Sister Scribes

Download (4)Nicola here. Today I’m musing on sisters, real, literary and fictional. I’ve always been fascinated by the relationships between siblings. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have any full siblings that I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a sister. Would we be very close, or different and distant? Would there be sibling rivalry between us or the sort of secrets you come across in books? What would it have been like growing up with brothers and sisters?

Today is the anniversary of the birth in 1817 of Branwell Bronte, the only boy amongst literary WYR_BPM_B37-001siblings Charlotte, Emily and Anne. Originally there were six Bronte children, five of whom were girls, so Branwell’s unique status as the only son of the family promised him more freedom and perhaps led to his being more indulged. Whilst the girls were sent away to school, in some cases most unhappily, Branwell was educated by his father at home (pictured above). The two older Bronte sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, died in childhood and their deaths made a big impression on all their siblings. Maria in particular showed all the signs of developing the same literary talents as her younger sisters. One wonders what might have happened had she survived and also whether Elizabeth, who was said to most resemble Anne, would also have grown up to be an author. Branwell, meanwhile, was a writer and an artist – one of his pictures is on the right – but he never achieved the literary success his sisters did, nor was he particularly successful with his paintings.

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Too Fond of Books

Perugini woman reading
She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain. –Louisa May Alcott

Susan here, thinking there are So. Many. Books. in the world right now, including in my house—I’ll never find the time to read them all. And yet I keep acquiring them. They look so good and enticing on the shelves, and stacked in toppling piles here and there . . . they even look great in rows and rows in my Kindle . . . There’s a comfort in being surrounded by books, by that wealth of knowledge and thought and imagination, by the color and texture and scent of the pages and covers, by the promise they hold, and the memories that others keep for us. Regardless of whether or not we’ve read the books that surround us, as many of us know–there can never be too many books.

19155104.thbA room without books is like a body without a soul. –Cicero

Yes. What Cicero said. 
(The historian in me wants to add that he wasn't talking about books per se, but scrolls or early codices, so his quote might be closer to "A room without scrolls is like a body without a soul," which has a nice little ring to it.)

Some of the zillions of books I’ve read and reshelved could eventually be redirected to other hands and other homes, but mostly I'm not that efficient, and most I will keep. If I haven’t read them yet, and there are plenty of those, I maintain all good intentions to do that. And I’m visual enough that I need to see the Unread where they cluster on shelves or in baskets. A great many have been read or at least browsed and skimmed, so I know what’s there if I need it, particularly so for the research books, which I try to group in ways that I can find them again as needed–Scottish and British history, medieval, costumes, legends, that sort of thing. 


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