the grave harm they inflict. The snaggle-toothed, "funny-looking" gunman and his sleepwalking-except-when-murdering accomplice kill without remorse and seemingly without thought. For them, killing is a mere reflex.

Marge Gunderson "just doesn't understand it," and most good people really find it difficult to comprehend evil--not ordinary, everyday badness, but real evil. This incomprehension of evil is a major theme in Fargo, in Broadchurch, and certainly in Longford, which depicts the infamous "moors murderers," Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, during their prolonged imprisonments as they manipulate the kindly Lord Longford, who seeks to rehabilitate Myra Hindley. Does Longford ever really comprehend Myra Hindley's depravity? Is Longford correct or self-deluded in detecting her capacity for redemption?

Evildoers seem different in kind, not merely in degree. How would we respond to someone we had once known but then discovered was guilty of a really terrible crime? I was shocked to read in the newspaper about a man I had known who was later convicted of sexual abuse and procurement of child prostitutes, a disgusting crime. He didn't seem sorry, really, just sorry he was caught. What draws the line between ordinary badness and true evil? Perhaps the criteria include callousness, lack of remorse, unshakable self-absorption?

Shaken by the evil we sometimes encounter, we can retreat into corrosive and pervasive cynicism. Certainly, we must never forget the evil that human beings are capable of doing to one another. The appalling Armenian genocide, for instance, happened 100 years ago. But note that kind enemies saved the lives of some Armenians. Goodness always flowers in the sidewalk cracks. Goodness is as real as evil, only less powerful only too often.

Some characterizations of Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird sneer at it as just a children's book. However, the genius of the story actually stems from its depiction of the central tragedy from the children's perspective. There is so much menace depicted--crazy neighbors, a rabid dog, cynically perjured testimony, the threat of lynching of an untried and innocent accused, attempted vindictive murder of children--yet the setting is a seemingly idyllic childhood in a small country town during the Great Depression, when neighbors look out for each other and children roam at will, even at night. Underneath all of the real innocence and pretended innocence lies all of this evil, yet while the good does not triumph exactly, it makes itself felt.

Gregory Peck's indelible performance in the film as Atticus Finch portrays the great moral courage needed to stand up against an unjust majority view. Atticus fails to secure the acquittal of Tom Robinson, and he is shaken by Bob Ewell's attempted murder of Atticus's children, yet he still stands fast as a symbol of what we would like to be and know we should be. His children learn to understand that, and so do we. The story would be far less effective if it were not a children's story.

However, the would-be lynchers and the jurors who disregard the impeccable logic of Atticus's defense of Tom Robinson, although not evil like Bob Ewell, are good people doing bad things, and they are part of the reason that evil can prevail as a norm of a society. Ordinary people become complicit in extreme societal evil when they forsake their moral obligation for the safety of not being different, of not challenging monstrous actions. Disturbed by the realization of the suffering inflicted by evil, we deceive ourselves by denying what we realize. We are capable of better, but we often do not do better.

Many decades ago, W.E.B. DuBois depicted the moral struggle of a good man choosing not to remain complicit in a great evil:  "The world is full of people born hating and despising their fellows. To these I love to say: See this man. He was one of you and yet he became Abraham Lincoln .… personally I revere him the more because up out of his contradictions and inconsistencies he fought his way to the pinnacles of earth and his fight was within as well as without …. I glory in that crucified humanity that can push itself up out of the mud of a miserable, dirty ancestry; who despite the clinging smirch of low tastes and shifty political methods, rose to be a great and good man and the noblest friend of the slave." 

