Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Brontës in Brussels by Helen MacEwan

As you might know, I am a fan of the Brontës. While living here in Brussels I came into contact with the Brussels Brontë Group. A group, founded by Helen MacEwan and some fellow enthusiasts. I did not have so much knowledge about the Brontës. Just that they grew up on the moors of Yorkshire and wrote wonderful, passionate novels.

Being part of the group have, for me, opened up a whole new chapter in the history of the Brontës. The group has taken on numerous investigations in order to track the lives of Charlotte and Emily during their stay here in 1842-43 (Emily only the first year). For Charlotte it was a life changing experience. The life she lived here and her studies for the charismatic M. Heger gave her another output in life. She became infatuated with him and he entered into her literary characters.

Helen is the source of information concerning the sisters life here in Brussels. She has written several books related to their stay here. The Brontës in Brussels is a well written account of their reason for coming here, how they saw life, the people they met, the studies and how life was led in the Belgian capital in the mid of the 19th century. Most of all; how it effected Charlotte and changed her life. Most experts today acknowledge that without her stay here, she might not have written the novels she did.

It is an easy read, perfect also for those without too much knowledge of the sisters. Charlotte's novels The Professor and Villette take place in Brussels and Helen shows us references from the books and what inspired Charlotte in real life Brussels. It is a fantastic tour around the old and new parts of Brussels. Cultural happenings, traditional feasts, eating habits and much more. The book is like a bible for Brontë fans, just the right amount of background information, and written in a way that make you feel like you are walking with them, over the pebbled stones of Brussels.

The Brussels Brontë Groups arranges guided walks a couple of times a year. The walk is highlighted at the end of the book. It is easy to follow, cover the places Charlotte and Emily visited, all close to each other. Take the book with your a walk in the footsteps of the Brontës.

Other books by Helen: Down the Belliard Steps: Discovering the Brontës in Brussels, Winifred Gérin: Biographer of the Brontës. Soon to be published: Through Belgian Eyes: Charlotte Brontës Troubled Brussels Legacy. All of them add a little bit more to the life and inspiration of Charlotte.


  1. Thanks for the recommendation, Lisbeth. I enjoy the Bronte work but hadn't heard of this or their time in Brussels.

    Thanks too for your recent stop at Marmelade Gypsy! A treat to have you there!

    1. Same as for me when I came here. There were actually a lot of Americans who visited Brussels in the end of the 19th century on Brontë tourism. I think some of them also wrote about it in books and articles. At the time the Americans were more interested in 'Brontëmania' than the British.