I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.
Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights

vrijdag 25 november 2011

Branwell and his friends/ Francis Leyland

"WHY NOT LET THE POOR ERRING BROTHER REST IN PEACE?": THE LEGACY OF BRANWELL BRONTË.


Francis Leyland was a former bookseller and friend of Branwell Brontë's, having been introduced to him by his brother, the Halifax sculptor J.B. Leyland (probably Branwell's closest friend), at Sowerby Bridge Station in 1840 (see his letter to Woollven below). After his brother's death in 1851 he inherited his considerable collection of letters, sketches and poems by Branwell which he was keen on publishing. In 1886 he brought out The Brontë Family with Special Reference to Patrick Branwell Brontë. In it, he "took up the idea that Emily had been particularly close to her brother but turned it into a means of bolstering and elaborating on William Dearden's and Francis Grundy's earlier claims aboutWuthering Heights, arguing that the novel was a work of joint authorship. Without Charlotte's knowledge, Branwell had, Leyland claimed, handed over the unfinished manuscript for his favourite sister, the sympathetic Emily, to complete" (Lucasta Miller The Brontë Myth, Anchor edition, 2005, p.242).

The present collection was largely assembled during the course of Leyland's research for the book. His speculations about Wuthering Heights notwithstanding, the book contains a good deal of information about his friend Branwell which is not available elsewhere and which has been analysed in depth by Juliet Barker in The Brontës (1994). The present collection, which was unknown to Juliet Barker when preparing her biography, is particularly valuable in that it allows us direct access to that evidence, without Leyland's intervention.

Leyland's advocacy of Branwell in the face of what he saw as Mrs Gaskell's vilification did not make him popular with either Charlotte's husband, Arthur Bell Nicholls, or her friend Ellen Nussey. The collection contains a pair of autograph letters by each, written between 1884 and 1885. The two by Ellen Nussey are written at a high emotional pitch: "Your letter respecting Branwell Brontë & your intended publication of his letters &c is simply a grief for me - Why not let the poor erring brother rest in peace? What good can possibly arise from reviving the memory of him? It was unwise, it was unjust to his patient & enduring sisters to say what has been said of him.../...In your eagerness to defend the Brontës' Brother you are in danger of injuring his sisters. How can you know the exact truth?... How can any one dare to judge in such a case where blame begins & ends? Who has fathomed the depths of suffering he inflicted on his devoted sisters? If you gather that Charlotte was 'injudicious' it must certainly have been her brother's morbidmind to represent her as such... You did not know them - You only saw them once, I have been informed...". While the two by A.B. Nicholls are blunt to the point of rudeness. In both he refuses to have the portrait medallion of Branwell, which Leyland's brother had executed, photographed. When told by Leyland that he, Leyland, had given it to the family, Nicholls replies: "I was not aware that you had given the portrait to Mr Brontë - I always understood that it had been found in a Broker's shop in Halifax - I know that my late wife gave £5 for it". From the draft of Leyland's reply, it transpires that the rascally sexton John Brown, who had been entrusted with its carriage, sold it instead. For good measure, Nicholls twice refuses Leyland permission to publish "Mr Branwell Brontë's Manuscripts"; this partly on the advice of Richard Monckton Milnes (see Barker, p.817).

