I have a veritable who’s who of classic literature on my to-read list. It would be shameful to list off the names of those whom I’ve not read if not for the fact that discovery of wonder lies ahead. And yet, the name Brontë is not wholly unknown to me. My sole experience with them before this point comes from the Dutch band Anois, who produced a wonderful album of music set to Emily Brontë’s poetry.
I discovered them while exploring a rabbit hole of Tolkien-inspired music, which they have at the ready, but cannot release yet due to licensing. In any case, I’m a sucker for a beautiful voice and a harp, so this was an insta-buy. Thus was my introduction to Emily Brontë: poetry worthy of the musical treatment it was given, as if there would be any doubt. All three sisters have been on my to-read list since then. It wasn’t until coming out and announcing my name that my friend BrokenTune made her own connection to Emily Brontë. I had chosen my name long before I’d ever heard of the Brontës, so when she made her connection, mostly I just felt bad for the oversight of having not explored more of their work.
At last, I’ve done that! I find that when being introduced to poetry, if I’m able to hear it aloud, it resonates with me so much more than simply reading silently from a page. Much of my appreciation in recent years can be attributed to this idea. Now I get why poetry readings are a thing. In any case, I found a complete works of the Brontë sisters available for Kindle from Delphi Classics, and I snagged that, but I still love my audio, so I went on the hunt. I’ve since combed Audible and found about a hundred versions of Wuthering Heights to choose from, and in the midst of all that, I found this collection of poems from all three sisters. What’s more, this is truly a performance, featuring a trio of narrators who clearly love these works: Elizabeth Klett as Charlotte, Eva Davis (who also designed the cover art) as Emily, and Amanda Friday (who also did the audio editing) as Anne. This is a complete poetical works, running about four and a half hours. There are five sections to this audiobook. The first three comprise the poetry of each of the sisters, explored in turn. The fourth and fifth portions of this presentation are entitled “Selections of the Literary Remains of Emily and Anne Brontë by Charlotte Brontë.” Emily is discussed in part four, Anne in part five. Both of these feature more poetry with commentaries by Charlotte that offer considerable insight into her sisters’ lives and works. It makes me wonder what her sisters think of her in turn.
Based on my own experience here, I think that it would be most impossible for the poetically-inclined not to be moved by the beauty found here. None of the works I’ve heard are complex, each offering a simple truth or idea that comes straight from the heart. I found that Emily’s work spoke to me the most, probably due to my familiarity with some of her poems through the Anois album that bears her name; poetry and music have that in common, where greater familiarity breeds deeper appreciation. From what I’m hearing, however, I feel Charlotte and Anne will have little problem finding the same from me. I am thankful that three different narrators were used. It helps to separate the sisters and their poems from one another, allowing for their individual styles and personalities to come shining through.
I should note that I went into this mostly cold, having done very little research into their personal lives. That’s unusual for me. Typically I like to learn about the authors, putting them in their time and place so as to maximize my understanding of what I’m reading through their eyes. I didn’t really do that this time. A quick Google search and a quick drop into some fan sites left me with the impression that Brontë studies is a subgenre by itself, as deep and abiding as any of the greats from Shakespeare on down. And the consensus seems to be that which sister you like most depends largely on where you are in your own life. Different sisters’ works appeal to different people at different times. That’s interesting to me that there’s no general ranking, and I have to say I rather admire that. The only real consistencies I’ve found among the testimonies of the faithful is that Anne is underappreciated, and Emily is something of a ghost. Charlotte, apparently, speaks for herself and dominates in all things, which is no real surprise to me given the presentation found in this collection between her amount of poetry and her commentaries on her sisters. In terms of quality, as I say, I’m more familiar with Emily’s work so far just on account, but I’ve found each of the sisters to be equally expressive in their own rights. The influence they had upon one another is undeniable.
In any case, much as it was with Edith Wharton, I am captivated and enriched by what I’ve encountered. I want more. Accordingly, I will be exploring all things Brontë in due course, with rather high — but open — expectations, after I read deeper into their full biographies. Their poetry certainly stands on its own, timeless and beautiful, and I am deeply appreciative for the extra content that supports it.