Raise It Up Posted on 26 Mar 15:48
Nineteenth century England was full of wily and wild writers that high school teachers do their utmost to make dull. Authors that are now kept cooled by academia and respectability were once the visionaries and mad men of their day.
As a child I used to imagine them all under the same roof. Raucous and irreverent and painting rooms with their words. Peer through a window and we see Dickens slowly killing himself as he performs the murder of Oliver Twist’s Nancy in front of thousands of hungry audiences night after terror filled night. His son waited off stage each evening waiting to carry him away in the likely event he fell dead right before the plunging the knife into lovely, little Nan. Just past him sitting by the fire, is Marian Evans. She is not yet George Eliot and she hasn't yet written Middlemarch. She is a woman cast out of society because of a forbidden love. Even after she became all she would become, the women that read her books would not have her to dinner.
And there in the corner, where the shadow meets the light is the lovely Charlotte Bronte.
A plain sort of girl filled with a beautiful complexity. She grew up in a rural place writing mediocre tales about lands that did not exist. In adulthood, she attempted to make a life in the avenues acceptable for a woman. She was a governess for horrid masters, a teacher at corrupted institutions and owned a boarding school that never attracted one student. Thankfully for us, the failure of the expected made room for the extraordinary.
In the parlor at night, while the wind howled and her father dozed, she and her sisters wrote. They wrote about their disappointments, hopes and the world that surrounded them. They wrote about the things that rattled inside them since birth and the things they had learned in their years of dark rooms and light laughter. After fingers stained blue with ink and miles walked to the stationers shop, each sister had something worth sending off to publishing houses in London . Anne sent Agnes Grey, Emily sent Wuthering Heights and Charlotte sent The Professor.
The manuscripts went off together in a brown wrapped parcel. Each time the manuscripts were rejected the parcel came back, the brown paper creased and cracking from its travel. Our heroines were nothing if not practical. Rather than re-wrapping the books they simply crossed off the rejecting publishers name and wrote down another one. Soon the package was striped in ink up one side and down the other. Eventually, a publishing house accepted both Agnes Grey and Wuthering Heights. They were, the house conceded, good sorts of books.
Charlotte sent her Professor off on one last lonely journey.
A few months later came a reply, No, Miss Bronte, we are not interested in publishing The Professor, but there is promise here. If you write something else, please send it our way. Our good woman's vision was clarified by the potential the publisher saw. She began to write once more. Three weeks later she sent the publisher Jane Eyre, a book that praised God, angered traditionalists and sits on my desk over a hundred years later.
My darling reader, do not wait. Please, do what you love. Teach! Sing! Dance! Mother! Create! Explore! Find the things that have rattled within you since before you could speak. Gather up your discoveries and don your courage. There is promise in you waiting to be sought and seen.
Now, raise it up and send it our way.
Thank you Meg for this wonderful post!