Last Things: Emily Brontë's Poems

By Janet Gezari | Go to book overview

6

The First Last Thing

The four last things to be ever remembered are Death, Judgment,
Hell, and Heaven.

The Penny Catechism

Because that Death is final,
However first it be…

Emily Dickinson

In January of 1996, when I was in London beginning to write about Emily Brontë's poems, the Church of England determined that judgement, hell, and heaven were all real. This was the unanimous conclusion of a report by the Church's Doctrine Commission published as The Mystery of Salvation. Earlier in the month, the first of the four last things had been called into question when a woman named Daphne Banks died and came back to life. More precisely, Mrs Banks went beyond her doctor's ability to measure her vital signs and was pronounced dead and taken to the mortuary at Hinchingbrooke hospital, where, about an hour later, the undertaker noticed a varicose vein in her right leg twitching. Signs of breathing and sounds of snoring followed. Mrs Banks, who would have been placed in a sealed mortuary tray in another hour, came back to life. Unlike her namesake, the nymph pursued by Apollo, Daphne Banks wasn't granted everlasting life. Unlike Thomas à Kempis, the fifteenthcentury monk whose coffin was said to show evidence of scratch marks on the inside, she wasn't buried alive either.

With our current interest in boundaries, we tend to think of the one between life and death as there to be crossed, or breached, or transcended. These metaphors have the luster of transgression; they mask our helplessness, vulnerability, and lack of agency in the face of death. Over time, we have improved our instruments for determining

-106-

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Last Things: Emily Brontë's Poems
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • List of Figures x
  • A Note on Texts xi
  • 1: And First 1
  • 2: Last Things 8
  • 3: Fathoming 'Remembrance' 41
  • 4: Outcomes and Endings 59
  • 5: Fragments 79
  • 6: The First Last Thing 106
  • 7: Posthumous Brontë 126
  • Notes 151
  • Bibliography 169
  • Index 179
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