first published in The Woodstock Independent

Saturday, September 9, 2017

M.F.K. Fisher Remembers Illinois

Educating Mary Frances Kennedy:
M.F.K. Fisher Remembers Illinois

(c) Copyright (2017) by Kathleen Spaltro

All Rights Reserved

Rambling obituaries in 1992 of the master prose stylist M.F.K. Fisher clustered together her brief but all-too-recurrent undergraduate experiences. Along with her matriculations at Whittier College, Occidental College, and the University of California at Los Angeles, the Californian Mary Frances Kennedy also attended Illinois College in Jacksonville in Fall 1927. While Kennedy's brief sojourn in Illinois may seem surprising, she was born in Albion, Michigan, to parents who both had Midwestern origins and relatives. Restless and young, Mary Frances Kennedy of Whittier was in flight from her Californian family and her town, but she did not yet know who she was or what she was good at. So, going to college out of state seemed like a way out but was not. Marriage in 1929 to doctoral student Al Fisher (whom she met in the UCLA library), in its turn, seemed like a way out but was not. But her time in France with Fisher, and her earlier memories of Illinois, did educate Mary Frances about her palate—a way of measuring her powers as a unique memoirist of food or, more exactly, of the sensuous ingestion and appreciation of food. Thus was Mary Frances Kennedy, future author of The Gastronomical Me, introduced to the Gastronomical She, M.F.K. Fisher.

Her recorded memories of both Chicago and Jacksonville centered on what food she ate and how she ate it. Like James Beard, who with lavish detail recalled the meals of his youth in his autobiography, Delights and Prejudices, she possessed a remarkable "taste memory," an ability to remember and render the intense pleasure of eating. Of course, Mary Frances could have eaten at far less expense to her parents if she had stayed in Whittier. Attending college in the Midwest served as a way of escape: "as soon as I could escape the trap, whatever it was, I fled family and friends and security like a suddenly freed pigeon, or mole, or wildcat. I probably thought that I was at last MYSELF." Almost 60 years later, Fisher analyzed her earlier self: "I assumed that I was intelligent, because I had learned how to bluff. Intellectually, I was a lazy zero, even though I had been reading everything from Thomas à Kempis to The Oz Books since I was not quite five"; "now I know how hard many of my peers worked and studied while I played grasshopper." Despite her poor academic performance at Illinois College, Mary Frances's real education nevertheless was proceeding underground.

Uncle Evans and Cousin Bernard

"My favorite relative," Mary Frances's maternal uncle Evans Holbrook, a law professor at the University of Michigan who had been teaching law at Stanford University while on sabbatical, suggested that he accompany 19-year-old Mary Frances to Chicago. She would go on to Jacksonville, while Uncle Evans went home to Ann Arbor. Fisher later perceived, "I now believe that he did this on purpose, to help me into new worlds." By 1927, Uncle Evans had been traveling by train to and from the West Coast for almost 30 years: "I paddled along happily in the small sensual spree my uncle always made of his routine travelings. I probably heard and felt and tasted more than either of us could be aware of." Uncle Evans loved the breakfasts served at the Harvey Houses on the train line. Devoted to their baked apple breakfast, he declared, "The Harvey girls never fail me." He also knew how to obtain the best food served on the train itself.

"Dazed at escaping the family nest," Mary Frances ate lunch and dinner with her uncle both on the train line and in the dining car, where he enticed his niece's appetite by suggesting foods unfamiliar to her, such as Eastern scallops instead of lamb chops. She realized that Uncle Evans "knew more about the pleasures of the table than anyone I had yet been with." When the callow Mary Frances replied that she did not care whether she ate a fresh mushroom omelet or a wild asparagus omelet, Uncle Evans rebuked her uncharacteristic stupidity: "Let [your host] believe, even if it is a lie, that you would infinitely prefer the exotic wild asparagus to the banal mushrooms, or vice versa. Let him feel that it matters to you … and even that he does." He explained further, "All this may someday teach you about the art of seduction,  as well as the more important art of knowing yourself."

Together with his son Bernard, who met them in Chicago, uncle and niece ate together in a Fred Harvey restaurant in the newly opened Union Station. Intimidated by the brainy Bernard, Mary Frances erred again in saying "Oh, anything, anything" in response to the menu. Uncle Evans returned "a cold speculative somewhat disgusted look in his brown eyes." Stung by the look, Mary Frances recovered her equanimity: "I knew that it was a very important time in my life." She looked at the menu with intelligence, "really looked, with all my brain, for the first time," and ordered her meal with care and discretion. "Never since then have I let myself say, or even think, 'Oh, anything,' about a meal, even if I had to eat it alone, with death in the house or in my heart." Her memory of this episode in Union Station motivated Fisher to revisit the Harvey restaurant in the station years later "to find satisfaction there where I first started to search for it."

