They came from obscurity to produce some of the greatest novels in the English Language. The story of the Brontë sisters, authors of Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and the Tenant of Wildfell Hall, is told with a new one-off drama on BBC One, To Walk Invisible, which airs on Thursday 29 December at 9pm and is co-produced by The Open University.
The advantage of “walking invisible”
With a half-blind Father, a troubled brother in decline and a life of hardship, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë face a bleak future. As their situation worsens, Charlotte sees that writing could offer a way out. Telling the story of the sisters’ great novels and their battle for recognition, To Walk Invisible is written and directed by multi BAFTA winner Sally Wainwright and filmed in and around Yorkshire.
“To Walk Invisible” is a quote from a letter written by Charlotte Brontë. It refers to a meeting she had with an elderly Clergyman, who although knowing her literature well, failed to recognise Charlotte as the author due to her pseudonym ‘Currer Bell’. Charlotte wrote on the matter to her publisher: “What author would be without the advantage of being able to walk invisible? One is thereby enabled to keep such a quiet mind.”
Bright Fire of Genius
Academic consultant on the series, Dr Sara Haslam, has written about the appeal of the Bronte sisters. She said: “Jane Eyre is one of the most popular English novels ever written, and Wuthering Heights is not far behind – I hope this drama encourages more readers to explore Anne Brontë’s work. What always impressed me about these three women was their tenacity, and the sense that they could do nothing but honour their intense imaginative and creative power; they were each touched with the bright fire of genius.
Charlotte wrote in 1850 (when both Emily and Anne were dead) about how ‘the highest stimulus, as well as the liveliest pleasure’ the three sisters had known from childhood upwards had been found in their writing. These wonderful novelists pass this on to their readers, many of whom remain fans of the most devoted kind for life.
Take it Further
The Open University’s free learning platform OpenLearn features a unique interview with Sally Wainwright, discussing the drama in more depth, along with some behind the scenes videos with the main cast and crew. You can also test your knowledge on the Brontë sisters by taking part in our interactive online quiz about them.
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