Friday, 20 April 2012

TB and the Weather

This is a long entry - so stick with me...

Ages ago while i was beginning to research the Bronte's lives and the connections to the weather i noticed (from the Shacklton weather records kept from 1801 until 1857) that the year that Branwell Bronte and Emily Bronte died of TB, 1848, had very high rainfall: 40.38 inches when the average rainfall was 32 inches. And of course Anne died of TB in May 1849. So i started to wonder if there is a connection between wet weather having a bad affect on TB. I've tried to get hold of historical writings on TB and also to look at contemporary reports too. However it's not been that easy to find any research that links the two.

I got an email this week in reply to one of my enquiries from Professor Flurin Condrau from the Medizinhistorisches Insitut und Museum at the Universitat Zurich in Switzerland. My main question was: are there any reports that directly link wet weather to TB? Here is his reply (shortened version)

Dear Rebecca,

Your project sounds really interesting. It's funny that you ask these questions because it has to be one of the most relevant yet strangely underresearched themes.

The relation between TB and weather, or better still, climate is subject to an enormous literature often connected to the Alps. In other words, it's not so much about whether it rains or doesn't but whether high altitude might offer protection from TB. Of course, weather is itself something that needs to be culturally read - recently moving from Britain to Switzerland has taught me a lot about cultural readings of weather - so I doubt whether your question can find an answer: did bad weather contribute to the Bronte's TB.

OK? I hope this helps. I would be interested to hear more about this project as and when. 
Good luck with the work!

All good wishes,


I'm thrilled he took the time to reply and in his email were a couple of names and links to things i should read. So, my quest continues.

The image above is a photocopy of Patrick Bronte's medical handbook that he kept in the Parsonage. Of Tubercular Consumption it says (amongst other things):

" The following draught is much worthy of attention as a palliative for the cough:
Take of extract of hemlock, extract of henbane, of each, five grains; mucilage of gum arabic, two drachms. Rub these well together until they are thoroughly incorporated, then add, acetated liquor of ammonia, pure water, of each, half an once; syrup, one drachm. This makes a draught, to be taken every four hours."

Not sure about that myself - hemlock and henbane?

The handwriting at the bottom of the text is Patrick Bronte's and he comments:
"Mr S..... surgeon, Leeds, said that change of place or climate, could prove beneficial, only in the early stage of consumption - that afterwards, the excitment caused by change of scene, and beds, and strange company, did harm."

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Bronte Prints and a Cloud Shaped Like Me Dad

I've been going to the print rooms at UCLAN to use the facilities there to develop and produce a series of weather related prints about each of the Bronte sisters - plus i might extend the series to include Maria Bronte, Elizabeth Bronte and Branwell Bronte too. I've been using the weather records documented during the lives of the Brontes - i've isolated the individual numbers from the records and i'm over layering them to create dense, unreadable masses of black.

On another note - i was out walking the other evening with a friend and we spotted this cloud formation that has an uncanny resemblance to my dad - admittedly the mouth is a little slim, but the rest is pretty bob on.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Half Way Through

My trip to the Bronte Parsonage Museum yesterday marked the half way mark of the Weather Project. I've now got exactly 6 months of data from the weather station sited in the garden there.

There was also a meeting of some of my weather collectors who have now been gathering daily weather observations since October - it was good to see everyone and catch up -  we had a brief chat about what's been happening with the project since we all met. I'm going to spend the morning going through their completed cards.

The weather yesterday was all over the place - i travelled to the Parsonage through heavy rain and then sunshine, then there was hail showers on and off during the day and huge billowing clouds looming over the hills. I arrived home in the evening soaked through. Spring is here then.

I think you'll agree that my hail stones on cobbles shot could just be one of my best photographs so far.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Colours of the Bronte Sisters

I've just about finished the 3 colour wheels I've been working on (i just have to label them now).

One wheel shows the type of weather mentioned by Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre; one wheel shows the types of weather described by Emily Bronte in Wuthering Heights; and the third wheel shows the types of weather Anne Bronte uses in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
Each stripe is the percentage of the total weather references per novel.

I'm happy to have finished them - i got proper brain ache working out the percentages for each weather type - maths not being my favourite subject. But i enjoyed mixing paints and choosing colours and looking at colour theory again.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Road Block

I tried, unsuccessfully, to get to the Bronte Parsonage Museum today.
I set off from Preston on the train to Hebden Bridge through the slightly snow peppered landscape, but the closer to the Pennines we got the more snow was on the tops.

Anyway, because the road was blocked with snow between Hebden Bridge and Haworth the buses were cancelled. So i had to come home. Pooh (not my word of choice in this circumstance, but i'm aware that children and / or sensitive types might read this blog entry - fill in your best worst word you know - and that'll come close).

On my pointless journey i did manage to finish The Professor by Charlotte Bronte and take a couple of nice cloud shots from the train window.

Right - a cup of tea i think will mend everything.

Monday, 2 April 2012

The Professor

"Already the pavement was drying; a balmy and fresh breeze stirred the air, purified by lightening. I felt the west behind me, where spread a sky like opal; azure immingled with crimson. The enlarged sun, glorious in Tyrian tints, dipped his brim already. Stepping, as i was, eastward, i faced a vast bank of clouds, but also i had before me the arch of an evening rainbow - a perfect rainbow, high, wide, vivid. I looked long; my eye drank in the scene, and i suppose my brain must have absorbed it; for that night, after lying awake in pleasant fever a long time, watching the silent sheet-lightening, which still played among he retreating clouds, and flashed silvery over the stars, i at last fell asleep; and then in a dream were reproduced the setting sun, the bank of clouds, the mighty rainbow."

Charlotte Bronte
The Professor written in 1845/ 6 but not published until 1857 after Charlotte's death.

I've nearly finished reading The Professor, and if i pull myself together i should finish it in the next day or two. It's not brimming with weather references, but there are a couple of beautiful descriptions - above being a lovely example.