Uncle Walter and Cousin Nan

Mary Frances's paternal cousin Nancy Jane Kennedy, a daughter of Uncle Walter Kennedy, planned to attend Illinois College for a year before matriculating at the University of Chicago. Self-described as "very shy and rather snobbish," Mary Frances spent most of her time in Jacksonville with her "very intelligent" and "fascinating" cousin as well as with Nan's roommate, Rachel, "comforting—like a great warm woman who smells cinnamonly and feels soft—like a tender-eyed bitch."

"We three have had a lot of fun this year. I've spent most of my time in their room—mine was so hideously colored and so empty of humanity."  They gorged on movies, hot chocolate, food: "We must have bought twenty-five packages of cream cheese, quarts of ginger ale, hundreds of crackers, a whole garden of lettuce, barrelsfull of jam. It was fun to eat the pale green leaves, and the richly colored jam, and the suave cheese, and drink the exciting ginger ale—on a candle-lit table, with the Victrola moaning blues in the corner of the room." She remembered buying rolls, anchovy paste, as well as French dressing and the girls' baring their little breasts at the cold open window, defying pneumonia.

In this winter of gluttony, despite generally bad food at the college dining room, the Hall, the girls wore their Sunday morning church clothes while they devoured delicious hot cinnamon rolls, and then they went back to bed instead of to services. Often, they celebrated at the Coffee and Waffle Shop on 311 West State Street, which served  them 4 waffles and unlimited coffee or hot chocolate,  or they bought a five-course meal for 40 cents. Invited out to the Colonial Inn, 1213 West State Street, for Sunday dinner, Mary Frances noticed "dishes of pickled peaches like translucent stained glass." At local Jacksonville homes, "The food was always divine": "There were fine cooks in that part of Illinois, most of them colored, and I regret that I knew so little then about the way they handled chickens and hams and preserves and pickles." Alternating bites of pie and ice cream taken from separate plates, she admired Jacksonville pumpkin pie, and mince pie, as well as very rich and homemade eggnog ice cream.

Although Mary Frances felt "interested in these people, their looks, conversation, everything," and she partied vigorously, homesickness  for California, hatred of "skidding on icy walks and looking at mangy, sooty snow," and hospitalization at Chicago's Passavant for a bronchial infection curtailed her stay at Illinois College to a single semester. She liked the enthralling history professor, Mr Smith, who gave "thrilling" lectures; the "garrulous old lady," Miss Elly, reminiscing in "a fascinating stream of sometimes almost incoherent chatter"; and the affectionately remembered Miss Moore and Miss McCune "and their beautiful old house and their delicious things to eat."

However, man does not live by bread alone, nor can a scholastic career be sustained solely by eggnog ice cream, even if homemade and very rich. Mary Frances freely admitted her academic laziness on her biology final,  "To state and define the characteristics of protoplasm is a thing I should know how to do. Once I did know how—two or three months ago, perhaps. Now, in the final examination, I do not know—and I do not care. I am losing five hours of credit. Too bad, isn't it?" While she ignored her biology exam, she noted in her journal on January 30, 1928, "This year has been an amazing adventure in many ways but thank God I'm ending this part of it tomorrow. My train leaves for dear old California at noon."

"Going as unexpectedly and with as little cause as I came, [I am] leaving a few marks of myself which will soon rub out or remain faint smudges—taking a few permanent lines on my own—what shall I say? blackboard? I took much more of Jacksonville than I gave or that it took from me. That is as it should be,  perhaps."  

First published in The Woodstock Independent

Monday, August 14, 2017

Prisoners of Zenda

Prisoners of Zenda

(c) Copyright (2017) by Kathleen Spaltro

All Rights Reserved

Anthony Hope's minor Victorian classic, The Prisoner of Zenda, is great fun to read and hugely entertaining. This novel from 1894 exudes no Victorian fustiness but instead impresses me as extremely well-written and engaging. The most notable of its many dramatizations include films made in 1937 and 1952. Although I enjoy the 1952 color remake, mostly because I like Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, and James Mason, the 1937 version in black and white is much better. The excellent performances of Ronald Colman, Madeleine Carroll, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., are those of actors, not merely of movie stars. Both films portray Hope's fairy tale for adults, set in a mythical Central European kingdom, with a royal romance, many references to honor, and extended, vigorous swordfights. 

