Villette by Charlotte Brontë – Susan’s Newsletter July 2009

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July 23, 2009 Susan’s Newsletter (Hard life vs. Easy life)
Villette by Charlotte Bronte
Followed by July 16, 2009 Susan’s Newsletter (Too tired to pray)

Good morning!  Does it get any prettier in Nebraska than a morning like this?  No wind.  That in itself – a miracle.  The beautiful green cornfields with stunning sunsets…if you’re don’t get to picture this, you’re truly missing out.  My eyes are tired – I’ve just finished the longest book so far in my life.  546 pages.  I wonder how many cups of coffee were involved.  I should’ve kept track – that would’ve been funny.   I actually felt a weight off my mind when I closed the book.  Villette by Charlotte Bronte.  Written in 1853.  On a teacher in England.  I am going to write more for you of what I underlined, hoping that you will be given some ideas to think about this week…hard to pick what to copy for you.  I’m going to write out what she discussed on some having a life of ease in comparison with some having a life of continual hardships.  I hope you understand why I picked the lines that I have….

Life being”easy” for some….
I will go further.  I do believe there are some human beings so born, so reared, so guided from a soft cradle to a calm and late grave, that no excessive suffering penetrates their lot, and no tempestuous blackness overcasts their journey.  And often, these are not pampered, selfish beings, but nature’s elect, harmonious and benign; men and women mild with charity, kind agents of God’s kind attributes…..This pair (two main characters on analyzation from another on their lives)…was blessed indeed, for years brought them, with great prosperity, great goodness; they imparted with open hand, yet wisely.  Doubtless they knew crosses, disappointment, difficulties; but these were well borne…Once even there rose a cry in their halls, of Rachel weeping for her children…In short…like that of Jacob’s favored son, with ‘blessings of Heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies under.’  It was so, for God saw that it was good…….I think it is deemed good that you two should live in peace and be happy – not as angels, but as few are happy amongst mortals.  Some lives are thus blessed: it is God’s will: it is the attesting trace and lingering evidence of Eden.   Some real life’s do – for some certain days or years – actually anticipate the happiness of Heaven; and, I believe, if such perfect happiness is once felt by good people, its sweet effect is never wholly lost.  Whatever trials follow, whatever pains of sickness or shades of death, the glory precedent still shines through, cheering the keen anguish, and tinging the deep cloud.

Life being hardships for others…
But it is not so for all…Other lives run from the first another course.  Other travelers encounter weather fitful and gusty, wild and variable – breast adverse winds, are belated and overtaken by the early closing winter night.  Neither can this happen without the sanction of God; and I know that, amidst His boundless works, is somewhere stored the secret of this last fate’s justice: I know that His treasures contain the proof as the promise of its mercy.  What then?  His will be done, as done it surely will be, whether we humble ourselves to resignation or not.  Sufferer, faint not through terror of this burning evidence.  Tired wayfarer, gird up thy loins, look upwards, march onward.   Pilgrims and brother mourners, join in friendship company.  Dark through the wilderness of this world stretches the way for most of us: equal and steady be our tread; be our cross our banner.  For staff we have His promise, whose ‘word is tried, whose way perfect:’ for present hope His providence,’ who gives the shield of salvation, whose gentleness makes great;’ for final home His bosom, who ‘dwells in the height of Heaven;’ for crowning prize a glory, exceeding and eternal.  Let us so run that we may obtain; let us endure hardness as good soldiers; let us finish our course, and keep the faith, reliant in the issue to come off more than conquerors: ‘Art thou not from everlasting mine Holy One?
Happiness is the cure – a cheerful mind the preventative: cultivate both.” (Advice to her from doctor friend).  Her frustrated initial reaction and then her trying to pursue happiness:

