Hazel McHaffie

International Arts Festival

Literary triumphs

I have the great good fortune to live just outside one of the most famous literary cities in the world: Edinburgh. Numerous well-known writers have – and still do – stalked its streets, culled from its haunts, woven its magic into their books. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying exploring its streets all over again taking visitors to see its picturesque closes and wynds and courtyards and beautiful buildings – including The Writers’ Museum pictured here.

And as we gear up to the biggest international arts festival in the world, it seems an appropriate time to add my own homage to one of the most enduring names in fiction ever: Emily Brontë, whose special bicentennial anniversary we remember this year.  Wouldn’t she herself be completely stunned by all the hype!!

Two hundred years ago, in 1818, this girl was born in Yorkshire into obscurity, the fifth child of an impoverished clergyman and his wife. She was a weak timid little thing, who found school too daunting, so she spent her childhood at home reading avidly and scribbling stories and poems of her own. A brief skirmish with teaching in her adult years in an effort to contribute to the family’s meagre income met with similar discord, and back she went to the peace and anonymity of the rectory, and the quiet influence of a bookish, creative environment.

So oppressed were women in her day that she and her sisters, Charlotte and Anne, all published their writing under male pseudonyms. Emily’s was Ellis Bell. Much they wrote sank into oblivion, but, as I’m sure you know, her one outstanding work, Wuthering Heights, published in 1847, proved hugely popular and remains a classic to this day.

Having already lost three siblings and her mother, Emily’s young life was overshadowed by struggle, death and despair, and perhaps it was that which coloured her own writing, and lead to the melancholy tale of bleak love and dark revenge we know and revere today. Heathcliffe has to be one of the most bitter, haunted and vengeful fictional heroes of all time.

How sad that this reclusive figure didn’t live long enough to see her creation achieve success; she was a mere thirty years of age when she caught a chill at her brother Bramwell’s funeral, developed TB and died, six days before Christmas. But how doubly heartening that the world pays tribute to her still.

And now I’m preparing for a whirl of amazing cultural experiences as we take friends and relations to the huge range of performances on offer. All this on our doorstop … most fortunate indeed.


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