Advent is well and truly underway – I hope you all had a good weekend. Today’s Comfort and Joy instalment will certainly get your week off to a good start. We are delighted to welcome Nick Holland to our blog, as he shares what brings him comfort and joy at Christmastime with a wonderful literary twist…
Christmas is a time for loved ones and loved things, and for all the comfort and joy that familiarity brings, so at this time of year I like to re-read my very favourite novel: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. It was first published, alongside her beloved sister Anne Brontë’s debut novel Agnes Grey, in 1847 and has captivated readers worldwide ever since.
Wuthering Heights is a book that has everything but at its heart is a tale of thwarted love, and a desperate lifelong act of revenge. Its wintery opening make it a perfect Advent read, and is also contains a Christmas scene which tells us much about how the Brontë family themselves spent Christmas Day in Haworth Parsonage. The Earnshaws and Lintons are enjoying a Christmas party, replete with drinks, feasting and a visit from the local brass band, although Catherine’s mind is on an absent party: Heathcliff, who has been banished after bashing his love rival Edgar Linton with a tureen of apple sauce.
In this we can see a reflection of a Brontë Christmas – hopefully without the tureen on head incident. Christmas day itself would have been a joyous one for the Brontës; beginning with a Christmas service at their father’s church, they would then settle down to a festive meal and doubtless the Haworth Brass Band would have called at the parsonage too.
Contrary to the perception of some, the Brontë sisters loved fun and laughter, and they especially loved music, so we can easily imagine them gathered round the parsonage piano. We know that Emily was a brilliant pianist, indeed she briefly gave piano lessons in Brussels, and that Anne Brontë liked to sing along in a voice described as ‘soft, yet sweet’. Perhaps Anne had this in mind in the opening lines to her poem, ‘Music On Christmas Morning’:
“Music I love – but never strain
Could kindle raptures so divine,
So grief assuage, so conquer pain,
And rouse this pensive heart of mine –
As that we hear on Christmas morn,
Upon the wintry breezes born.”
This year has been a strange one and this Christmas will find many of us separated from those we love and want to be with, but better times are rapidly approaching and until then we can find solace and escape in great books such as Wuthering Heights.
Happy Christmas and may God bless us, every one!
Brontë expert Nick Holland is the author of Crave the Rose: Anne Brontë at 200. Throughout this excellent biography Nick examines the life of one of the most overlooked members of an astounding literary trio. A fitting celebration of Anne’s 200th birthday, Nick delves deep into the somewhat unknown life of a woman who was extremely talented in her own right.