No mockery in this world ever sounds to me so hollow as that of being told to cultivate happiness.  What does such advice mean?  Happiness is not a potato, to be planted in mould, and tilled with manure.  Happiness is a glory shining far down upon us out of Heaven.  She is a divine dew which the soul, on certain of its summer mornings, feels dropping upon it from the amaranth bloom and golden fruitage of Paradise…To wonder sadly, did I say?  NO: a new influence began to act upon my life, and sadness, for a certain space, was held at bay.  Conceive a dell, deep-hollowed in forest secrecy; it lies in dimness and mist: its turf is dank, its herbage pale and humid.  A storm or an axe makes a wide gap amongst the oak-trees; the breeze sweeps in; the sun looks down; the sad, cold dell becomes a deep cup of lustre; high summer pours her blue glory and her golden light out of that beauteous sky, which till now the starved hollow never saw.  A new creed became mine – a belief in happiness.

Quotes by Charlotte Bronte:
A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.

Cheerfulness, it would appear, is a matter which depends fully as much on the state of things
 within, as on the state of things without and around us.

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.

I feel monotony and death to be almost the same.

I try to avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward.

I’m just going to write because I cannot help it.

If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you,
            and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.

The human heart has hidden treasures, In secret kept, in silence sealed; The thoughts, the hopes,
            the dreams, the pleasures, Whose charms were broken if revealed.

The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter – often an unconscious, but still a truthful interpreter –
            in the eye.

You know full well as I do the value of sisters’ affections: There is nothing like it in this world.

How am I to follow that?  By thinking upon these ideas….she also described at the end of the book someone dear to her.  Now, penetrated with his influence, and living by his affection, having his worth by intellect, and his goodness by heart – I preferred him before all humanity.  Can we be such an influence to others?  Giving our affections, trying to continue learning, pursuing goodness – are we parenting in this way?  With this example?  Seeking friends with these traits?  Continually trying to be all we are able to be – regardless of our “lot in life” – regardless of what we’re given on Earth – the sweet taste of heaven now, or if we continually travel in winds…Are we seeking to live honorably as a soldier?  So many thoughts in this book…tackle it….you’ll be glad you did.  Go, take on your day – make your epitaph tonight worth writing…on how you will use the minutes ahead of you that you cannot have back when you call it a day.  Thank you for coming in the store, for your encouragement, business, and notes.  All matters.   I hope I’m working when you come in – if not, know that I see you were there and thank you.  Susan

Latin for this week: 
Selige felicitatem – Choose happiness.
Hic habitat felicitas – Here dwells happiness.



July 16, 2009 Susan’s Newsletter:

Good morning!   Do you hear the birds already singing for you?  I thought the morning was all greetings this morning until I glanced near my sink and saw my only plant I’m responsible drooping and glaring at me….goodness, just one plant in my charge, and you should see it….shall I give it a little of my coffee for caffeine?  Would that cheer the little friend up?!?!  This week I have been reading a novel that has been difficult to get through, Villette by Charlotte Bronte.  I knew nothing about this book, but saw it at a great little bookstore in Aurora in the classics section & liked the cover (grin).  The book was first published in 1853 (isn’t that amazing?!?) on different characters and situations in a woman’s life – as she taught at a boarding school in a town named Villette.  There are over 500 pages of descriptions of people in her life, scenes with specific details written, and dialogues that need uninterrupted reading time to follow….I’ve made it to page 280 & here are some of the paragraphs I’ve underlined…hoping that you would be able to appreciate what she was trying to get her readers to think about as she formed her characters and their discussions throughout Lucy Snowe’s (the main character’s) life.

Friend or relative that we feel the most comfortable with in silence (when we hurt)… I really like how Charlotte Bronte describes a woman in her life – a woman that she felt completely at ease with in her sickness.  She does not demean her other close friends, but she acknowledges the fact that only a few would we want near us at our lowest.  Who do you think of when you read this? 

Now it is not everybody, even amongst our respected friends and esteemed acquaintance, whom we like to have near us, whom we like to watch us, to wait on us, to approach us with the proximity of a nurse to a patient.  It is not every friend whose eye is a light in a sick room, whose presence is there a solace: but all this was Mrs. Bretton to me; all this she had ever been.  Food or drink never pleased me so well as when it came through her hands.  I do not remember the occasion when her entrance into a room had not made that room cheerier.  Our natures own predilections and antipathies alike strange.  There are people from whom we secretly shrink, whom we would personally avoid, though reason confesses that they are good people: there are others with faults of temper, & c., evident enough, beside whom we live content, as if the air about them did us good. 

