St George's House, where Patrick Brontë met Mary Burder in 1807
A CHANCE encounter in a Wethersfield kitchen in 1807 almost changed the face of English literature. When Patrick Brontë, the poorly paid and poorly respected curate of St Mary Magdalene walked into the room in St George’s House where his landlady’s eligible young niece Mary Burder was preparing dinner he was instantly smitten. Had the course of true love run smooth perhaps the world would never have had “Jane Eyre”, “Wuthering Heights” or “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” for Patrick might never have become the father of novelists Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë. As it was, the romance between the impecunious red-haired Irishman, already aged 30, who had gained his BA at St. John’s College Cambridge through hard graft and the help of some well-placed friends and the 18-year-old daughter of a prosperous local farming family, never ended in marriage. No-one is quite sure why. Not even perhaps the enamoured couple themselves.
The Congregational Chapel where Mary Burder worshipped
St Mary's, Wethersfield where Patrick was curate
|He was in a sad predicament. Although he was now in a permanent benefice at Haworth on the Yorkshire moors he was not well off and no catch for a genteel woman of that period. He proposed to the godmother of some of his children but was brusquely turned down. His wife’s sister had been a tower of strength during his wife’s illness but there was no hope there – in those days marriage to the sister of a deceased wife was not permitted. A further proposal to a|
|friend’s sister was also rejected.|
Patrick, still hopeful, wrote again but there was no reply.