Another of the Haworth characters that interested Jackie was Tabitha, the family’s maid. Jackie believes Tabitha was herself a phenomenal story teller, and would regale the children with tales that were far beyond their years. She served with the family for 31 years, and was much loved.
One of the discoveries I most enjoyed finding out about was a poignant list of the household’s goods, which Jackie came across during her research. The household goods were put up for auction after Patrick Brontë died, and include such items as “Sundry Books 5 s/3p” ; “Warming Pan 5s / ” ; “Hair Trunk 12s/ “; and (somehow I found this the saddest): “2 silk umbrellas 10s / 6p”.
Finally, the writing exercise Jackie set us involved choosing one of the rooms in the Parsonage, plus an object we’d seen there, and maybe one of the members of the household. We also had to write down four words that summed up our main impressions of the morning. Then we had five minutes to write what we wanted. (I’m not really explaining this as well as Jackie Kay did, but I’m sure you get my drift!)
Anyway, I decided to put a scene together involving Patrick Brontë reading to the children when they were young. I’m also intrigued by Aunt Branwell, so she, too, appeared in my five minute writing. Aunt Branwell was Patrick’s sister-in-law, and moved from Plymouth to Haworth to look after the family when her sister died. According to Mrs Gaskell, Aunt Branwell ran the household with clockwork precision. I wonder what she made of the sisters and their frenzies of creativity, and of their brother Branwell, who became addicted to alcohol and opium.