On letting go of what we cannot control – willing to let God’s timing be accepted:  I especially like the line “not your hour”…when we will see the entire scene…

When you can’t pray (not sure how to put what you are thinking into actually words/thoughts), or are too tired to prayI read this out of Streams in the Desert (daily devotional from the early 1900’s) and really liked the analogy of a baby being cared for deeply by the mother compared to our not having the ability to pray.  I had just read Charlotte Bronte’s advice on prayer to her friend on talking to God.  This was an interesting opposite idea – on not knowing how, or having the ability of forming thoughts for prayer.

I’m too tired to trust and too tired to pray, Said I, as my overtaxed strength gave way.
    The one conscious thought that my mind possessed, Is, oh, could I just drop it all and rest.

Will God forgive me, do you suppose, If I go right to sleep as a baby goes,
   Without questioning if I may, Without even trying to trust and pray?

Will God forgive you? Think back, dear heart, When language to you was an unknown art,
   Did your mother deny you needed rest, Or refuse to pillow your head on her breast?

Did she let you want when you could not ask?  Did she give her child an unequal task?
   Or did she cradle you in her arms, And then guard your slumber against alarms?

 Oh, how quickly a mother’s love can see, The unconscious yearnings of infancy.
   When you’ve grown too tired to trust and pray, When overworked nature has quite given way:

Then just drop it all, and give up to rest, As you used to do on mother’s breast,
   He knows all about it – the dear Lord knows, So just go to sleep as a baby goes;

Without even asking if you may, God knows when His child is too tired to pray.
   He judges not solely by uttered prayer, He knows when the yearnings of love are there.

He knows you do pray, He knows you do trust, And He knows, too, the limits of poor, weak dust.
   Oh, the wonderful sympathy of Christ, For His chosen ones in that midnight tryst,

When He told them, “Sleep and take your rest,” While on Him the guilt of the whole world pressed –
   You have trusted your life to Him to keep, Then don’t be afraid to go right to sleep.

                                                                            Ella Conrad Cowherd

Thank you for letting me write for you – for giving me suggestions on what to read that will be worth writing on…for coming into the store and showing me what’s made a difference to you.  Books….writings…sentences…thoughts – they change us…change the way we see our situations….help us to see that others before us have been where we are….writing so we can have the shared companionship of someone else knowing what we are thinking, experiencing, wondering, questioning…authors – our unknown friends that change us.  Pick up a new book – make sure it is worth your time…let’s not live our lives on trivial details – but making decisions all day that will be worth recording on our epitaph each evening – our epitaph for the time that will never be given another chance…the time on the clock used that day.  Have a great rest of the week!  Look up or fall to your knees…your help is there regardless if you know what words to speak.  Thanks for letting me enter your Thursday again.  I hope I’m working when you come shopping or for a great cup of coffee!  Susan

Latin for this week:   caelitus mihi vires – My strength is from heaven

Work Cited:
Bronte, Charlotte.  Villette.  New York.  Penguin Putnam.  2009.

Product Overview

Charlotte Brontë’s final masterpiece powerfully portrays a woman struggling to reconcile love, jealousy, and a fierce desire for independence.

Having fled a harrowing past in England, Lucy Snowe begins a new life teaching at a boarding school in the great capital of a foreign country. There, as she tries to achieve independence from both outer necessity and inward grief, she finds that her feelings for a worldly doctor and a dictatorial professor threaten her hard-won self-possession. Published in 1853, Charlotte Bronte’s last novel was written in the wake of her grief at the death of her siblings. It has a dramatic force comparable to that of her other masterpiece, Jane Eyre, as well as a striking modernity of psychological insight and a revolutionary understanding of human loneliness.