Problems we will never have

Long ago, an Eastern European prince while visiting England had impregnated an English countess. After Prince Rudolf dueled with her husband, the fifth earl, and departed for home, the faces of the next earl, and of some of his descendants, bore the royal features. In Rassendyll portraits, "you will find five or six, including that of the sixth earl, distinguished by long, sharp, straight noses and a quantity of dark-red hair; these five or six have also blue eyes, whereas among the Rassendylls dark eyes are the commoner." 

Rudolf Rassendyll, the rootless younger brother of an English lord, decides to visit his ancestor's kingdom, Ruritania, where he encounters another of Prince Rudolf's descendants, the uncrowned King Rudolf V. Rassendyll and Rudolf V are near-doubles: "the King of Ruritania might have been Rudolf Rassendyll, and I, Rudolf, the King….The likeness was certainly astonishing."

When the king's brother tries to prevent the coronation by drugging Rudolf V into a stupor that will make him, a chronic drunkard, seem unfit to be crowned, Rassendyll impersonates his royal friend at the coronation. Besides finalizing the ceremonial accession to the throne, Rassendyll advances the king's courtship of his cousin Princess Flavia, who had always detested the king but feels surprised by his apparent reformation. Rassendyll, for his part, surprised by his growing passion for Flavia, finds it challenging to control his love for the princess. The king's brother secretly holds Rudolf V prisoner in the castle of Zenda. Rassendyll distracts himself from the temptations presented by Princess Flavia by seeking to rescue the king from eventual murder and then to restore the king both to his throne and to his intended royal bride.

This story's many attractions include its twinning/doubling theme, the romance between a princess and a commoner who is a better man than her royal suitor, Rassendyll's adventures as he attempts to find and then release the king, and the renunciation of their love by Rassendyll and Flavia after the king's restoration. With regard to his difficulties adjusting to his unaccustomed role among strangers and traitors, Rassendyll comments, "A real king's life is perhaps a hard one; but a pretended king's is, I warrant, much harder." The virtuous fraud of substituting himself for the king as a crowned head and as a suitor of a woman whom Rassendyll really does love makes Rassendyll a second prisoner of Zenda, just as much as the king himself.

He seeks to free the king, but he cannot free himself, especially after Flavia learns of the deception and realizes why she feels passion for a man whom she previously disliked: "Somehow love gives even to a dull man the knowledge of his lover's heart. I had come to humble myself and pray pardon for my presumption; but what I said now was: 'I love you with all my heart and soul!' For what troubled and shamed her? Not her love for me, but the fear that I had counterfeited the lover as I had acted the King, and taken her kisses with a smothered smile. 'With all my life and heart,' said I, as she clung to me. 'Always, from the first moment I saw you in the Cathedral! There has been but one woman in the world to me—and there will be no other. But God forgive me the wrong I've done you!' 'They made you do it!' she said quickly; and she added, raising her head and looking in my eyes: 'It might have made no difference if I'd known it. It was always you, never the King!' "

Honor binds me

Separated by the king's restoration and by his imminent marriage to Flavia, these star-crossed lovers both pledge and renounce their undying ardor. Although tempted almost beyond endurance by their mutual affinity, Flavia will enter into the marriage arranged for her when she and the king were children, but Rassendyll will marry no one at all.

" 'Is love the only thing?' she asked, in low, sweet tones that seemed to bring a calm even to my wrung heart. 'If love were the only thing, I would follow you—in rags, if need be—to the world's end; for you hold my heart in the hollow of your hand! But is love the only thing? But if love had been the only thing, you would have let the King die in his cell. Honour binds a woman too, Rudolf. My honour lies in being true to my country and my House. Your ring will always be on my finger, your heart in my heart, the touch of your lips on mine. But you must go and I must stay. Perhaps I must do what it kills me to think of doing'." And Rassendyll replies, "My part is lighter; for your ring shall be on my finger and your heart in mine, and no touch save of your lips will ever be on mine."

They simultaneously renounce and declare their undying passion in a platonic, genteel, and sinless adultery. This renunciation seems "romantic" but actually is anti-romantic; the romantic temptation to run away together is overcome by their unromantic dedication to duty and obligation. Honor binds both Rassendyll as an English gentleman and Flavia as a Ruritanian princess.

