when literary worlds collide
One of the best parts of doing research for this book is noticing how the lives of literature’s greatest writers and heroines intersect.
So far the Brontë sisters take the literary cake for references and ruminations:
So full of talent, and after working long, just as success, love and happiness comes, she dies. Wonder if I shall ever be famous enough for people to care to read my story and struggles. I can’t be a C.B., but I may do a little something yet.
- Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women) on Charlotte Brontë
Charlotte Bronte only made about 7,000 by her books … It seems unfair and unjust. What I admire most in Charlotte Bronte is her absolute clear-sightedness regarding shams and sentimentalities. Nothing of the sort could impose on her. And she always hewed straight to the line. I have been asking myself, ‘If I had known Charlotte Bronte in life – how would we have reacted upon each other? Would I have liked her? Would she have liked me?’ I answer, ‘No.’ She was absolutely without a sense of humor. She would not have approved of me at all. I could have done her whole heaps of good. A few jokes would have leavened the gloom and tragedy of that Haworth Parsonage amazingly.
People have spoken of Charlotte Bronte’s ‘creative genius’. Charlotte Bronte had no creative genius. Her genius was one of amazing ability to describe and interpret the people and surroundings she knew. All the people in her books who impress us with such a wonderful sense of reality were drawn from life. She herself is Jane Eyre, Lucy Snowe. Emily was Shirley. Rochester, whom she did create, was unnatural and unreal. Blanche Ingram was unreal. St. John was unreal. Most of her men are unreal. She knew nothing of men except her father and brother and the Belgian professor of her intense unhappy love. Emmanuel was drawn from him, and therefore is one of the few men in her books who is real.
- L.M. Montgomery (author of the Anne of Green Gables series) on Charlotte Brontë
But the coolest interaction thus far has been a letter from one notoriously press-shy author to another.
When I saw your wonderful book sticking at the top of the bestseller list, I wondered how long it would be before you were sued for plagiarism, libel et cetera. It is axiomatic among writers that no one ever sues the writer of an unsuccessful book. Just let a book go over twenty-five thousand copies and it is surprising how many people’s feelings are hurt, how many screwballs think their brain children have been stolen, and how many people feel that they have been portrayed in a manner calculated to bring infamy upon them.
- Margaret Mitchell (Gone With the Wind) to Betty Smith (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn), circa 1945