Charlotte Brontë at the Soane

This year is the 200th anniversary of this acclaimed author’s birth and the Sir John Soane’s Museum is celebrating with a special exhibition. Peter Morrell reports on the launch which also featured a wine with a long and respected heritage.

Image courtesy of Sir John Soane’s Museum. Photo Gareth Gardner

Image courtesy of Sir John Soane’s Museum. Photo: Gareth Gardner

Image courtesy of Sir John Soane’s Museum. Photo Gareth Gardner 1

Image courtesy of Sir John Soane’s Museum. Photo: Gareth Gardner

Image courtesy of Sir John Soane’s Museum. Photo Gareth Gardner 2

Image courtesy of Sir John Soane’s Museum. Photo: Gareth Gardner

The launch of the highly anticipated Charlotte Brontë exhibition was held recently at the Soane and it was a feast for both the mind and the body. The physical delight came in a welcome glass of Sancerre from the long established Loire wine maker Jospeh Mellot. His family have been growing grapes and producing wine in this beautiful part of France since 1513.

We were drinking their Sancerre La Chatellenie 2015, a lovely wine which perfectly demonstrated its heritage. The Sauvignon Blanc grape had vibrant aromas of citrus and apple on the nose developing into fresh grass and herbs with lime and mineral tones on the palate and it left a crisp, clean finish.

Duly refreshed I went for a tour of the museum before seeing the exhibition. The Soane is situated in London’s Lincoln’s Inn Fields and was Sir John’s home. It was here that England’s most talented architect worked and lived and it was also a repository for all the ephemera that he collected on his travels through Europe and the many paintings he acquired. A room of folding panels has displays of Canalettos, models of the buildings he designed and Hogarth’s most famous series, The Rake’s Progress.

It was an evening event and the house was candlelit making it very atmospheric, in nooks and crannies people in period costume were reading from Brontë’s works. The tour was an excellent prelude to the exhibition.

Celebrating 200 years since the birth of one of Britain’s best loved writers the exhibition contains some of Charlotte Brontë’s most treasured possessions, on loan from the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Yorkshire.

Charlotte made five trips to London to see her publisher. On display is the guidebook Brontë used to explore the city – featuring Sir John Soane’s Museum – and a dress that she wore to a dinner with her publisher. It’s small size denotes her stature and it’s the first time the dress has returned to London since she wore it. Also displayed are newly discovered sketches of the Brontë sisters, drawn by their sister Anne, these have never been seen in public before. The exhibition is well worth a visit, it’s packed with interesting facets of Charlotte’s life and the added bonus is the house itself, a treasure trove of priceless artefacts.

To coincide with Charlotte’s actual birth date, 21st April, there will be a live reading of Jane Eyre at the Sir John Soane’s Museum, more details can be found at www.soane.org/whats-on/offsite-touring/jane-eyre-live-reading

Useful Links

Joseph Mellot – www.josephmellot.com

Charlotte Brontë at the Soane – www.soane.org/whats-on/exhibitions/charlotte-brontë-soane

Sir John Soane’s Museum – www.soane.org

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