The English gentleman

While the romantic hero, overcome by ardor, would persuade his lover to elope and defy the world, as well as to abandon their obligations, the English gentleman, a pre-romantic ideal, rejects being controlled by his passions and chooses the guidance of reason and custom. He values himself and his lover, but he also values society's traditions and mores. If morally challenged, he musters the inner strength needed to meet those challenges as they should be met, with "the moral excellence that defines a gentleman and is called 'integrity'." Central to the ideal of a gentleman is his sense of responsibility. Erotic love that violates the gentleman's code is a madness because unbridled passion disregards reality. Responding according to his social code and the dictates of reason, the gentleman does not repress his passion but chooses to mold it in another way, to find a different satisfaction of his love.

Once every year, Rassendyll and Queen Flavia secretly send each other little boxes. In each, "lies a red rose, and round the stalk of the rose is a slip of paper with the words written: 'Rudolf—Flavia—always.' That message, and the wearing of the rings, are all that now bind me and the Queen of Ruritania. Far—nobler, as I hold her, for the act—she has followed where her duty to her country and her House led her, and is the wife of the King, uniting his subjects to him by the love they bear to her, giving peace and quiet days to thousands by her self-sacrifice. Shall I see her face again—the pale face and the glorious hair? Of that I know nothing; Fate has no hint, my heart no presentiment. I do not know. In this world, perhaps—nay, it is likely—never. And can it be that somewhere, in a manner whereof our flesh-bound minds have no apprehension, she and I will be together again, with nothing to come between us, nothing to forbid our love? That I know not, nor wiser heads than mine. But if it be never—if I can never hold sweet converse again with her, or look upon her face, or know from her her love; why, then, this side the grave, I will live as becomes the man whom she loves; and, for the other side, I must pray a dreamless sleep."

The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope is available in many editions. The quotation about integrity and the general understanding of the English gentleman come from the well-known study TheGentleman in Trollope: Individuality and Moral Conduct by Shirley Robin Letwin.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Brontës in Childhood

The Brontës in Childhood

(c) Copyright (2017) by Kathleen Spaltro

All Rights Reserved

Numerous dramatizations of the Brontë sisters' fiction have preceded the recent excellent British miniseries about their lives, "To Walk Invisible." With all of the Brontës' gift for melodrama, they could hardly have invented a family history more lurid or terrible. When Maria Branwell Brontë, their mother, died shortly after the family's move to Haworth in rural northern England, she left 6 children 7 years old and younger in the care of a desolate widower who disliked small children in any case and who now avoided them because they awoke memories of his wife.

Tragedy in Triplicate

The eldest, Maria, assumed the role of mother to Elizabeth, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. When their father, the Reverend Patrick Brontë, sent his 4 older girls to a residential school for clergymen's daughters, physical and emotional abuse by teachers and administrators—combined with ignorance of sanitation and with contaminated or inedible food—so undermined the health of Maria and Elizabeth that they left the school, only to die at home. Thus, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne—now 9, 8, 7, and 5 years old—lost their mother twice in less than 4 years.

Twenty-three years later, as the trauma of triple bereavement recurred for Charlotte and her father, she herself connected the earlier with the later deaths:  "It is over. Branwell—Emily—Anne are gone like dreams—gone as Maria and Elizabeth went 20 years ago."  Of "the autumn, the winter, the spring of sickness and suffering," of the 8 months disfigured by their successive deaths from the family's scourge, tuberculosis, she wrote, "I should have thought—this can never be endured."

Endure it she did, only to re-encounter a malignant fate. The love and marriage that she had thought impossible came, despite her father's vehement opposition, bringing much-belated joy. But marriage to the Reverend Arthur Nicholls also brought pregnancy to 38-year-old Charlotte—pregnancy fecund with death for both her and her baby. "Oh," she helplessly protested to her deeply grieved husband, "I am not going to die, am I?  He will not separate us, we have been so happy."

