Two Houses Both Alike. JA 28/5

The Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum and the Bronte Parsonage Museum – how is it they haven’t met?  They are alike in more than dignity and literary associations.

Both had a superb renaissance recently and both look to celebrate Ireland in the future, to name but two things in common. Lafcadio’s and Emily’s Celtic heritages have profound mutual resonances – though he liked her sister’s Villette far more than Wuthering Heights. He excuses this – though it needs no excuse – by saying he shared the same experiences of a French lycee education. In fact, his biography has an uncanny resemblance to Lucy Snowe’s, Jane Eyre’s and Charlotte’s: locked in a dark room as a child – acute short-sightedness and physical self-consciousness – compulsive desire for travel.

The museums might also share this project in common. Hearn and his vision of the east needs a voice in the west and Emily’s genius needs a voice in the east (west of where, east of where, exactly? where is the line drawn on a globe?)

Einstein was influenced by Hearn. Hearn by Japanese art and culture. Between the two is quantum mechanics, say I – the first bit of universal science that made sense to me – and what Einstein grumpily called “spooky action at a distance”: science in a form that shares more with the mirroring of mythology and poetry than most branches of the scientific edifice.

“As certain as colour / Passes from the petal/ Irrevocable as flesh / The gazing eye falls through the world.”

Ono No Komachi, waka poet (f)