Equally evocative are letters by two of Branwell's fellow employees at Luddenden Foot railway station, the minor poet William Heaton and H. Woollven (as he signs himself here, rather than 'Woolven', the form more usually given). Heaton, writing in 1863, tells Leyland: "I knew Mr Bronte well he was the station Master at Luddenden foot but how long it is since I cannot tell at that time I frequented the Anchor and Shuttle Inn and so did he sometimes he was blyth and gay and at others he looked down cast and sad...tis true he loved his cup as he frequently called his glass of Brandy but I shall never forget his love for the sublime..." (for the text of this letter as printed by Leyland, see Barker, pp.370-1). The testimony of Woollven is especially important for its bearing on the question as to whether Branwell ever did in fact go to London, rather than merely acquire seeming familiarity with the capital through his reading, as Barker argues (pp.227-9). What had seemed a stumbling-block to Barker's case is that "Leyland's account... cites one 'Mr Woolven', who, while later working on the construction of the Manchester and Leeds Railway, met and remembered Branwell from the Castle tavern at Holborn" (p.229). However Woollven's original letter (which is on Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway headed paper) does not in point of fact describe such an encounter. What Woollven actually tells Leyland is that Branwell "was a very extraordinary character. I remember previous to my being engaged in the Railway Service, I one night visited the Castle Tavern in Holborne London then Kept by the once Champion Prize fighter Tom Spring. The parlour was full of sporting characters, Pugilists &c. One of the company, I believe was Mr Bronte, to whom was referred to decide many disputes about great battles that had been fought". Woollven is not claiming to have seen him. Merely that he was led to believe (no doubt by Branwell himself, long afterwards) that he was there. Woollven goes on to relate the story of Branwell's passion for Mrs Robinson, eliciting the shocked response from Leyland that "Branwell was indeed a very strange character... No man in his sound senses, entrusted with the heart, honour, and fair name of a married woman, would make a public talk of it everywhere...". (It is pleasing, also, to note that this correspondence confirms the corporeal reality of the enigmatic Woollven, of whose existence Juliet Barker can find no trace outside the pages of Leyland, see footnote 12, pp.881-2).

The collection also includes a letter by Patrick Brontë's friend the Halifax poet William Dearden written in August 1857, in which he discusses their joint visit to Patrick that year and the publication of Mrs Gaskell's biography five months earlier: "He [Patrick] said he did not know that he had an enemy in the world before Mrs Gaskell's publication of the life of his daughter, and he really could not tell from what source she had derived her information about himself except it might be from some discarded servant..." (see Barker, p.803). There is also Leyland's own account of his visit to Haworth on 28 January 1874 to interview John Brown's brother ("...Visited Haworth twenty-six years after the death of Branwell Bronte, and found, still living, William, the brother of John Brown late grave digger and sexton... The ardent, imaginative, and impulsive youth fell a victim to this man of coffins, graves, pickaxes, and spades...") with an autograph letter to him by William Brown, Haworth, 18 February 1874, and an autograph journal of his further visit to the Browns at Haworth in May 1874 ("...William Brown had been expecting me by the train and overtook me in the street. We passed the memorable 'Bull' in our way to his house where he introduced me to his niece Martha, late servant to the Brontës and now with Mr Nicholls the husband of the late Charlotte... Mrs Brown said that when Branwell was forbidden to approach Mrs R. he was in a state of frenzy walking round their table, clenching a knife in his hand, and wildly raving at the irrevocable decrees of damned fate!...").

As well as Leyland's retained copies or drafts of his outgoing letters (as for example to the editor of the Athenaeum, submitting "My brother's lyrics and ballads, of which I have found some in his old metallic books, where they were scribbled, are weird and beautiful"), the collection also comprises Leyland's transcripts of letters to William Dearden by Martha Brown ("...Mother says you asked her on Saturday whether Mrs Gaskell had any talk with me before she began to write the memoir of my late Mistress...") and Patrick Brontë ("...As Mr Nicholls has stated, I have given to him, all Branwell's writings and wish, earnestly that no one should write his life - enough, I think, has been said on that head. He was a young man of varied, and brilliant talents; but alas! his appetite, was stronger than his reason, and thus all his fair prospects were blighted, his life shortened, and great sorrow brought upon his sisters, and me...")

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Parsonage

Parsonage

Charlotte Bronte

Presently the door opened, and in came a superannuated mastiff, followed by an old gentleman very like Miss Bronte, who shook hands with us, and then went to call his daughter. A long interval, during which we coaxed the old dog, and looked at a picture of Miss Bronte, by Richmond, the solitary ornament of the room, looking strangely out of place on the bare walls, and at the books on the little shelves, most of them evidently the gift of the authors since Miss Bronte's celebrity. Presently she came in, and welcomed us very kindly, and took me upstairs to take off my bonnet, and herself brought me water and towels. The uncarpeted stone stairs and floors, the old drawers propped on wood, were all scrupulously clean and neat. When we went into the parlour again, we began talking very comfortably, when the door opened and Mr. Bronte looked in; seeing his daughter there, I suppose he thought it was all right, and he retreated to his study on the opposite side of the passage; presently emerging again to bring W---- a country newspaper. This was his last appearance till we went. Miss Bronte spoke with the greatest warmth of Miss Martineau, and of the good she had gained from her. Well! we talked about various things; the character of the people, - about her solitude, etc., till she left the room to help about dinner, I suppose, for she did not return for an age. The old dog had vanished; a fat curly-haired dog honoured us with his company for some time, but finally manifested a wish to get out, so we were left alone. At last she returned, followed by the maid and dinner, which made us all more comfortable; and we had some very pleasant conversation, in the midst of which time passed quicker than we supposed, for at last W---- found that it was half-past three, and we had fourteen or fifteen miles before us. So we hurried off, having obtained from her a promise to pay us a visit in the spring... ------------------- "She cannot see well, and does little beside knitting. The way she weakened her eyesight was this: When she was sixteen or seventeen, she wanted much to draw; and she copied nimini-pimini copper-plate engravings out of annuals, ('stippling,' don't the artists call it?) every little point put in, till at the end of six months she had produced an exquisitely faithful copy of the engraving. She wanted to learn to express her ideas by drawing. After she had tried to draw stories, and not succeeded, she took the better mode of writing; but in so small a hand, that it is almost impossible to decipher what she wrote at this time.

I asked her whether she had ever taken opium, as the description given of its effects in Villette was so exactly like what I had experienced, - vivid and exaggerated presence of objects, of which the outlines were indistinct, or lost in golden mist, etc. She replied, that she had never, to her knowledge, taken a grain of it in any shape, but that she had followed the process she always adopted when she had to describe anything which had not fallen within her own experience; she had thought intently on it for many and many a night before falling to sleep, - wondering what it was like, or how it would be, - till at length, sometimes after the progress of her story had been arrested at this one point for weeks, she wakened up in the morning with all clear before her, as if she had in reality gone through the experience, and then could describe it, word for word, as it had happened. I cannot account for this psychologically; I only am sure that it was so, because she said it. ----------------------She thought much of her duty, and had loftier and clearer notions of it than most people, and held fast to them with more success. It was done, it seems to me, with much more difficulty than people have of stronger nerves, and better fortunes. All her life was but labour and pain; and she never threw down the burden for the sake of present pleasure. I don't know what use you can make of all I have said. I have written it with the strong desire to obtain appreciation for her. Yet, what does it matter? She herself appealed to the world's judgement for her use of some of the faculties she had, - not the best, - but still the only ones she could turn to strangers' benefit. They heartily, greedily enjoyed the fruits of her labours, and then found out she was much to be blamed for possessing such faculties. Why ask for a judgement on her from such a world?" elizabeth gaskell/charlotte bronte



Poem: No coward soul is mine

No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the worlds storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heavens glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.


O God within my breast.
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life -- that in me has rest,
As I -- Undying Life -- have power in Thee!


Vain are the thousand creeds
That move mens hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,


To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The steadfast Rock of immortality.


With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.


Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.


There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou -- Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.


--
Emily Bronte

Family tree

The Bronte Family

Grandparents - paternal
Hugh Brunty was born 1755 and died circa 1808. He married Eleanor McClory, known as Alice in 1776.

Grandparents - maternal
Thomas Branwell (born 1746 died 5th April 1808) was married in 1768 to Anne Carne (baptised 27th April 1744 and died 19th December 1809).

Parents
Father was Patrick Bronte, the eldest of 10 children born to Hugh Brunty and Eleanor (Alice) McClory. He was born 17th March 1777 and died on 7th June 1861. Mother was Maria Branwell, who was born on 15th April 1783 and died on 15th September 1821.

Maria had a sister, Elizabeth who was known as Aunt Branwell. She was born in 1776 and died on 29th October 1842.

Patrick Bronte married Maria Branwell on 29th December 1812.

The Bronte Children
Patrick and Maria Bronte had six children.
The first child was Maria, who was born in 1814 and died on 6th June 1825.
The second daughter, Elizabeth was born on 8th February 1815 and died shortly after Maria on 15th June 1825. Charlotte was the third daughter, born on 21st April 1816.

Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls (born 1818) on 29th June 1854. Charlotte died on 31st March 1855. Arthur lived until 2nd December 1906.

The first and only son born to Patrick and Maria was Patrick Branwell, who was born on 26th June 1817 and died on 24th September 1848.

Emily Jane, the fourth daughter was born on 30th July 1818 and died on 19th December 1848.

The sixth and last child was Anne, born on 17th January 1820 who died on 28th May 1849.

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