And yet, while such a history—lived out in a parsonage surrounded on 3 sides by graves—certainly inspires pity and terror, out of it somehow came irreplaceable classics of English literature. The 3 surviving sisters all managed to realize their gifts as much as fate allowed, but their brother, Branwell, as an adult created nothing lasting and indeed perished, both physically and emotionally, consequent to his drunken and drugged self-destruction. The siblings' disunited adulthood followed their extraordinary childhood, one of intense happiness fashioned by grief and of deep emotional sustenance fostered by neglect.

Pairing Off

The children's grief over their mother's and their sisters' deaths—combined with their father's emotional remoteness and physical absence as well as with similar qualities in their remaining caretaker, their maternal Aunt Branwell—caused them to turn to one another. Heightened by their lifelong habit (except for Branwell) of little converse with their Haworth neighbors, their reliance on one another created very profound and prolonged emotional bonds. This closed circle of sibling intimacy also resulted in their entertaining themselves by fantasizing about, and then writing poems and stories concerning, extremely elaborate imaginary countries. This habit, most satisfying to their precocious imaginations, developed their literary skill but also unfitted them in various ways for more ordinary social life and for the trials of earning money. 

After Maria and Elizabeth died at Haworth, until Charlotte left for another residential school, she, Branwell, Emily, and Anne spent the next 5-and-a-half years flourishing under the detached governance of Aunt Branwell and Papa. Inspired by their father's gift of a set of toy soldiers to Branwell, they began taking the parts of characters in group games that evolved into a saga about the Glass Town Confederacy. Charlotte and Branwell began to write the saga down when she was 13 and he was 12. Their imaginative partnership coincided with their growing emotional intimacy as coauthors and "twins." 

The Glass Town Confederacy acquired a capital, Glass Town, later renamed Verdopolis. Not content with a mere confederacy, Charlotte and Branwell imagined an empire, Angria. These 2 older children displayed enormous energy and wide-ranging curiosity. Charlotte created tiny volumes (4.5 by 3.25 inches) containing an average of 20,000 words or more, 1,200 words to a handprinted page. Emily and Anne, at 13 and 11, impatient with Branwell's militaristic and political obsessions, seceded and developed the antithetical, female-dominated Gondal. Their new imaginative partnership also coexisted with a profound emotional "twinship." More than a childish invention, Gondal was the secret life they shared at each hour of every day. 

Charlotte and Branwell continued to elaborate upon the Angrian situation until she was 29 and he was 28, and Gondal actually outlived its rival empire. Prolonged twinship and imaginative absorption created for all 4 siblings for many years deep creative and emotional satisfaction. 

"You Are the 3 Suns"

Haworth Parsonage being a charmed enclosure, what would happen later to them as they ventured outside it?  Highly stimulated emotionally and imaginatively by these completely secret imaginary worlds, each would have trouble adjusting to outsiders, though to varying degrees; all would find it difficult, if not impossible, to substitute everyday reality for the far-preferable fantasy lands. Their social awkwardness, their unhappiness earning their living, and their boredom with the mundane all resulted in part from their finding their fantasy kingdoms (and one another) far more absorbing than anything else life offered. They seemed to experience some difficulty, not only in relinquishing the fantastic, but also in clearly distinguishing it from commonly accepted reality. 

Charlotte later clearly mourned the difference between reality and fantasy, Branwell grew to prefer states of mind artificially created by alcohol and opium, and Emily always remained indifferent and impervious to outside pressures of any kind. Somewhat paradoxically, her immunity to the outside world demonstrates strength of mind and character. Anne also displayed these qualities but did so quite differently from Emily. Suffering least from the family confusion of reality with fantasy and compromising most easily with the external world, Anne surpassed all of her siblings in her ability to remain employed.

The siblings' prolonged emotional and imaginative bonding thus, in varying ways, complicated their adjustment to the world outside the parsonage but also promoted the development of their gifts. Maladjustment to reality, however, sundered the brother from his sisters and created a new triad.

A memory of Charlotte's friend Ellen Nussey of her July 1847 visit to Haworth beautifully symbolizes the nurturance of genius that the adult sisters now provided to one another. Ellen and the sisters witnessed on the moors 2 parhelia, optical illusions that paired the sun with 2 reflections of itself. "That is you," Ellen remarked, "You are the 3 suns."

First published in The Woodstock Independent