Today I fulfilled a long hoped for pilgrimage with my family and drove up north through winding streets of small pubs and purple heather, finally reaching the Brontë parsonage at Haworth. I was supporting my fellow female writers, who wrote and wrote with hopes and hopes, not of celebrity as we consider it- but merely a future, a life where they could provide for their loved ones with a pen and sentences breathing.
The amazement of how small Charlotte’s feet were, the inked notebooks of poetry by Emily or Branwell’s smoked out figure amongst his sisters’ portrait, which he painted himself; Anne’s Scarborough pebble collection. These humdrum relics of their lives were so interesting and humbling to see, what with what knowledge we have realised now, that Branwell is more than a drunk and his sisters more than mere governesses; secret writers. They are no longer invisible, they are legendary.
I kept thinking of the contextual cruelty in which those animated and powerful women lived- a world of strict boundaries of who could and could not have money, when women were angels or whores- neither of whom deemed wise enough to yield a pen so mightily as a man. I am born in a world where, yes- many structures are still so fucked up and writhing with hatred and willed ignorance that it’s hard to fathom any progress sometimes; yet, here have I set gauntlet. Writing alone. My own pen. My own name.
I do not want to let go for granted what these intelligent, wholehearted women strove so hard to obtain. I am a savage, as Emily wrote- I am still half wild and free to play on the moors of my mind as I will. Thank God for books.
Today’s poem is by Emily, ‘No Coward Soul is Mine’ (A personal favourite along with ‘Remembrance‘). I presume the power she refers to here is the Christian “God”, but I like to interpret it as our own god; happiness seeded inside ourselves which twines and kindles with others who will it so, our determination to “choose not to suffer uselessly” (as Adrienne Rich wrote it). No coward souls were theirs, and neither is mine.