It’s Never Too Late to Publish

Lizzy Davies is a reporter at the Guardian. She previously worked for the paper in Paris, and for the Observer and Independent as a news editor

She wrote this piece last week about a newly discovered short story by Charlotte Brontë:

Charlotte Brontë’s lost short story to be published

 Charlotte Brontë with her sisters. L’Ingratitude, dated 16 March 1842, is the first-known piece of homework set for her by the Belgian tutor Constantin Heger. Photograph: Jon Jones/Sygma/Corbis

 

A long-lost short story written by Charlotte Brontë for a married man with whom she fell in love is to be published for the first time after being found in a Belgian museum a century after it was last heard of.

The tale, written in grammatically erratic French and entitled L’Ingratitude, is the first-known piece of homework set for Brontë by Constantin Heger, a Belgian tutor who taught both her and her sister Emily, and is believed to have inspired such ardour in the elder sibling that she drew on their relationship for her novel Villette.

Brian Bracken, a Brussels-based archivist and Brontë expert, found the manuscript in the Musée Royal de Mariemont. He said the short story had been last heard of in 1913, when it was given to a wealthy Belgian collector by Heger’s son, Paul. The London Review of Books (LRB) is to publish the story in full on its website last Wednesday and in its paper edition on Thursday.

“It was finished a month after Charlotte arrived in Brussels and is the first known devoir [piece of homework] of 30 the sisters would write for Heger,” writes Bracken in the LRB. “It contains a number of mistakes, mainly misspellings and incorrect tenses … he [Heger] often returned their essays drastically revised – sadly, there are no comments on this copy of L’Ingratitude.”

 

 

Why modern novelists need to watch their weight

Robert McCrum is an associate editor for the Observer newspaper in London. He’s written what I think is an interesting analysis of the growth of novels – their literal growth from 200-800 pages. I’m encouraged by his take, since I know that, personally, I’d be happy to end up with a 200 page novel.

Here’s the beginning of  the article:

In these lean times, fiction is putting on weight. Take three of the major novels out in the next few weeks. Never mind the quality, which is variable, feel the width. Angelmaker (Heinemann), Nick Harkaway’s second novel, weighs in at 576 pages. My copy of Capital (Faber) by John Lanchester tips the scales at 577 pp. The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood (S&S) is a 420-page debut. Even the Costa winner, Andrew Miller’s Pure (Sceptre), runs to a chunky 352 pages. When last year’s Booker winner, The Sense of an Ending, was first shortlisted, there were some who said that, at 150 pages, it wasn’t really a novel. Whatever happened to the slim volume?

You can blame the computer for the contemporary writer’s reluctance to cut. Again, you can blame the decline of editing at the big imprints, which is actually more apparent than real. Or you can point the finger at the pressures of the marketplace, especially in America.

You can read the rest here: