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

maandag 21 november 2011

Branwell Brontë's "honest and kindly friend": Dr John Crosby of Great Ouseburn

The cause of Branwell’s dismissal has long been a subject of debate, while in recent years there has been increasing interest in Anne and appreciation of her work. The lack of information about their time at Thorp Green has therefore been most unfortunate; the following account of Branwell’s ‘honest and kindly friend’1 Dr John Crosby and his friends and neighbours, whose social life Branwell probably shared, may therefore be appreciated.


John Crosby - accomplice or dupe?
Moreover an unfortunate consequence of this interpretation is the reputation of the local surgeon, Dr John Crosby, who necessarily appears either as Mrs Robinson's accomplice or her dupe.  In fact Juliet Barker herself points out in a footnote that the inscription on the tablet in Great Ouseburn church erected in John Crosby's memory by "a large circle of friends who deeply lament his sudden removal", which speaks of "his universal kindness, professional ability, benevolent disposition & active usefulness", "suggests that he too may have been duped by the lady".
Crosby held dinner parties attended by John's elder siblings, his aunt, his cousins, and the Boroughbridge and Aldborough doctors; John went to tea there and stayed the night, and in turn Crosby's nephew stayed overnight with the Stubbs family; John and Crosby played whist at uncle Henlock's house, together with other male friends and family and the gamekeeper; John went to Crosby's for tea, and they played Bagatelle and cards; he called at Crosby's and met a young visitor, Miss Johnson ("She played & sang   I turned over the leaves   she has a very sweet voice").  Crosby was fond of company and evidently well-disposed to the young.

Branwell – like Mark Smallwood and Tom Johnson after him – will have been a welcome addition to this circle.  At the time of Branwell's arrival at Thorp Green in the neighbouring parish of Little Ouseburn, he was 25 years old and John Crosby was 46, twenty years younger than Branwell's father. In this small society, Crosby's friends spanned all ages – John Stubbs' aunt Ann, for example, was seven years older than Branwell.
Branwell was sociable and had (in Charlotte's words) a "strong turn for active life"; he was probably happy to join in Crosby's circle of friends. Moreover, there are several minor points about this social circle that might have seemed familiar or caught his interest.

We do not know what Crosby believed to be the situation between Branwell and Mrs Robinson – chaste mutual passion, unrequited longing, or unfortunate delusion.  Nevertheless, according to Branwell's surviving correspondence, Dr Crosby continued to take a sympathetic interest in him after his dismissal, as a source of kindly advice and some money. 
John Crosby's kindness to Branwell and others

Mrs Robinson may have been the source of the money, perhaps (ostensibly or in reality) as financial aid to employee(s) in need, but Dr Crosby may have assisted Branwell himself out of charity – especially if Branwell had also belonged to the local Oddfellows Lodge, in which case support for a fellow-member was a moral duty. His concern for Branwell must not only have derived from the emphasis he and his circle set on keeping up with friends and acquaintances, but also his undoubted sympathy for those in distress. 

John Crosby (1797-1859) and his family
Shocked by John Crosby's sudden death of a stroke at Euston railway station on 1 December 1859 at the age of 62, his friends not only erected a tablet in his memory in the church at Great Ouseburn, but also an obelisk in the graveyard.  The inscription on the latter has almost disappeared, but fortunately the Yorkshire Archaeological Society in Leeds holds a transcription taken before the weather obliterated much of the lettering.  It recorded that 

"the benevolence of his disposition, the urbanity of his manners, the sympathy he manifested for the suffering poor and the skill he evinced in the exercise of his professional duties left a name which is cherished in many abodes, that in health had been cheered by his genial spirits and in sickness had been solaced by his kindly aid."  Read more on the weblog of Alice Barrigan: North Yorkshire History

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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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