Judith Adams

I Believe I have Genius

17th April 2008

A fictional version of Charlotte Bronte’s Brussels experience

BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play, produced by Jonquil Panting

RADIO CHOICE/PICK OF THE DAY: Times, Guardian, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Independent, Times, Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph

★ ★ ★ ★
…an atmospheric heart-breaker of a play.


On a warm September evening in 1843, Charlotte Brontë, as “poor, obscure, plain and little” as Jane Eyre was later to describe herself, staunch and nationalistic Protestant daughter of an equally uncompromising Irish clergyman, steps into the cool interior of Brussel’s Cathedral of Ste Gudule and, on impulse, goes to the Confessional and tells her story. Later she is to write to her sister Emily

“I felt precisely as I did when alone on the Thames at midnight…” (CB to EJB, 2 Sep 1843)

The story of what has driven her to unburden to a Catholic, “infidel” is the fictional journey of this play, set firmly in biographical research. Her crisis is not just that of a frustrated love for her Belgian professeur, who has unlocked her astonishing abilities, but a once-and-for all choice between two drastic escape-routes from her impossible passion: dutiful self-abnegation or rebellious authorship.

“do not … accuse me of conceit; I do not know that feeble feeling, the child of vanity; but I know another feeling well, respect for myself, a feeling born of independence and integrity. Monsieur – I believe I have genius.” (Letter from a Poor Painter to a Great Lord, Oct 1843)

“Il faut donner à son âme toutes les formes possibles.” Constantin Heger.


Rosie Cavaliero/ Laura Molyneux as Charlotte Bronte
Julian Rhind-Tutt as Monsieur Heger
Mark Meadows as Chapelle
David Shaw-Parker as Priest
Anne-Marie Piazza as Mary Taylor and Sophie
Elaine Claxton as Mme Heger and Tabby

Discussion on Bronte Blog

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